Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the comments made by the member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex regarding rural economic development.
It is somewhat ironic that this matter is being raised by the Conservatives, who delayed Internet expansion for a decade.
The current crisis has highlighted the need for all Canadians to have access to fast and reliable Internet, no matter where they live. Canadians living in rural and remote communities identify a lack of high-speed Internet as the number one issue for them reaching their full economic potential.
Since 2015, improving connectivity has been the top priority for our government. In fact, our government has invested 10 times more than all previous governments combined, including the Conservatives. We have a plan to connect every Canadian across the country. I will tell the member how we are delivering on that plan.
Since 2015, our government has invested a total of $7.2 billion for improved broadband access. When I was elected in 2015, that was the first file the rural caucus worked on, and we had several meetings about community access issues.
Taken together, those investments will ensure that 98% of Canadians are connected to high-speed Internet by 2026 and 100% by 2030. Our government committed to bridging the digital divide from the start. Projects are under way to connect nearly 900,000 households. I had the opportunity to travel all over Canada and Quebec to make joint announcements with Ontario and Quebec.
The connect to innovate program launched in 2016 is an example of what we are doing. The program's funding is directed primarily at creating new basic infrastructure in rural and remote communities across Canada. Building that infrastructure is the modern equivalent of building roads to rural and remote areas, and it will connect these communities to the global economy. We recognized the vital importance of good connection and moved the Canadian connectivity file forward for our businesses, for education, for health care at home and for everything else.
The connect to innovate program will bring new or improved high-speed Internet access to more than 975 rural and remote communities, more than triple the 300 communities initially targeted, which includes 190 indigenous communities.
The universal broadband fund is the government's latest effort to support the expansion of high-speed Internet access across the country. This $2.75‑billion program to improve Internet access is the largest broadband investment in Canadian history.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of connecting communities. That is why we acted quickly through the universal broadband fund. We heard all kinds of stories during the pandemic about people using the Internet to break their isolation. That demonstrated that the Internet is now a necessity.