Madam Speaker, I would like to speak to Motion No. 208, put forward by the member for Pontiac. I certainly am pleased to stand up not just for my constituents of Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola but to talk about an issue that is very near and dear to many people in rural and remote areas throughout this great country. I will go through it and address some of the points that have been raised.
I think it is important to spotlight that this motion highlights the Liberal government's failure to ensure that rural and remote Canadians have access to high-speed Internet. As confirmed last year by the Auditor General, the current Liberal government has no plan to meet the connectivity needs of Canadians living in rural and remote communities. In fact, the report found that the government's current programs do not ensure maximum expansion for public money spent. This is well documented in the report by the Auditor General. One of the most fundamental issues is that it has not addressed getting full value for money that has been spent.
Canadians deserve better than just vague promises and commitments to get a plan to have a plan. That was the government's response to the Auditor General.
The Liberals have added a new minister for rural economic development. However, having a minister address an issue that she has no formal authority over, with a mandate letter stating that she needs to coordinate with the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, among two other ministers, to see any progress on this file, to me points to the fact that this is an eleventh-hour effort.
Going to the actual text of the motion, it states:
(a) a reliable and accessible digital infrastructure, from broadband Internet to wireless telecommunications and beyond, is essential and enables Canadians to seize new business opportunities, create jobs and connect with the global economy;
The Conservatives absolutely agree with that.
(b) a reliable and accessible digital infrastructure, particularly wireless telecommunications infrastructure, plays a critical role in securing the health and safety of Canadians, notably during emergency situations caused by extreme weather events;
When we had the tornado last year in the Ottawa-Gatineau area, there was a lot of public outcry, because in many cases, people were not able to communicate via their cellphones. Because the Conservative members of the industry committee and I had concerns, we put forward a motion to study this area. Unfortunately, the Liberals did not find it noteworthy. I will give the member for Pontiac a tip of the hat for taking on a serious issue, because I know there was quite a lot of concern. Canadians deserve to know a bit more about this area, so I hope the Liberal members will allow for a thorough study of this.
I had mentioned this in my question to the member opposite. The motion states:
(c) innovation occurs everywhere, in rural and remote regions just as much as in urban centres, and all Canadians deserve an equal opportunity to succeed in the digital economy as a matter of fundamental fairness;
We heard about the clawback from the deputy minister when I asked at committee about the 3,500 megahertz. I asked if he would make a commitment to the Canadian people, particularly those who would be affected by such a clawback, that he would not jeopardize their connectivity and claw it back and give to someone else in a way that would put rural and remote people in a tenuous situation. He said he would do his darndest.
The current government has a tendency to over-promise and under-deliver. I have to say that while it is really good to hear members talk about rural Canadians and remote areas, it is not so much a matter of what we say in this place but what the government does. Therefore, it is incredibly important that the government start listening to members of Parliament on this issue.
Obviously, I will not be able to go through the whole motion. However, I want to also talk a bit about (e), which states:
the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology should be instructed to undertake a comprehensive study on rural wireless infrastructure, focusing...on (i) the underlying causes of, and prospective solutions to the gaps in wireless infrastructure deployment in rural Canada,
This is a noteworthy item for us to study, but, again, I would go back to what a member from the NDP raised earlier. When the CRTC put forward its own standard of a download speed of 50 megabits throughout Canada, curiously enough the $750-million fund being paid for by telecommunication companies changed when they looked at starting to roll it out. By the way, the companies take that money from consumers, which is an important point. In fact, the standard will not be at 50 megabits for rural areas. In some cases, the CRTC said that 25 megabits was acceptable. This is an area we need to really look into. Also, the Auditor General's report requires us to look into these things more.
I have talked a little about the late hour of this. I am sure both committees will do a study on this as it is a complex issue. We have good people who we can call upon to present possible solutions. However, by the time we table these reports, if they are successfully done, summer already will be starting. Obviously, this is an election year. The study will probably end up on a shelf and it will be up to the next government to deal with it. Of course, I believe it will be a government led by the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle.
To me, it seems the Liberals are simply going to use this as a bit of a staging process for electoral promises. We know about the government's inability to keep most of its promises from the last election. To make this an electoral issue would be unsatisfying for everyone here. If we are taking the time and energy to work on a complex issue, we hope to see some action.
All aspects of our modern interconnected economy requires stable Internet access. As I have said, the government has failed in its responsibility to support rural and remote Canadians. It has left people in rural and remote communities to fend for themselves when it comes to connectivity. I think all of us believe that needs to change.
The Conservative Party will support the motion because it is essential to find solutions to address Liberal failures on rural and remote Internet access. Canadians cannot continue to pay for the Prime Minister's mistakes.
As a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, I look forward to this study. I hope the public safety committee is also able to look at the issue of emergency preparedness and how it relates.
All of us can imagine the sheer powerlessness we would feel if we gave a phone to our children and we were unable to connect with them during an emergency such as an earthquake or, as we saw in the Ottawa-Gatineau area, a tornado. I hope we are able to look into that issue and bring some strong resolutions forward.
Again, I point out that this seems to be a late in the hour Hail Mary pass by the government. It has stalled on so many of aspects of its promises, and Canadians deserve better. They should not have to be constantly paying for the Prime Minister's mistakes. I look forward to hearing the debate unfold tonight.