Provincial leaders agree on expanding broadband internet in rural and northern Ontario
PC government spending $315 million on expanded cellular and broadband, NDP promising $1 billion
It's rare that Ontario's premier and the three-would-be premiers he regularly duels with at Queen's Park agree on something.
In their remarks to the International Plowing Match in Verner on Tuesday, all four stressed the importance of expanding broadband internet to rural areas and to northern Ontario.
But they don't agree on how to get it done.
Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford pointed to his government's commitment to spend $315 million over five years to extend high speed and eliminate cellular dead zones around Ontario.
In the 2018 election, the NDP promised $1 billion over 10 years, a similar pledge to the federal Liberals who say they will spend billions to connect every Canadian to broadband by 2030.
Some say that won't even be possible in northern Ontario.
"Well, we've proved it already," says Ford. "We've put broadband in rural areas throughout Ontario. We're going to continue doing that."
"Do I think it's possible? I think it's unacceptable to expect otherwise," says Horwath.
"If there's a will there's a way. And it shouldn't just be about saying the right things during an election campaign and then of course after the election talking about how difficult it's going to be."
Horwath says she sees broadband as an "essential service" but isn't sure if that means the cables will be owned by the government or a public utility.
"We have not ourselves come up with the final model, but it's not something I would dismiss out of hand," she says.
"If we keep relying on only the private sector it's just not going to happen. Broadband levels the playing field in a competitive world market and everyone knows it."
Premier Ford disagrees and pledges to continue working with telecom giants on finding new customers in rural Ontario.
"I'm not big on big government. Big government just wastes a lot of money. I think the private sector can do a much better job," he says.