Madam Speaker, we are here today to watch the Liberals and Conservatives come together to defend price-gouging against Canadians, in order to defend what they are claiming is a free market and the importance of a free market. It is not a free market. The telecom market in Canada is a constructed market that is protected. It is protected for the interests of companies that make the highest profits in telecom services in the world, while delivering the highest cost per consumer.
I will begin by talking about two places.
One place is Rwanda. When my daughter was working in Rwanda, she contacted me on her cellphone. I said to her that it must be really expensive to contact us in Canada from Rwanda. She said that she gets better download speeds and download rates in rural Rwanda than she gets in downtown Ottawa. I was quite taken aback by that.
Another place, which you know well, Madam Speaker, is northern Ontario. I do not know if the Conservatives and the Liberals know that Highway 11 and Highway 17 are part of the Trans-Canada Highway route. That is where hundreds of millions of dollars in goods move every day. It is the national transportation corridor. Let us imagine the shock of a couple who invested in a business on the Trans-Canada Highway and were told, in 2018, that a telecom company cannot give their business cellphone service. The big telecom giants who serve the area say that there is no business case for serving those people.
We have been hearing from the Conservatives today that it is very important to gouge consumers; that is how the free market works. If companies rip people off and make them pay more money, then the magic of the free market is that the telecom capitalists will just reinvest all that and help rural areas. They said that they would help indigenous people. I have never seen, in the history of Canada, telecom companies help any indigenous community unless the government is putting up the money.
That is the market we live in. We live in a market where it is the taxpayers who put the money in for the broadband expansions. It is the taxpayers who pay through the nose, time and again, for the price-gouging that goes on. As my hon. colleague from Essex pointed out, if people do not think it is possible to get better rates, all they have to do is call Bell and Rogers and say they are quitting their service. The companies will do backflips to give them lower prices. I talk to seniors who have to give up their phone coverage because they cannot afford to pay for it. They phoned me, and they were shocked at how willing Bell was to give them so much better a rate. They would not have gotten that if they had not threatened to quit.
What does that mean for our economy? We have tried to build an economy that is a digital world-class economy, and yet Canadians have the lowest data use of pretty much any western country. The only countries that use less wireless service than we do are the Czech Republic, Portugal, Germany, Belgium and Greece. We had a period where people would say they did not want to use their cellphone, were not sure if they were covered and did not want to know what the extra costs are. Therefore, we have some of the lowest usage of phones and yet we pay the highest rates.
Let us talk about what gouging means, because it seems to be a confusing thing to Liberals and Conservatives. They want to compare apples to apples. On a two-gigabyte plan for their phone, people pay about $75 Canadian a month, and they can still get gouged on top of that. In Paris, people pay $30; in Rome, $24. The Liberals and the Conservatives might say that is not fair and it is different in Europe. Let us compare a similar-sized country with a similar population and similar large rural regions, such as Australia. Australians pay $24.70 a month on average for two gigabytes. In Canada, we are paying $70.
The Conservatives and the Liberals would tell us that is the beauty of the free market. No, that is the beauty of Liberals and Conservatives hanging out day after day with the telecom lobbyists.
Folks back at home might not know, but we can hardly walk down the halls of Parliament without bumping into or tripping over a telecom lobbyist, because they do not want government to address the inequities that we are seeing. They want government to continue to protect this protected market that has allowed them the highest profits anywhere in telecommunications.
In terms of total revenue per gigabyte, Canada is 70 times higher in revenue than India, which has pretty much one billion people paying into it. Now, the telecom companies might say that is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Well then, let us go to Finland, which also has a northern climate. The telecom revenues in Canada are 23 times higher than Finland. Yet, I am being told that the Canadian telecom companies cannot give us a break on our phones, that it will somehow break the companies and destroy the digital economy if they were not allowed to gouge that 23 times higher than what people in Finland have.
If we look at the success rate, 63% of people in rural Canada do not have access to high-speed broadband. The Liberals think they have done something great, while the Conservatives took the $17 billion spectrum auction and spent it on everything but reinvesting in a modern digital economy. There are 14% of the highways and major transportation routes that do not have access to LTE wireless services. When we get up into the north, we get into much higher rates in terms of what people cannot access.
Phones are not luxury items anymore. They are essential. We have government moving to all online services, and yet it will not deliver proper rural broadband or proper rates that people can afford to pay to be able to even access the services of the government.
What are we talking about in terms of a vision? The New Democrats have been saying all along that the spectrum auction is the greatest opportunity to reinvest in a truly digital economy. We have protected the telecom data-opolies for so long that, if they are going to have a protected market, then they are going to have a market that is fair, and that market is going to end the price gouging and we are going to put the caps on. The Liberals will not and the Conservatives will not, because they will look after the friends of big business time and time again, and they will continue to leave ordinary Canadians behind.
We will put the investments in a truly digital economy, because that is where the future lies. It is not in protecting the insider friends of both the Liberals and Conservatives. It is about protecting ordinary Canadians. It is about protecting seniors. It is about making sure that, when we drive on a northern highway, we have access to telecom services. It is not just northern highways. We can get 30 kilometres outside of Ottawa and have service cut off. How do they explain a first-world country where 30 kilometres outside of the nation's capital we can have our cellphone die out? That is the lack of vision in the last 15 years that we have had under Conservative and Liberal governments, and we are going to change that. It will begin by taking on the telecom giants and making sure we have accessible, fair service at a fair price for Canadians.