Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to this important issue today. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Windsor West.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the member for Windsor West, who continues to fight for affordability in the key issue of connectivity. That is really important work. As the dean of our caucus, his leadership and his continued patience with those of us who are new and still learning has been absolutely tremendous. I want to acknowledge him for that.
I represent North Island—Powell River, which is a very rural and remote community. I have a lot of small islands in my riding, a lot of communities that are very hard to access with respect to cell connectivity. A lot of communities are challenged with Internet connection. In fact, several constituents in my riding still use dial-up. That is just the reality facing so many rural communities across the country.
In the last few weeks, I have stood in the House with numerous petitions that desperately ask for more connectivity for cell.
In November of last year, a young man named Duncan Moffat drove off a road between Campbell River and Sayward. He was trapped in his vehicle for seven full days. His cellphone was right beside him, but he could not make a call because there was no reception in that area. For seven days, he lived off the oranges and Gatorade, which he had in the front seat. Luckily he was found by a passing hunter, and he is still with us today.
What was most poignant for me as a mother was hearing the story of when he was found. His mother could not be contacted immediately because she was out in the rural areas, putting up signs alerting people to the fact that her son had gone missing. It was not until she drove into an area with cellphone reception that she was notified her son had been found. This is the reality of many rural and remote communities.
Affordability is a big issue in my riding. There are a lot of hard-working people in my riding and I am really grateful for their input. They connect with me all the time and talk about the challenges they face.
I heard a member earlier speaking about gas prices. Rural and remote communities, like the ones I represent, have some of the highest gas prices in British Columbia right now. Recently, I wrote to the minister to ask for a petroleum monitoring agency to be set up. We need to have more accountability to everyday Canadians about why the costs are so high, especially when at people in those communities have no other way to get to doctor appointments, to go to the hospital, to get to specialists, which in my riding are ferry rides away, hundreds of kilometres away in some cases.
Affordability is exactly what we are talking about. We are talking about the high cost to Canadians of cellular and Internet services. I think it is $20 a month more in this country, sometimes even higher, than other countries. Comparable countries have done similar work to what the NDP proposes today to really take this issue seriously.
I have seniors in my riding who are struggling from month to month to just meet their basic necessities We need to look at all the costs and ensure they are as low as they possibly can be.
The big telecom businesses in Canada are making almost 40% profit every year. They are not taking a portion of that and investing it into rural and remote communities. They are leaving that to small telecom businesses, which are working their butts off every day. I have talked to some of those businesses in my region. They have some great solutions, but they do not see anything happening to make it the next step.
Sixty-three per cent of rural Canadians do not have high-speed broadband. I think of a community in my riding, Gold River, that is doing a lot of active work. It had a mill closure many years ago. A year and a half ago it lost its grocery store. It does not have a bank. People live over an hour away from a larger community. People are really working hard in that community every day to build an economy. What they do not have is cell reception. It has people come out in droves because it is a beautiful place to go. Tourism and community services are very strong, it needs that to attract more people.
Highway 28 and Highway 19 in my riding are two of the most dangerous highways, with thousands of people driving them every day with no cell reception.
Cost matters, but so do these rural communities, which are working every day to make a difference in the lives of their communities. They want to build an economy, but they have been left behind by successive federal governments when the resource-based economy changed. They need to see some of these thing happen.
We need to ensure that rural and remote communities are a priority. We know Canada pays some of the highest costs in the world for cellphone usage. One of the measurements is for two gigabytes, $20 on average. When we see those high costs, I think of some of the people in my riding who have to make a decision whether to their pay rent or buy their medications. We recently heard that many people across the country were $200 away from financially falling apart.
It is motions like this that take concrete action, that take the next step. Companies are making 40% profit. We want to ensure that everyday Canadians stop being gouged by big corporations. When is the government going to take the side of hard-working, everyday Canadians? People are working their butts off and the least we can do is work our butts off on their behalf.
The government has multiple spectrum auctions. From 2001-19, the government has made over $17 billion in revenue from telecommunications companies. Where is that investment in small communities? How are we going to make those prices go down? Rural and remote communities are often forgotten.
When I was first elected, I started getting numerous phone calls from seniors who had been cut off their guaranteed income supplements. It resulted in Bill C-449, which I have tabled in the House, to ensure they would not be cut off. Simple solutions sometimes make the best impact. The solution I proposed was to give seniors a one-year grace period. They receive the guaranteed income supplement and they have a one-year grace period to get their taxes done. Seniors have health challenges and family commitments that make it hard to get their taxes done on time. If we do not look after those who built our country, we fail them.
The bill also asked the CRA to reach out to them and find out why they were not getting their taxes done on time. That is important because some families are challenged because their loved ones have Alzheimer's and do not do what they should do. We need to support them. It would mean that no senior would be cut off GIS if we gave them a year's grade period. Tens of thousands of seniors would not loose that small stipend that can make the difference between having a place to live or being evicted.
When I look at something as smart as this motion, it is time we seek practical solutions that make a difference, that we support hard-working Canadians over those giant corporations that are making significant profits. It is time to see them as a priority.