Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went to Rideau Hall to speak with the governor general to dissolve parliament and begin the federal election campaign today in Ottawa. But in the lead up to the election and particularly in the past year, several telecom policies have taken the forefront of the conversation with Canada’s federal political parties.
The conversation about reducing customers’ internet and phone bills have been one of the most spoken about issues.
How will the parties lower your phone or internet bill? And will this be a promise that is actually kept?
Rural connectivity has also been a topic of discussion among party members. As we inch forward into a world of 5G connectivity and technology, how do we get some of the most rural and northern parts of Canada connected to the internet?
Of course, who can forget the conversation around Huawei and whether or not the federal government should ban the China-based telecommunications company from participating in the rollout of 5G network infrastructure?
The discussion on whether stricter rules should be placed on technology giants has also been talked about heavily in the lead up to the election. Should there be more regulation placed on Twitter, Facebook and Google?
Here’s a short breakdown of how some of our federal parties have promised to solve some of the topics, and as the election campaign rolls out for the next six weeks, MobileSyrup will report on where the parties stand on these issues.
As of now, no decision has been made about Huawei and whether or not it will get banned from providing telecommunications network equipment for when 5G comes into Canada.
Tensions flared up after Vancouver authorities arrested Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou in December. Since then, she, Huawei, and subsidiary Skycom have been charged with 13 counts of bank and wire fraud charges. These allegations have yet to be proven in court.
The U.S. accuses the company of using backdoors in its technology to spy on citizens and deliver information to the Chinese government. The U.S. initially banned the company from working with any U.S.-based companies in May, and later lifted the ban slightly in June.
Huawei denies all allegations made towards it and has been urging the Canadian government to release its CFO.
The Liberals have indicated that no decision will be made until after the election. They have had meetings with Canada’s major telecom companies, specifically Bell and Telus, to have conversations about using Huawei.
Bell has indicated that it will work with the government, but it’s worth noting that 70 percent of its network infrastructure contains Huawei equipment.
Telus, on the other hand, has strongly urged the government to not ban Huawei and said that its equipment enables it to have a better network service for its customers.
Telecom companies have suggested that banning Huawei will cost $1 billion. Telus’ network contains 100 percent Huawei infrastructure.
Telus and Bell both have confirmed that Huawei equipment is not in the core, where the most vulnerable information exists.
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains, however, told MobileSyrup in January that the government intends to work with telecom companies regardless of what the decision will be.
Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer has indicated that it would ban Huawei if he were elected the next prime minister. Although, he has not suggested how this ban would look.
His party members have vehemently spoken about the threat Huawei causes to Canada’s national security and have said that Canada should be looking at its counterparts in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agency to make the right decision.
The New Democrat Party’s leader Jagmeet Singh has not outright said whether or not there should be a ban. But his party members have maintained that all sides of the conversation need to be had and a wholesome decision should be made, not one based on emotions or only what U.S. President Donald Trump has said.
If anything, whoever the next prime minister will be, a decision on Huawei will probably be one of the first major decisions the government will have to make.
Lowering internet/phone costs
One can say that a lot has already been done by the Liberals in terms of getting big telecom companies to lower the cost of cellphone and internet bills. Earlier this year, Bains issued a policy directive that requires the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to make decisions with affordability and fairness for Canadians in mind. This includes having affordable and fair cellphone and internet prices.
Liberal Party sources have indicated that the party could be looking into a cap on bills, or maybe even having incumbent carriers provide more access to Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs).
“Canadians shouldn’t be paying more for their already very expensive internet and communications services and that is something we will take into account,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters.
“There are two choices: legislate or push through measures to boost competition,” one party source had indicated.
The Conservative Party has not announced any wireless plan related strategies as of yet.
On the NDP side of things, Singh has also suggested a price cap and also to introduce a Telecoms Consumers’ Bill of Rights. The bill would “put an end to the egregious and outrageous sales and services practices of the telecom companies to protect Canadians.”
With respect to a cap, Singh suggested that a it would be matched to rates from the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average. The OECD is an intergovernmental economic organization with 36 member countries that stimulate economic progress and world trade.
Singh’s plan also includes removing all data caps for internet services and creating unlimited data plans at affordable rates.
Even the Green Party of Canada has suggested its intention to mandate affordable cellphone plans. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May indicated the plan would be to ensure rates are affordable, new companies would be able to participate and create more competition, and ensure that there is a Universal Broadband Strategy that will ensure high-speed internet across the country.”
Rural internet services
To get Canadians prepared for a future of 5G connectivity, politicians are shelling out money to help connect Canadians in rural areas and the north to the internet.
The Liberals introduced new funding in Budget 2019 to ensure all Canadians have access to high-speed internet by 2030 and Rural Economic Development Minister Bernadette Jordan introduced the Connectivity Strategy that details how the party intends to make this happen.
The NDP and Conservatives have not really laid out a plan as to how they would get Canadians in rural parts and the north connected to internet services.
Regulating tech giants and social media platforms
Figuring out what regulating social media and tech giants would look like has been a conversation for some time now.
Back in December, Bill C-76 — the act to amend the Elections Act — received royal assent. There were some new provisions that regulate digital platforms in preparation for the election. Those regulations include limits on political advertising by parties, reporting requirements for third parties and not allowing foreign entities to donate during elections.
For example, it would mean digital platforms needed to create an ad registry for political ads and if a registry is not created, then per violation of a political ad, the digital platform faces a $2,000 CAD fine.
In May, even though the House of Commons had “run out of runway” before rising in June to announce any new legislation that would regulate digital platforms, Liberal Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould told MobileSyrup that she feels “prepared” current legislation will protect Canada from disinformation in the upcoming federal election.
Bains announced the Digital Charter, a 10 point principled plan that would guide policymakers on future legislation of digital platforms. The Digital Charter, however, did not have any concrete forms of regulation.
Conservative Party and NDP members have both suggested better rules should be enacted. The three parties have also had parliamentarians from other countries to host the International Grand Committee on disinformation to better understand how to regulate digital platforms.
What would you like to see from the federal party leaders on digital policies? Let us know in the comments below.