Mr. Speaker, our NDP opposition day motion exemplifies the progress we expect governments to make on behalf of Canadians. In today's connected world, having access to a phone and high-speed Internet is no longer an option; it is a necessity. Despite being essential, broadband access and wireless service are far from being affordable or reliable in Canada. The Internet is increasingly the world. It permeates nearly every aspect of our personal and business lives.
For small businesses and entrepreneurs, reliable access to broadband Internet can be the difference between success and bankruptcy. For teachers, parents and students, these services impact the quality of our kids' education, and even access to post-secondary studies. For health care providers and social services, reliable connections can help save people's lives. For low-income people seeking jobs, access to the Internet is crucial and can make the difference between obtaining employment or not.
It is not only the economically disadvantaged who have little or no access to the Internet. It is also citizens and businesses in remote and rural areas. Without access to the Internet, a business might miss important opportunities to reach new customers and employees.
Here is an example of some of what rural communities are experiencing right now. Let us look at Dubreuilville, in northern Ontario, in the riding of Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, which brought its concerns to the attention of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development on several occasions.
The situation in that township is quite dire. Even though people pay high Internet fees, not only is service slow and spotty but the connection is so congested that even those paying for high-speed service are at times receiving no service at all. Additionally, those who are already connected and living in the community who wish to transfer their current service when they move within the community are experiencing the same problems as new residents. Bell advises them that there is no capacity in the system to accommodate them.
Without appropriate connectivity, the promise of the Internet and the digital economy is muted in places where it could be of most use to level the geographic playing field.
Unfortunately, the problems faced by Dubreuilville are not uncommon. There are small communities across Canada hoping for reliable, quality, high-speed service that can support their growth and provide the same opportunities urban centres receive. Without this, the transformative powers of modern technology are largely unavailable, which hinders their ability to attract newcomers and businesses and also impacts their efforts to diversity their economies.
In my riding of Windsor—Tecumseh, people do not realize that there are a lot of people who have no Internet service or who lack high-speed service in the former Sandwich South area of the town of Tecumseh in the city of Windsor. It is shocking to many people that we still have pockets where there is no service for people to access a government website, download a document or an application or apply for a passport. There are a lot of things that create a barrier to democratic services, and it is concerning.
Among OECD countries and other developed economies, Canadians pay some of the highest prices for mobile wireless and broadband subscriptions in the world. Consumers are being forced to pay at least $20 above the average monthly prices in the OECD. Similar countries, such as Australia, are paying two times less than Canada for the same plans. This hurts our economy, and it hurts Canadians.
While Canadians are paying skyrocketing prices, the profits of the big five telecoms in 2017 totalled $7.49 billion, and their profit margins have reached an astonishing 38.3%. High prices and the outsourcing of jobs outside Canada are the main causes of these massive profits.
Canadian telecom companies make more revenue per gigabyte of data than almost any other company in the world. ln 2018, the total revenue per gigabyte in Canada was roughly 70 times higher than it was in India and 23 times higher than it was in Finland. Canadian companies made 35 times what Indian companies made for the same data usage in 2017. As a result, Canada has lower data usage than almost any other country in the world. Furthermore, even though Australia has larger geographical challenges than Canada, it invested more per capita on telecommunications services between the years 2005 and 2015 and offers faster network connection speeds, while all its plans are cheaper than those available in Canada.
While they continue to make billions in profits, quick research shows that Bell, Rogers and Telus also received close to $50 million in subsidies and more than $700 million in contracts from the current Liberals.
For decades, Liberal and Conservative governments have relied on market forces and supposed competition to determine what Canadians pay for their cellphones and Internet bills every month. That is wrong. They have made a few aesthetic changes here and there, but nothing that would significantly help Canadians afford these services. The Liberal government continues to put the profits of these rich telecommunications companies ahead of people's wallets and continues to put private interests ahead of the public interest.
Canadians deserve a government that has the courage to stand up to the telecommunications companies and that will use every tool available to make life more affordable for people. I know from conversations with my constituents that people are sick and tired of having to live in a country where large corporations and financial institutions get to call the shots.
We were brought up to believe that we live in a democracy, yet this belief is increasingly difficult to square with our lived reality. ln the real world, democracy and the will of the people take a back seat to the prerogatives of business and finance. ln the real world, trade agreements negotiated in secret lock in rights for large corporations and investors that make it difficult, if not impossible, for governments to pursue policies to improve the lives of their citizens. That is why, during times such as this, Canadians need to elect a government that prioritizes the needs of real people.
On the issue being discussed today, only the NDP has the courage to stand up to protect the wallets of Canadians and improve the services people rely on. Just to reiterate, through our opposition day motion today, the NDP would introduce a price cap, until the industry becomes competitive, to make sure that all Canadians save money on their bills. For each service and plan, a price cap based on average OECD rates would be put in place. This measure would slash telecommunications bills an average of $10 per month. I know that several members in the House today have been intrigued with how we would do that, so I am glad to get that explanation on the record.
We would also implement measures to ensure that the market becomes competitive. Every company would be required to have a basic plan for wireless and broadband that met the needs of Canadians and was comparable with the lower prices available in other countries in the OECD. Data caps for broadband Internet would be abolished, and companies would be mandated to create unlimited data plans at affordable rates for wireless service, as exists elsewhere in the world.
New Democrats would also put an end to the egregious and outrageous sales and services practices of the telecom companies by making a bill of rights for telecom consumers to protect Canadians. One would think, given all the horror stories regularly published in the media about the big telecoms using compliance methods and high-pressure sales tactics to fleece Canadians, especially our seniors, that the government would have acted by now and that some sort of legislation would have been passed or some penalty levied to discourage these practices. However, as the complaints mount, there has been no action.
On June 3, 2019, the CRTC announced a $750-million fund. It is the goal of that fund to achieve 90% coverage of the universal service objective. It is our goal to make sure that it undertakes that. The problem with this fund is that it is completely inadequate to achieve the goal of 100% of Canadians having access to high-speed broadband. The policy would actually leave 10% of the population with the delayed hope of a promise to receive broadband, with no plan, no deadline and no funding to achieve it.