NICKEL BELT-GREATER SUDBURY – Marc Serré, MP for Nickel Belt, says all levels of government have a role to play in assuring rural communities have broadband and cellular connectivity. In this day and age, the Internet is no longer considered a luxury as per the CRTC 2016 report but rather a necessity which will enable communities to grow by stimulating their economies and create jobs. New innovative approaches with coordinated efforts between the private sector and government are paramount. The survival of municipalities in rural Canada depends upon digital investments for internet and cellular services.
“Connecting rural Canadians has never been more important. Since being elected I’ve made it one of my priorities to help Nickel Belt Communities get connected. All of rural Canada should be entitled to the same connectivity as urban centres. A digital strategy for northern communities will undoubtedly stimulate economic growth, create jobs and potentially reunite families that have been divided due to out-migration. I strongly feel the future prosperity of Rural Canada depends upon collaborated efforts, when we work together we can accomplish so much more,” says Marc Serré, Member of Parliament for NickelBelt.
Large telecommunications companies have historically neglected rural communities citing geographic challenges and smaller populations present barriers for them to build, operate and maintain infrastructure. The government has worked hard to incentivize and remediate the situation; since 2016 the federal government has invested over 500$ million dollars through the Connect to Innovate program bringing high-speed internet to 300 rural communities.
Despite efforts made by governments in the past, organizations, businesses and schools such as Christ Roi in West Nipissing, and many other remote communities in rural Canada are still greatly lacking broadband and cellular services. Nationally Canada is experiencing a strong economy with job creation and unemployment at a 40-year historic low, but the same is not the reality for rural communities.
The connectivity gap presents a real disadvantage causing rural communities to fall behind and lack competitiveness in the digital age which creates ripple effects such as depopulation and a reduced workforce. This chain of circumstances causes strain on local businesses, tourism and essential services.
On January 15th, 2019 the Government of Canada created the ministry of Rural Economic Development further validating that rural Canadians face unique challenges which need to be prioritized on a national scale. Serré urges the federal, provincial and municipal governments to follow through on Minister Bain’s recommendations stated in October 2018 to immediately collaborate and create a ten-year national digital strategy to address the gap in rural connectivity.
Economic Development agencies across Canada like FedNor will continue to play a crucial role in job creation projects in rural communities, but ultimately these projects can only be successful when supported by an innovative national digital strategy which helps assure their sustainability in 2019 and beyond.