Madam Speaker, I rise today to continue the debate about wireless rates in Canada and what the government plans to do to bring in more fairness. I want to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development for joining me tonight.
A recent poll by Angus Reid found that only 8% of Canadians believe that they are getting a good deal on the wireless service they pay for. We know that Canada has some of the highest wireless rates in the world, and a report out last year showed that they are still growing.
When Canadians apply for jobs these days, they are expected to be reachable at all times. Telling a potential employer that they do not have a cellphone will not help their chances. Wireless services are crucial to the economic lives of Canadians. Increasingly, wireless services are how we stay in touch as a country, but the price to be connected should not be prohibitive.
In my riding, where the median income is well below the national average, families are having a tough time making ends meet and are making difficult decisions regularly. The ever-increasing cost of wireless rates certainly is not helping. The median income in my riding is $26,000 a year. In Canada, it is $31,000 a year.
Cellphones today are necessary for security. I talked about employment, but it is a really difficult cost for low-income earners. In an area that is facing challenges, where it is getting harder and harder for families to make ends meet, we need to find ways to reduce costs to constituents.
Earlier this year the big three telecoms—Bell, Rogers, and Telus—all raised their prices for their wireless plans even higher. They blame the low dollar as the cause, but experts say it is unlikely to be the real driving force behind these prices.
Why are prices so high? We have to ask what kind of competition exists in the industry. Are there any forces lowering telecom prices at all? Sadly, it is left to a New Democrat to explain the benefits of market competition to the Liberal government as well as the previous Conservative government, which failed to take any real action after a decade in power.
Two months ago, Canada's telecom regulator, the CRTC, refused an appeal from a group of small Internet service providers that would have allowed them to resell wireless services and add a healthy dollop to competition in the market. Bell, Telus, and Rogers successfully argued against the small ISPs and their submission. They said that rigorous competition already existed.
As a former small business owner, let me say that there is a lot of frustration out there when the three largest companies in an industry simultaneously raise their prices and then tell Canadians that there is plenty of competition in the marketplace.
The minister might point to the wireless code of conduct, but if it were having the desired effect, we would see rates going down, which unfortunately they are not. We are still seeing Canadians being surprised by phone bills with massive add-on charges.
In February I asked the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development what new actions the government was taking to stop the price gouging. Today I am asking that same question.
Since then, we have seen the government table its first budget, so one would think we would have more clarity on this question. Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing in the budget addressing the incredibly high rates Canadians pay. The word “wireless” does not appear in the budget, not even once.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development now take this opportunity to outline what action the government is taking to protect consumers, encourage true competition in the wireless market, and stop price gouging?