Ahead of the 44th Federal Election, candidates continue to talk about the cost and reliability of telecoms in Canada.
Here’s how each candidate running for the Parry Sound-Muskoka seat in parliament answered the following question:
Connectivity is a big issue for many in the riding. What will you do to cut down on dead spots and ensure everyone has access to reliable internet and cell connectivity?
Conservative incumbent Scott Aitchison says:
“Rural broadband and internet connectivity is another huge issue in Parry Sound-Muskoka. In fact, of all the issues, I have probably received more Constituent contact regarding the internet than any other single issue. I have repeatedly raised our local concerns in Parliament, during Question Period and at Committee. I have also been working with local community leaders to find some local solutions. So I am very pleased that the Conservative Party has pledged to ensure every Canadian has access to high speed internet by 2025.”
Liberal candidate Jovanie Nicoyishakiye says:
“For many in Parry Sound- Muskoka, connectivity is a big issue. To cut down on dead spots, I will invest in high speed internet for everyone. Many people can’t afford the latest WiFi technology because more than a half of their job payment goes to the rental cost. So, the governments have to support [it].”
New Democratic Party candidate Heather Hay says Canada needs to make internet access an essential service.
“We are not competitive to other countries; we pay far more for far less, and part of that is because there’s no federal regulation of costs,” says Hay. “Here I am in Muskoka, I’ve got a high-speed line that goes right by my house to the cottages further down the road, but I can’t access it. I have to use another system that’s slower and less reliable.”
Hay says her work over the past decade as a coordinator for Elder Abuse Prevention Muskoka has consistently brought her face to face with the problem.
“I’m well aware of the importance of the issue, and have worked hard to do a little bit within my circle to increase access to internet for seniors and people with lived experience of poverty,” says Hay.
Green Party candidate Mark Mantha says:
“Working remotely has surged with the pandemic. This was a national census year. I was the area census Field Operations Assistant. It will be interesting to see how much seasonal and new residency might have shifted in the riding of Parry Sound Muskoka. Reliable broadband is essential for business and enterprise. Broadband access should be deemed an essential service for the general public. The pandemic has shone a light on the critical necessity to access essential services online. Rural and remote areas have challenges and satellite services are very expensive.
This is critical for those who do not own vehicles or have limited access to transportation. Some services are only available in the next city or town. Being deemed a national essential service is that first practical step to get all Canadians connected.”
People’s Party candidate James Tole says his party doesn’t have a specific plan in mind “just yet,” but agrees that reliable internet is an important service.
“Some forms of internet service here in rural areas are not that reliable. Fortunately where I live is next to a communications tower even though it’s only a few houses from where I live and we get quite excellent internet. It’s like living in the city, that kind of speed and reliability, however, that’s not always the case. “
“I think, speaking as an individual, it’s important to have that for the people that want to have that available because a lot of stuff that has to be done in the everyday affairs has to be done online or it’s a lot easier to do things online, especially when you live in a remote area.”
The National Citizens Alliance candidate James Fawcett says:
“Connectivity has always been an issue in small, rural communities for as long as it’s been available. I and the NCA will promote telecommunication services like 5G as long as Canadians understand the potential long-term risk and the companies in question inform Canadians on studies that not only they’ve conducted, but international scientists [have conducted] and have published and has been peer-reviewed.”
Independent candidate Daniel Predie Jr. says:
“I would look at the possibility of local wired fibre-optic networks to bring lightning-fast connections while cutting down on dead spots and ensuring all have access to reliable internet. I would also promote local governance by establishing their own internet companies. I also believe it important for all to have a designated phone line within their home for when the power should ever go out and they can still make telephone calls. And this could also be established through local wired fibre-optic networks. Maybe it is time to weaning society from cell phone usage? Local garden type act instead of cell phones?”
**with files from Mo Fahim and Mathew Reisler