Madam Speaker, this is another initiative that my New Democratic friends decided to vote against. In our very first budget in 2016, $500 million were committed to expanding Internet access. It was supposed to be completed by 2021. The NDP voted against that. Those dollars are connecting well over 500 communities in all areas of Canada, yet they voted against that initiative.
On the one hand, the New Democrats say they want to reduce it by $10 whereas in many areas our government reduced it by $60 for thousands of families. They talk about wanting to see more expansion into rural communities, yet they voted against a budget that would allow that expansion to take place.
I would challenge my New Democratic friends to review some of their comments on the record, even the member who spoke just before me.
In response to a question, the member said that providers did nothing for indigenous communities. A few months ago Bell Let’s Talk donated $100,000 to the Bear Clan in the north end of Winnipeg. For those who are not familiar with the Bear Clan, it is a fantastic organization that has developed into an extended family. It gets residents in the north end of Winnipeg off the streets, residents who are some of the most challenging, some who are addicted to crack. The Bear Clan gets these individuals engaged so they can become part of a broader family. Bell Let's Talk recognized the value of this organization.
The Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre is an outstanding organization, a world-class organization, that reaches into not only the community of north Winnipeg, but into many different areas. It is is making a real difference in our indigenous community and beyond. Substantial dollars flowed to that organization.
The NDP is so preoccupied in trying to come across as the champions of some cause that it will throw anything and everyone under the bus.
I would agree that there are things the government can and should do to ensure there is healthy competition, that we do what we can to ensure, through that competition, we have reasonable cell and Internet access in Canada. That is critically important.
We need to recognize that Canadian wireless subscribers today enjoy the fastest average mobile download connection fees among all G7 countries, plus Australia, with twice the average download speed of the United States. This is the state of mobile network experience based on May 2019. Canadian wireless networks are now the second fastest in the world, 152% faster than the global average.
I am not here to defend the providers as much as I am to challenge the NDP to recognize that not all providers are bad people.
I cannot recall if I met with the organizations. I suspect the NDP might want to do a freedom of information request just to find out how many times I might have. In the last number of years, I might have met once or twice for a five or 10 minute exchange. I do not have lobbyists breaking down my door. Who own these companies? Chances are they are union members and pensioners. These are larger corporations.
I made reference to Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata. Unifor teamed up with Bell on one occasion to provide over $100,000, recognizing it could work with providers.
We could have debated many things today. I am surprised the NDP chose this topic. I would have thought the New Democrats might have wanted to talk about the national pharmacare program. In the last couple of years, they have finally come on board, raising that issue after we put things in place that could lead to a national pharmacare program.
If the NDP members were true to their colours and were social democrats who were trying to see social improvement on a bigger scale, I would have thought that would have been more important. After all, this is their last opposition day between now and the next election. Instead, they have taken a consumer idea on cellphones. After all, we all have cellular telephones, so no doubt it is very popular to say let us reduce cellphone rates. This government has done that for thousands of people, far more than what the New Democrats are suggesting today. We did that a couple of years ago.
Mr. Ken McDonald: They voted against it.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: As my colleague from Avalon reminded me, the New Democrats voted against that.
When we look at connecting for families, the government announced that initiative in 2017 as part of innovations and skills. That helped bridge the digital divide for Canadian families that might have struggled to afford access to home Internet. Again, 14 Internet providers are voluntarily participating in the initiative by offering Internet service for $10 per month to eligible families that currently receive the maximum Canada child benefit. The program is being rolled out and close to 20,000 families are benefiting from the $10 a month Internet service. I believe well over 20,000 computers were ordered through the computers for school program.
I made reference at the beginning of my speech to MTS and when it was privatized in the province of Manitoba. One of the initiatives that this government authorized Innovation, Science and Economic Development in May 2016, through a GIC, denied Bell's petition to overturn the CRTC's decision to extend wholesale regulation to fibre home Internet services. This decision supported increased retail competition for higher speed Internet services. Average broadband and Internet prices offered by smaller service providers relying on wholesale regulations are up to 35% lower than those of the larger companies.
I think of the Innovation, Science and Economic Development fund. This affects the province of Manitoba, where the ISCD approved the transfer of the MTS spectrum licences to Bell and Xplornet Communications Inc. As part of the deal, Bell committed to spending $1 billion over the next five years to expand wire and wireless broadband networks to Manitoba. The deal also allowed Xplornet to expand into the mobile wireless market for the very first time.
That is a significant commitment. That commitment will see many communities having enhanced service for Internet. That is an initiative by working with MTS and Bell Canada, along with listening to other stakeholders. Manitobans will be better as a direct result of that.
Whether it is for the Province of Manitoba or that initial $500 million allocated to ensure rural communities would get enhanced services over the coming years, this government is clearly demonstrating tangible actions.
I have been listening to the debate on spectrum and the revenues generated. My Conservative friend is somewhat right. When we talk about the revenue that has been generated through spectrum because of the demand for it, it makes sense to auction it. That is how people get their best price, unless of course one's intention is to nationalize. If that is what the intention of the New Democratic Party is then it should be honest with Canadians and make that statement. If it wants to forgo the billions of dollars in revenue and nationalize, then it should say that.
The revenues that were generated and came into Ottawa, no doubt have been spent on a wide variety of things like health care or other types of social services. It would be incredible to try to track every dollar. I suspect most of it, although I do not know it for a fact, came in the form of general revenue. We have general revenue come in and government money goes out.
When I think of that spectrum auction and the money coming in, that is where I agree with my New Democratic friends. The Stephen Harper Conservative Party did not serve Canadians well by not supporting Canada's infrastructure. Had it supported Canada's infrastructure in the same manner that we have as a government, we would have a much healthier competitive climate for our providers today. It would have had more rural Canadians or rural communities engaged. I agree that the Conservatives were bad on that. Through our budgetary measures, we have taken a number of initiatives to ensure our rural communities are more connected through Internet services than ever before.