And then there were 3

Two weeks ago, in “Peace, order and good government”, I wrote about what I would have liked to see in a party platform as we head into this pandemic election.

Earlier today, the Liberals finally released their “Forward. For Everyone” [pdf, 3.1MB] platform, at the midway point of this 5 week long election campaign. The Liberals and NDP released their platforms at the start of the process – and I discussed their platforms in my August 16 post.

Two years ago, the Liberal platform promised a 25% reduction in wireless prices over two years. That target was achieved, according to the Statistics Canada cellular component of the Consumer Price Index. Indeed, I argued back in early March of 2020 that the government could already “Declare victory. Consumers are winning”.

The 2021 Liberal platform does not contain much on the telecom policy front, beyond an affirmation of its commitment to drive further investment in rural broadband.

A re-elected Liberal government will:

  • Require those that have purchased the rights to build broadband actually do so. With this use it or lose it approach, Canada’s large national carriers will be required to accelerate the roll-out of wireless and high-speed internet in rural and northern Canada by progressively meeting broadband access milestones between now and 2025. If these milestones are not met, we will mandate the resale of spectrum rights and reallocate that capacity to smaller, regional providers.

A couple pages later, the platform says:

With an increased reliance on the internet to access services, work remotely and attend school, rural communities in Canada have been disproportionately affected by the digital divide. Just under 50% of rural communities have access to Broadband at 50/10 Mbps and the CRTC estimates that only 30% of First Nations households have access to internet. Ensuring that companies accelerate the roll-out of their broadband projects will contribute to the economic growth of those communities and the wellbeing of Canadians.

The platform appears to be a strong signal that a Trudeau government will stick with its fundamental telecom policy statement from a year ago: “Canada’s future depends on connectivity”, setting out clearly that it favours a policy environment that encourages investment in high-quality network facilities. “Incentives for ongoing investment, particularly to foster enhanced connectivity for those who are unserved or underserved, are a critical objective of the overall policies governing telecommunications, including these wholesale rates.”

As I have written before, it is easy to call for measures that lower prices. It is more responsible to set out a policy platform that understands the balance between competition, affordability, consumer interests, investment and innovation.

The Liberal platform seems to be pointing to maintaining balance.

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