Mr. Speaker, I rise to pursue a question that I raised first on May 11, which was answered by the Minister of State for Science and Technology. Subsequently, on June 5, I asked a similar question, which was answered by the government House leader.
The issue is this. There was a secret deal made between a cellphone provider and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans which owns a range light structure in a residential area of Charlottetown 250 metres from an elementary school to erect an antenna on that range light structure. I say it was a secret deal because the residents found out when they saw survey crews around this range light in this residential area. That is how they were notified. There was some sort of a negotiation or a deal struck between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the cellphone company without the input of the residents. The residents are understandably concerned about property values. They are understandably concerned about the health and safety of their kids. They are understandably concerned about having this in the middle of their residential neighbourhood.
I raised the question initially in May with the Minister of State for Science and Technology. He said, “Canadians across this country deserve a say in how their cellphone tower locations are identified in communities all across the country, including in Prince Edward Island”, but they were not consulted.
I raised the question again on June 5, and the government House leader said that they have changed the rules affecting the location of cellphone towers in such a fashion that there is heavy reliance on the community, and he closed his answer with, “We work together with and co-operate with communities.”, but they did not. The full extent of the consultation with the community was after the secret deal was done and it was somebody sitting in Halifax and responding to emails. There has not been a public meeting and that antenna was erected yesterday.
The cellphone company did apply for a building permit, but because there was no variance sought, there was no public meeting in that instance either.
The minister did respond to one of my constituents by email saying that he would get in contact with the company to ensure that local residents are given the opportunity to provide their feedback on the antenna proposed for installation along Queen Elizabeth Drive. That antenna is up and that consultation has not happened.
I have three questions that I wish to have addressed arising out of this. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is the regional minister for Prince Edward Island. It would not be that difficult for her to engage her fellow islanders in the lead-up to this process. Why did she not and what is she going to do about it? Will the government change the rules that allowed this to happen without any involvement of the community? The rules provide an exemption where an antenna is being put on an existing structure. That is the problem here. Will the government now take measures to rectify this problem, which is a very serious problem in a residential neighbourhood in my riding?