Interventions in the House of Commons
 
 
 
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View Rémi Massé Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times, our government believes that communities should have a say in where cell towers are installed in their area.
Telecommunications companies also need to consult communities in an open and transparent manner. However, this matter is before the courts. It would be inappropriate for me to comment further.
View Rémi Massé Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform my colleague that, since taking office, our priorities for connectivity have been accessibility, competition and affordability. In regions where there is lots of competition, costs have actually gone down by 32%.
We have also launched a new program called connecting families, which gives low-income families access to the Internet for $10 a month. Canadians are our priority, our plan is working, and we are investing for our people.
View Rémi Massé Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, people back home remember what 10 years under the Harper government looked like. Those 10 years were marked by cuts and the muzzling of scientists. Just ask anyone at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute.
A fundamental shift occurred in 2015, a 180-degree turn. Now the government is investing in my region and in our people, including our seniors. We introduced the Canada child benefit, which is giving families in my region $3.8 million every month and is helping 11,880 children. Some 75 projects have been created through the new horizons for seniors program, representing a $1.3-million direct investment in my riding. Consider the hundreds of students who found work through the Canada summer jobs program, representing a $3-million investment in my riding. Finally, 220 federal jobs were created, generating $11 million in salaries to contribute to my region's economic development. A total of $160 million has been invested in my region.
Just imagine another four years like that.
View Rémi Massé Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I want to start by saying that I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge.
Today I have the pleasure of rising to highlight the excellent work our government has accomplished, no matter what the opposition may say, over the past four years to support Canada's telecommunications sector and Canadians, who work hard and rely on these Internet and mobile services every day. Telecommunications services are essential to all Canadians, regardless of where they are. That is why the government's telecommunications policy focuses on three objectives, namely quality, coverage and affordability.
Canadians need access to high-quality telecommunications services where they live and work in order to participate and thrive in the digital society and economy. Canada is already among the world's leaders when it comes to fast wireless networks. However, we understand that more can be done in terms of coverage to ensure that everyone can benefit.
Cell coverage is essential, and Canadians find service issues frustrating. The government has taken steps to expand wireless and broadband access in rural areas. I am from Gaspé, where 40 towns in the riding of Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia will have access to high-speed Internet as of next year thanks to a $45-million investment. The people who live in those 40 towns, including Grosses-Roches, Matapédia, Carleton-sur-Mer and Sainte-Félicité, and all across my riding will have fibre optic service with download speeds of up to 100 megabytes. That is the kind of service we hope to offer. As of next year, 98% of the households in my riding will be connected. We have a plan, and that plan is working extremely well.
Obligations related to service delivery in rural areas like the ones I mentioned earlier must be integrated into spectrum licences to ensure that Canadians across the country have access to state-of-the-art wireless services.
This is not just it. Our government is also looking to the future. By 2023, experts expect as much as 10 connected devices for every person on earth. This is just the beginning. Wireless airwaves, known as spectrum, are essential to supporting increasing demand for data.
Our government is responding, especially by releasing new types of spectrum, as announced by my colleague the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development last week at the telecom summit. The goal is to ensure that the right spectrum is ready at the right time.
Releasing spectrum is part of the government's broader rural strategy, which also includes the connect to innovate program. The program will invest up to $500 million between now and 2021 to improve access to high-speed Internet in more than 900 rural and remote communities.
Also, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, recently announced the details of its $750-million broadband fund. The CRTC's goal for the fund is to ensure that wireless coverage includes as many major roads as possible. Wireless projects will be chosen on the basis of geographic coverage and kilometres of road covered.
Supporting new technologies also requires private investment in network infrastructure. In 2016, Canadian telecommunications companies invested more than $11 billion in their networks. Wireless 4G networks, also known as LTE, are now available to 99% of Canadians.
The government understands the need for reliable and affordable high-speed Internet and mobile coverage. We also believe that Canadians in all regions should have affordable access to these services.
Our government is working hard to ensure that all Canadians can benefit from quality telecommunications services at the best possible price. The 2018 annual report shows that competition is starting to have a downward impact on the price of wireless and Internet services.
Competition has driven the price on mobile wireless service markets down by 16% since last year. It is no secret that despite the progress that has been made, prices remain high compared to other countries.
Our government also supports a competitive marketplace where consumers are treated fairly. This is why we put forward a policy direction that would require the CRTC to consider competition, affordability, consumer interests and innovation in all its communication decisions. We are giving clear direction to the CRTC, but Canadian consumers must be at the forefront of all future decisions. In doing so, we are ensuring that the communications policy will be made through a consumer-first lens to ensure Canadians have access to quality service at more affordable prices.
As I was saying, we have already accomplished a lot for Canadian telecommunications consumers. Prices are going down as coverage and speeds increase, which is excellent news.
We know that we need to do more to keep up with the rapid pace of change. However, only one party has demonstrated clear determination to take concrete action and that is our government. We are working for all Canadians.
At the beginning of my speech, I gave some tangible examples. Starting in 2017, we announced measures in the regions. If there is one region that is undoubtedly rural, it is the Gaspé Peninsula. In my riding, there are four RCMs and 58 towns and villages. As I was saying, 98% of homes will be connected to fibre optic broadband by next year. We started with the Avignon RCM, then we moved on to La Matapédia. Now it is La Mitis' turn and next it will be La Matanie's. Every village will be connected to high-speed Internet.
Those are concrete measures that our plan has delivered. We will continue our efforts with the investments we announced in budget 2019, for example. Money has been allocated for infrastructure. In terms of affordability, for example, money will be allocated to provide Internet services at $10 a month to families receiving the Canada child benefit. Our government is implementing concrete measures to ensure that all families will have access to quality services. That is important.
No region anywhere in Canada should be left behind. Canada is a large country. There are businesses and families in every part of it and all Canadians must be connected to quality services to ensure their full development and allow them to reach their full potential. Once again, our government has implemented a set of measures in pursuit of its specific commitment to ensure that these services are indeed made available.
I would like to close by saying that I am very proud of the work our government has done. We will continue our efforts because there is still more to be done. In fact, the policy recently put in place by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development seeks to ensure that the customer receiving the service is at the centre of the CRTC's decisions in order to guarantee adequate and timely coverage at a good price.
View Rémi Massé Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I want to remind my colleague that our government has made some significant investments since we came to power. For example, we have invested in about 180 connectivity projects that will give 900 rural or remote communities in Canada access to high-speed Internet.
I also want to remind him that the cost of Internet services and cellular service dropped by 16% in the past year. Work is ongoing. The minister has implemented a policy to ensure that the CRTC puts customers at the forefront of its decisions. Our objective is to ensure affordable, quality access to all Canadians, no matter where they live.
View Rémi Massé Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and for his commitment to rural communities across Canada.
Internet access is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Our government has worked to ensure that Canadians in rural areas can participate fully in the digital economy. This is why we announced changes to the 3,500-megahertz spectrum. We want to support the development of 5G access without jeopardizing Internet access in rural areas.
I do not think I need to spell it out for my colleague, who knows very well that 5G comes with some particularly transformative benefits for consumers and businesses across Canada. We are keeping our promise to connect all Canadians in rural communities. I want to clarify that we will provide 5G service as soon as it is available, before any other services for rural Canadians are affected.
View Rémi Massé Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, not only is our government taking a stand; it is taking action.
Our government has invested more than $900 million in 190 projects to ensure that communities across Canada can connect to high-speed Internet and have access to cellular service. In my riding, 98% of households will be connected to fibre optic high-speed Internet.
The problem is that the NDP voted against it.
View Rémi Massé Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, over the past few years, our government has invested more than $900 million to connect communities across Canada. In budget 2019, we announced a $1.7-billion investment in infrastructure projects, bringing the total to nearly $5 billion.
Does my colleague believe these investments are important? Why did the NDP vote against those measures?
View Rémi Massé Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's response. His answer was an important one. There are examples all across Canada. After a decade of Conservative darkness, my riding finally saw the light in 2016. As of next year, 98% of households in my riding will have high-speed Internet access.
I would like my colleague to tell us once again how our government's program has benefited his region of Winnipeg and Manitoba. I think this program is making a real difference in the lives of his constituents.
View Rémi Massé Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind my colleague that the minister's new directive means the CRTC must put Internet and mobile phone service consumers at the forefront of all its decisions. We want more competition, and it is working. In regions with competition, prices are up to 32% lower.
I would also like to remind my colleague that we created the connecting families initiative to improve access. We are working with 14 companies to give families access to Internet packages for $10. These are the kind of concrete measures that work. My colleague may be well-intentioned, but it does worry me that New Democrats voted against these measures. It is so disappointing. Yes, we still have work to do, but we already have a very detailed plan that is working well. Unfortunately, despite their lofty rhetoric, New Democrats decided to vote against these measures.
View Rémi Massé Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, the minister highlighted the measures that our government has taken in recent months, such as ratifying NAFTA and getting the tariffs lifted.
Before the tariffs were lifted, we implemented a program, an important initiative, to ensure that companies could take advantage of incentives and measures to help them invest in their business. I was fortunate enough to visit Saint-Martin-de-Beauce on Friday on behalf of the minister to announce a $2-million investment. The entrepreneurs who were there had a smile on their faces. They were particularly impressed with the work we have done to support them.
I wonder if the minister could tell us about the kind of investments we made in other regions of Canada that have helped entrepreneurs and businesses in our ridings to continue to develop despite the tariffs that were imposed—and which, of course, were lifted recently.
View Rémi Massé Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I thank my NDP colleague for his question.
Every Canadian deserves a safe, affordable and accessible place to call home. However, as we all know, one of the hardest things for a first-time homebuyer is to scrape together enough funds for a down payment and cover the associated costs of a home purchase. That is why budget 2019 announced a number of new initiatives to make it more affordable for Canadians to buy a home.
This builds on Canada's national housing strategy by taking concrete action to increase access to housing that is affordable and to help middle-class Canadians realize their dream of owning a home.
To address the difficulty that young families may be have in becoming homeowners, budget 2019, through Bill C-97, which is currently before Parliament, proposes a new first-time homebuyer incentive. With this extra help in the shape of a shared equity mortgage through the CMHC, Canadians can lower their monthly mortgage payments, making home ownership within reach. Qualified first-time homebuyers who save their minimum 5% down payment would be eligible for a 10% shared equity mortgage for a newly built home or a 5% shared equity mortgage for an existing home.
That means that first-time homebuyers will be able to save money every month, giving them more money to pay down their traditional mortgage sooner or to spend on their priorities.
It is expected that approximately 100,000 first-time homebuyers will benefit from this incentive over the next three years. The program criteria will make it easier for eligible first-time homebuyers to buy homes they can afford.
The even more generous incentive for new builds may also encourage home construction, which will address some of the housing supply shortages in Canada, particularly in our largest cities.
Bill C-97 also proposes to increase the home buyers' plan withdrawal limit from $25,000 to $35,000. That means first-time homebuyers will be able to withdraw larger amounts from their RRSPs in order to buy a home. This is the first time the withdrawal limit has been increased in 10 years.
In closing, the new measures set out in budget 2019 will make housing more affordable by lowering the barriers to home ownership for first-time homebuyers and stimulating the Canadian housing market.
View Rémi Massé Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, additional information will provided over the next few weeks with respect to my colleague's question. However, let me reiterate that our government has the responsibility to support a stable housing market and the economy. Recent federal policies help ensure that Canadians take on mortgages they can afford, even if interest rates rise or income changes.
These policies underpin stability for Canada's economy, financial institutions and families, benefiting all Canadians. These actions have also contributed to slower growth in house prices and reduced speculation in key areas, helping to limit the amount of debt Canadians must take on to buy a home and improve housing affordability.
Our government continues to closely monitor the effects of its mortgage policies to support access to housing, while safeguarding financial stability.
View Rémi Massé Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I would like to acknowledge my colleague's hard work, passion and determination. We truly appreciate those qualities.
Like him, I would like to take a moment to recognize the 75th anniversary of D-Day. On this day 75 years ago, Canadian soldiers stormed Juno Beach in Normandy, France, forever changing the course of history. Nearly 14,000 Canadians participated in the landing, and, as many people know, 350 of them lost their lives and another 715 were wounded or captured. We remember all those who served and those who paid the ultimate price for Canada.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed that the pension for life is more generous and that most veterans will receive considerably more money from monthly benefits than they did from the previous program's lump sum payment. The pension for life, which came into effect on April 1, 2019, will invest $3.6 billion in support of veterans. It is part of a holistic program that takes into account every facet of veterans' well-being. Benefits include compensation for the pain and suffering veterans experience because of service-related injuries and illnesses. For veterans in rehabilitation, the benefit also delivers 90% of their salary at release.
Veterans told the government what they thought was wrong with the new veterans charter. They said that their needs differ from those of 20th-century veterans. They also want it to be easier to submit applications and understand which benefits they are eligible for.
We listened to them and we took action.
In the last four budgets, we invested over $10 billion in new and improved benefits to enhance veterans' well-being. We also added new benefits for career transition, employment, education and family support services, as well as for research into improving the quality of life of future veterans. We also included a significant increase in support and research into how post-traumatic stress and related mental health conditions are diagnosed and treated.
The well-being of veterans also turns on that of their families. That is why we have improved the programs and increased the benefits for families and caregivers, including a tax-free monthly benefit of $1,000 for people who provide daily, essential care to veterans with service-related disabilities.
The families of medically released veterans have access to the veteran family program at all 32 military family resource centres across Canada, as well as the family information line and the website www.CAFconnection.ca.
In conclusion, these measures significantly improved benefits for veterans compared to the new veterans charter. More than $5 million is paid every day in disability benefits.
Veterans Affairs Canada's most important job is to help Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans successfully transition from military service. With the pension for life, we are contributing to the overall well-being of veterans, which is what the veteran community asked us to do.
View Rémi Massé Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, most veterans are financially better off thanks to the financial benefits of the pension for life, as I mentioned earlier, compared to what they were receiving under the previous Veterans Well-being Act.
We are proud to have adopted the monthly pension that veterans asked for. We are also proud to have reopened the nine Veterans Affairs offices that the previous government shut down and to have opened an additional office. We are proud to have rehired more than 700 Veterans Affairs Canada employees who had been laid off by the previous government. We are proud of the work we have done since 2015 to improve benefits and services, rebuild trust with the veteran community and encourage our government to reduce costs to support veterans and their families.
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