Thunder Bay – COVID-19 is showing where there are gaps in Canada’s social safety network. The Government of Canada states in a media release that Canada is facing the most serious public health crisis in our history. COVID-19 has altered everything about our way of life. It has exposed and compounded existing inequalities and vulnerabilities and has hit rural communities hard.
“Now more than ever our rural communities need reliable broadband connectivity to ensure people can work remotely, businesses can thrive, and our kids have access to educational resources. The pandemic has exemplified the need to connect Canadians and I’m hopeful this funding will see projects in our area get off the ground quickly to ensure constituents in my riding have access to the internet supports and services they need”, states Marcus Powlowski, Member of Parliament, Thunder Bay – Rainy River.
For too many residents of Northwestern Ontario, lack of access to reliable high-speed internet has a dramatic impact on quality of life. Now, more than ever, everyone needs reliable access to high-speed Internet as we work, learn and keep in touch with friends and family from home.
Our government has long recognized the need to connect every home, every business and every community to fast and dependable internet. That’s why we put forward the country’s first national strategy to achieve universal connectivity, backed up by billions of dollars in federal funding. We are already seeing results, having had approved projects and programs that will connect more than 1.7 million Canadian households to better, faster internet. To view progress on local projects, visit the Connect to Innovate Project Tracker, which contains the most up-to-date information on the status of each project, including the anticipated completion date.
Recognizing the need to accelerate that progress, today, Marcus Powlowski, Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay-Rainy River, is announcing the launch of the enhanced and expanded Universal Broadband Fund (UBF), which will help improve high-speed Internet access and mobile connectivity across Canada. That includes underserved communities here in Thunder Bay – Rainy River. Originally designed as a $1 billion program, the Government has increased funding for UBF to $1.75 billion, recognizing the need to act swiftly to connect all Canadians.
The enhanced UBF also recognizes the need for urgency. Connectivity can’t wait and we will not allow government bureaucracy to stand in the way. That’s why the program now includes the Rapid Response Stream, an accelerated application process that will allow shovel-ready projects to get started right away. The application period is now open and community partners are encouraged to apply for funding.
Our government is also committing $600 million to secure low-earth-orbit satellite capacity through Telesat, in order to provide high-speed internet to the most rural and remote parts of Canada.
Canada’s economic recovery will depend on strength, innovation and growth of rural communities and access to high-speed internet is essential to ensuring they are included in, and can help drive, the country’s economy as we recover from this crisis.
Today’s announcement builds on our government’s strong record of delivery for rural Canada. Since 2015, we have approved funding for over 17,000 infrastructure projects in communities of under 100,000 in population. Of these, almost 90 percent have been investments in communities with a population of less than 30,000 people. More than 6,100 kilometers of highways and roads, and 103 bridges have been built, repaired or upgraded in rural communities, and Canadians in more than 1,279 rural communities have access to cleaner, more sustainable sources of drinking water. To address homelessness and the need for affordable housing 1,375 projects have been approved, delivering more than $393 million to rural communities across the country.