Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Motion No. 168 on net neutrality and to support its sponsor, the hon. member for Oakville.
What is this motion about? It refers to the net neutrality that applies in Canada. Actually, we have a long history of supporting net neutrality. In fact, the NDP member for Timmins—James Bay introduced a first bill in Parliament in May 2008, Bill C-552. In May 2009, there was Bill C-398, the purpose of which was to protect Canadians by demanding net neutrality. This, therefore, is not new. We have been talking about this for a long time.
The hon. member for Windsor West has done an excellent job on the net neutrality file. He took part in developing the regulations related to the Telecommunications Act that has been protecting Canadians since 2009.
On November 22, 2017, this MP said the following about net neutrality:
The NDP reaffirms our support for net neutrality for the economic and social benefits for the entire online community. We call on the Government of Canada to advance this policy domestically and begin the discussion on how to protect Canadians against repercussions from global decisions that erode this right.
What is he referring to? To what has happened in the United States. As we know, Donald Trump has unfortunately threatened net neutrality. There is concern that this first breach could spread to other countries and that Canada could be contaminated by this problem.
What does the NDP want? We want the government to reaffirm its commitment to Canadian consumers through rigorous regulations that protect our right to net neutrality.
As mentioned, all we have right now is a hodgepodge of rules in the Telecommunications Act. There is nothing that is very clear, very specific, very robust, outside of the CRTC decisions. it is time to amend the act as promised in budget 2017, and to add a section on net neutrality. We would like these amendments to give the CRTC more teeth. Instead of waiting for consumers to complain and before launching an inquiry, we would like it to immediately apply the regulations to ensure that net neutrality is respected.
What is net neutrality? It is what we call the open Internet, which means that its content, no matter the form or source, is treated equally by the service provider. It is extremely important because the goal of net neutrality is to guarantee freedom of expression, stimulate innovation, and promote competition.
Imagine if there were websites that people had to pay a separate fee to access, sites that were not automatically available through our Internet service providers. That would have major implications for free and open access to information. This is an extremely important issue.
There are rules that prevent discrimination and content blocking, but, as I said, the CRTC does not enforce those rules unless a consumer, a citizen, complains. That is what we find so unfortunate and problematic.
We also need to consider Internet access in rural areas. I represent the riding of Drummond, where people in some areas still do not have high-speed Internet or have a hard time getting Internet at all.
There are some major plans in the works to expand Internet access. The Drummond regional government has a plan to bring Internet access to the whole RCM, and I hope the federal government will get on board. Let us remember that Internet access should not be restricted to the wealthy. It should be available to everyone because it has become so important to people and is practically an essential service. People need this service, and they need affordable access to reliable broadband service, to high-speed Internet. There are 18 mainly rural municipalities in Drummond, where I am from. Providing adequate service to those municipalities is extremely important. They must have access thanks to net neutrality.
Speaking of Drummond, I would just like to mention that, on Saturday, I was at the second joint annual review of Drummondville's cadet units. The parade included over 100 cadets. The event highlighted over a century of sea cadets history.
Two sea cadets had some experiences worth mentioning. The first is Valeria Aristizabal, who was chosen along with three other sea cadets from Quebec to work for five days as a sailor on the HMCS Calgary, a Canadian Armed Forces frigate based in Esquimalt, British Columbia. Congratulations to Valeria on being selected for this great opportunity.
I also want to talk about Mike Gagnon from the Drummondville sea cadets who qualified to represent the Quebec delegation at the national cadet marksmanship championship, which was held in British Columbia from May 6 to 11. Congratulations to Mike Gagnon on that achievement. I also want to commend all those involved, including Peter Catwright, Raymond Ouellet, Jean-Marc Chartier, and many others. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about these individuals.
Why is access to net neutrality important? As I mentioned, such access is extremely important for our regions, for example, to ensure that everyone has access to all the information they need at a reasonable price. We want the government to reaffirm its commitment to Canadian consumers that it will maintain strong rules that protect their right to net neutrality. Unfortunately, right now, all we have is the CRTC, which only takes action if someone files a complaint. The CRTC is not proactive. It has to wait until a complaint is filed, which is currently affecting net neutrality. As part of the amendments, we would like the CRTC to be able to enforce the rules right away. That would be a tremendous asset.
I want to reiterate that many Canadians are concerned because, in the fall of 2017, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, under the direction of President Donald Trump, changed the rules to do away with net neutrality in the United States. Canadians are very concerned because they are wondering what will happen next. Will Canada also adopt that approach? Could Internet service providers start exerting pressure that would result in a breach of net neutrality? That is not something we want to happen. We are completely against such breaches, because net neutrality allows all Canadians to have access to regional content, which is important for our regions, as well as any other content that they want to access.