Consumers to be taxed for 911 expansion
Opposition says system will be stymied without rural cellphone coverage
Newfoundland and Labrador will charge a levy to pay for a long-awaited expansion of the emergency 911 phone system, which should be in place across the province by the end of 2014.
Every cellphone and every landline will be subject to a 911 levy.
"It's incumbent, on you, to say that's it's going to be well under a dollar," Kevin O'Brien, the minister responsible for emergency services, told reporters at a news conference Tuesday.
"We're just putting that out there because you were going to ask the question anyway."
Rural advocates, municipal leaders and others have been advocating for province-wide 911 coverage for years. The government has been sympathetic, but reluctant to commit to the millions of dollars needed to make it happen.
The money raised through the levy will pay for equipment, staff and public education.
But Liberal critic Eddie Joyce has doubts about whether an actual province-wide 911 service is in the wings.
"Once again there's no price attached to it. There's no commitment for cellphone coverage for the province," Joyce said.
New Democrat George Murphy said extending 911 across the province will not have a full effect because many rural areas do not have cellphone service in the first place.
"We've got to be after our cellphone providers as well to make sure we're going to have that 911 through cellphone service, if we're going to be paying for it on a user-go basis," he said.
O'Brien said that cellphone coverage remains the jurisdiction of telecommunications companies, and that the government will not foot the bill for it.
"Will we ever get to that point where there's full cell service everywhere in Newfoundland and Labrador, on every hill and every valley? I don't know."