Madam Speaker, I want to begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.
I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the people of Sherbrooke to speak to an issue that is very important to me and to them. Today, we are talking about competitive pricing for telecommunications services, such as the Internet, cellphone services and data on our cellphones and tablets.
In 2019, these are essential services for most Canadians. People cannot do without them today. In fact, the government is increasingly asking Canadians to interact with it via the Internet, to submit forms or make contact, for example. Everyone therefore understands the importance of the Internet in people's daily lives and the importance of having affordable access to it. The service must be reliable, easy to access and competitively priced.
The people of Sherbrooke and all Canadians feel that telecommunications companies are taking advantage of them. They basically feel as though they are being robbed, and I know that is a strong word. Canadians are well aware that access to such services is much cheaper, faster and of better quality in many other countries, including the United States, our closest neighbours. Customers in those countries are paying less for the same services.
I will not repeat all the figures my colleagues have referred to today. My NDP colleagues have mentioned the price difference many times, and I know the people of Sherbrooke are well aware of it. All Canadians know that we are getting fleeced by telecom companies, and that is why the government needs to do something. We have waited long enough and have been giving these companies a free pass to rob our fellow citizens. The government needs to step in.
We are having a bit of a philosophical and ideological debate on the issue of government intervention in this area. We already know that the government is intervening on one aspect of the problem: releasing spectrum, which allows companies to reach consumers through the airwaves. The government already plays a key role. It holds auctions so that those big corporations can obtain shares of the spectrum in order to reach consumers.
Today, we are asking that the government play an even bigger role. We want the government to put an end to the highway robbery being committed by telecom companies. The government must be firm and tell them that we have waited long enough.
The Liberals will say that we need to let the market do its work and that market forces will correct the situation. As companies become freer they are more competitive. This means their prices will be more competitive, since the companies that want to stand out will lower their prices. These companies will reach more consumers and will therefore be successful. Laws and market forces make the difference and allow companies to offer prices comparable to other countries'.
We have been waiting many years for the market to do its work and ease consumers' pain, but it seems that the market forces have only made the situation worse. Canada is trapped with just a handful of telecom giants that abuse Canadians and consumers because they have an oligopoly, not to say monopoly. Sometimes, it seems that they set prices to steal even more from consumers.
It is time for the government to put its foot down and say enough is enough. Obviously, market forces do not work when it comes to this sector. The government must intervene to ensure that Canadians have access to this essential service and that this service is high-quality, fast and available to all citizens at affordable prices.
Today we are calling on the government to be more active on this file. It has to stop patting itself on the back and start doing more than just talk. It claims that good things have been done over the years, when the situation actually got worse.
We hear members across the way say that they have priorities, three in particular, and that affordability is one of them. They mention it in nearly every one of their speeches. However, not a single Liberal has managed to convince me that prices have improved over the past few years. On the contrary, we can see that prices have gone up over the years and that Canadians are not getting their money's worth.
I commend my colleague from Windsor West, who worked on drafting this motion. I commend him for all the research he did to make this proposal based on five points, which I will quickly outline:
The motion proposes a price cap. I repeat that the government needs to put its foot down and stop allowing companies to steal from Canadians. A price cap would be a good first step from the government to stop this highway robbery.
The motion then suggests that the government abolish data caps. All Canadians, including our viewers from Sherbrooke, know that data caps make consumers anxious. They are always worried about potentially using too much data, because as soon as they go over the maximum limit by a few bytes, their bills can get quite high. A number of people watching us, and even some of us here in the House, have been surprised by the exorbitant cost of a single gigabyte, which can reach dozens of dollars in extra fees. However, this is an essential service that we should all have access to. The government must therefore abolish the data caps often found in contracts, whether the contract is capped at two gigabytes, five gigabytes or more.
The motion also suggests that we eliminate egregious sales and services practices through a consumers' bill of rights. As we saw with airline passengers' rights, the government did something by establishing the supposed protection for consumers. it could do the same thing for telecommunications and provide even better protections for consumers than what is currently available.
As I was saying earlier, the government has an important role to play in the spectrum auction. We should revisit this structure to prevent the government from pocketing billions of dollars from these auctions without necessarily reinvesting this money in digital infrastructure to improve accessibility and availability in rural and remote communities.
Finally, the government should also direct the CRTC to cancel its broadband implementation policy. This policy does not work for indigenous and remote communities, which will be saddled with substandard services, unlike communities that are predominately located in urban areas.
Internet and telecommunications services are creating a divide between communities and between the standards they are entitled to.
Now more than ever, we must take action. The NDP is proposing to do just that and save Canadians up to $600 a year on their cellphone and Internet services.
I hope that we will have the support of members of the House of Commons to finally stand up to the telecoms and tell them that we refuse to continue to be victims of highway robbery.