Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Pontiac for his work on Motion No. 208 and for all the work he has done in the community with respect to Internet services.
I rise in the House today to speak to the government's position on Motion No. 208. As members know, my riding of Nickel Belt is in rural northern Ontario, and I am Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Rural Economic Development, so I have a direct and personal understanding of the needs of rural communities.
It is an honour to rise in the House today to speak about this issue that is really important to my constituents. They are already very familiar with high-speed Internet access in rural areas. Reliable access to digital infrastructure is essential not only for economic development but for a better quality of life for rural Canadians. That is why our government has already made significant investments to extend reliable, high-speed Internet and wireless services to rural communities across the country.
There is, however, still a lot of work to do. We know that local leaders are the ones who best understand their communities' needs.
That is why my hon. colleague, the newly appointed Minister of Rural Economic Development, has embarked upon a cross-country listening tour, after the Conservatives cut the rural secretariat in 2012. It is part of her mandate to develop an economic development strategy made for rural Canada through consultations with Canadians in all provinces and territories on how best to foster economic development in rural and remote communities through a whole-of-government approach. We are committed to sharing the strategy with Canadians by June 2019.
We have been meeting with community leaders from across Canada since last week to hear about their needs and priorities.
Engaging with our partners is a key step as our government works to put forward an economic development strategy that will reflect the needs and priorities of rural communities.
By working with our partners, the government will be able to help rural communities in Canada thrive for generations to come. This collaboration will also help create jobs and opportunities for all Canadians in rural communities.
Reliable and affordable access to digital services is one of the foundations of our government's strategy.
As members of the House know, rural Canadians need access to high-speed Internet wireless services to participate fully in the digital global economy. They need digital connectivity to attract talent, businesses and the investments needed to compete on the global stage.
According to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, or CRTC, over five million Canadians, particularly in rural areas, still do not have access to Internet services that meet the the federal regulator's baseline service standards.
In order to address this problem, the CRTC set the following objective: all Canadians must have access to voice and broadband Internet service on both fixed and mobile wireless networks.
To meet this goal, the CRTC has established a $750-million fund to support the construction of telecommunications infrastructure in underserviced communities. This will ensure that Canadians living in rural and remote areas will have access to these services.
Our government is doing its part. We have undertaken a number of initiatives that underscore our commitment to meeting the CRTC's objective.
For example, as part of the connect to innovate program, we are investing $500 million to bring broadband Internet to 900 rural and remote communities. Our objective was 300 communities, but we have expanded this initiative to 900 communities, including 190 indigenous communities across Canada.
An additional 300,000 households in rural and remote communities are benefiting from high-speed broadband Internet access through the connecting Canadians program. An additional $2 billion is available through a funding stream dedicated to renewing infrastructure in rural and remote northern communities.
High-speed Internet is essential to help Canadians in rural regions grow their businesses, access services, acquire new skills and keep in touch with their family and friends across Canada.
That is why our government invested historic amounts in broadband infrastructure. Budget 2019 make ambitious new commitments to ensure that 95% of Canadians have access to high-speed Internet by 2026 and that 90% have access by 2021. What is more, to achieve the CRTC's objective, the budget seeks to ensure that every home and every business in Canada has high-speed Internet by 2030.
Budget 2019 provides for new support for northern communities, including support for rural tourism and skills training. It also provides for $1.7 billion in new funding to get every Canadian connected to high-speed Internet by 2030, regardless of where they live.
The budget lays out the creation of the new universal broadband fund of up to $1.7 billion over 13 years to build on the success of the connect to innovate program by extending backbone infrastructure in underserviced communities and securing the new low-latency low earth orbit satellite capacity to serve our most rural communities.
We will also work with the Canada Infrastructure Bank to identify ways to apply its innovative financing tools to stimulate private sector investments in high-speed Internet infrastructure in underserviced communities.
The introduction in the fall economic statement by the Minister of Finance of the accelerated investment incentive fund is allowing telecommunication companies to write off a larger share of the costs of new capital assets in the same year the investment is made, providing the benefit that they are expanding connectivity in rural Canada.
Thanks to these investments, our government is making sure that Canadians in rural areas have access to the health care services and education that all Canadians deserve.
These investments are giving rural Canadians opportunities to turn ideas into promises, goods and services and to expand their businesses. These investments are also enabling rural Canadians to start new businesses and grow them into globally competitive businesses without having to leave their rural communities.
Our government has made it clear that partnerships are crucial to succeeding in our work. We have to work together. That is why our government is doing this work hand in hand with provinces that want to partner with us and with territories, municipalities, indigenous peoples and the private sector.
My colleague's Motion No. 208 builds on the outstanding work that has already been done, which is why I am proud that our government supports this motion and has continued to work hard to address issues that matter to rural Canadians. I look forward to continuing to work with all members of this House on this very important issue to all rural Canadians.