With the weather warming and summer just around the corner, more and more people are starting to come to Northwestern Ontario to for a visit. This week though, we had a visitor of a different kind grace us with his presence.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff visited the region last week to talk to people about rural issues and to release the last piece of his rural platform. That final plank was a promise to ensure access to high-speed internet access for all Canadians within three years. Ignatieff even went so far as to criticize the current government for not having done this to date, declaring; “Conservatives have just not done it.”
I was in Ottawa working, sadly missing this event, but when I read the report of his visit I couldn’t believe that the Liberal leader was calling out the Conservatives for not helping our region secure broadband access. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who had a sense of sense of déjà vu upon reading or hearing of this announcement because, well, Ignatieff is no less than the fourth Liberal to make this promise in the last decade.
The idea of universal access to broadband was first put on the agenda by the National Broadband Task Force which was appointed by Chretien Industry Minister Brian Tobin all the way back in 2001. The report of the task force, not surprisingly, contained the very recommendation that Mr. Ignatieff was pedaling to us again last week. A simple question I would have liked to ask him had I not been in Ottawa working would have been, ‘why didn’t Mr. Chretien or Mr. Martin fulfill this Liberal promise ten years ago?’
When the Liberals ended their 13 year reign, this promise of broadband internet access for all Canadians joined a long list of promises that went unfulfilled. Who can forget the promise to scrap the GST? What about a public daycare system that was first promised in the 1993 Liberal Red Book? It’s almost insulting that Mr. Ignatieff strolls into to town to re-announce a promise his party first made 10 years ago while they were in government and then blasts the Conservative government for doing the same thing.
The truth is that it is both Liberal and Conservative inaction on files like this that have left northwestern Ontario behind. We need look no further than across the border to our friends in Minnesota to see that areas just as remote and rural as ours can be provided with these high quality services – if it is made a priority. If Mr. Ignatieff’s predecessors atop the Liberal Party had simply followed through on their past promises, then we would already be enjoying many high quality services that have been available to other Canadians for years and would have a dramatically higher standard of living.
In the end, I was actually glad to hear that rural Canada finally made an appearance on Michael Ignatieff’s electoral radar. It’s too bad though that his local candidates failed to inform him that many of the struggles we face today in northwestern Ontario are the direct result of 13 years of broken promises by Liberal governments.
John Rafferty MP
Thunder Bay Rainy River