Last week I wrote an MP report on a variety of subjects that also included the concern of interest groups using the courts on issues that they often fail to advance through a democratically elected Government. It is a situation that all levels of Government including municipalities, regional districts, provincial and federal government & related agencies deal with and one that taxpayers pay the bills for. It should also not be overlooked in our democratic process there is often disclosure on expense and assets of public office holders as well political donation limits (in some cases) and other safeguards to protect the public interest. Very few of these public disclosure and transparency measures apply in our judicial system.
Ultimately the intent of my report last week was to raise concerns I have heard from local citizens on this subject and also to start a discussion requesting further feedback from local citizens. Within a day of the report being published, a follow up radio interview was arranged out of Ottawa along with a number of related print and social media articles and within 72 hours a conversation from all parts of Canada was well underway.
The intent of this week’s report is not to recycle the subject from last week but rather to point out the significant importance of the internet and how that can enhance our ability to communicate, to do business and to share ideas and discussion all across Canada at a very rapid pace much as was experienced with last week’s MP report. News, events, commerce, education, civic engagement and more is all readily available to citizens of all ages as the Internet has become integrated into our society. Unfortunately for a segment of our citizens they are regrettably entirely shut out of the same online opportunities that so many take for granted. In some areas of Canada (and this includes parts of Okanagan-Coquihalla) there is no internet availability or wireless connectivity available.
A lack of cellular service in some regions also creates added challenges for emergency responders and those who may require their assistance.
In response to unserviced areas of Canada our Government has introduced the Connecting Canadians program that has a goal of connecting roughly 280,000 Canadians who currently lack high-speed internet services. A target has been set that 98 percent of Canadian homes by 2017 will have access to Internet services with a speed of 5 megabytes per second.
How will this work? The first step is to identify those areas of Canada that are currently lacking in sufficient service. As part of my summer listening tour (I am more than happy to meet with you whether at my office or at your favourite coffee shop), I am hoping to hear from citizens who either are impacted by a lack of service or possibly have friends and families that are currently impacted. The next step after affected areas are identified will be for Internet Service Providers (ISP) to apply for grants to bring service into areas currently lacking. Some rural communities like Logan Lake have already shown interest in this program. This process is targeted to occur in the fall of this year so that grants can be awarded in the spring of 2015. Once the grants are distributed projects can begin and ideally by this time next year areas currently lacking internet services can be online and part of Canada’s internet infrastructure. If you or someone you know currently lacks internet services please send further information to my office for follow up. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
Before I close I would like to sincerely thank the many fire crews, emergency first responders, members of local and regional government including literally hundreds of volunteers who have helped citizens during the recent forest fire activity in our region.
Being evacuated from your home with the threat of an advancing wildfire is a stressful time for families and the work of so many citizen volunteers to help accommodate citizens and pets is greatly appreciated by all involved. Canada Day may have passed for 2014 but there have been many days of late to give thanks for living in a country where so many come together to help their fellow citizens in times of need.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.