Jagmeet Singh promises NDP government would cap cellphone, internet bills
TORONTO -- NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh took aim at Canada's telecommunications companies on Friday with a promise to put a price cap on cellphone and internet services.
The commitment, which kicked off the third day of the federal election campaign, is the latest example of a New Democrat strategy to appeal to voters concerned about pocketbook issues.
Singh said an NDP government would also order the creation of a mandatory basic plan with unlimited data that is affordable, and make it easier for third-party service providers to use the networks of Rogers, Bell and Telus.
"This probably is one of the most frustrating bills that people pay for, cellphone and internet," Singh told a roomful of supporters in the Toronto riding of Beaches-East York as they waved signs with emoticons.
"And there's a reason why people are so frustrated. We are paying some of the highest bills in the world when we talk about cellphone or internet services."
Telecom companies have previously warned that government attempts to corral cellphone and internet costs will hurt service quality and investments in infrastructure.
But Singh suggested other countries, such as the United States and Australia, have introduced similar price caps without such negative impacts, and alleged Canada has not followed suit because of the telecom industry's influence in Ottawa.
The NDP leader has made a point of promising to take on big business during the early stages of the campaign, accusing Justin Trudeau's Liberal government of caving to corporate interests and high-priced lobbyists.
"Over the past four years, Mr. Trudeau's government has been lobbied over 565 times by telecom lobbyists," Singh said.
"And as a result, what's happened is, they've driven up the cost of cellphone and internet to the point that it's amongst the highest in the world. So we want to change that."
Yet Singh also faced questions about what an NDP government's relationship with the private sector would look like given his sustained attacks, and whether his policies would drive away business, jobs and economic prosperity.
The NDP leader said he does not want to be an enemy of the private sector, but that it needs to start working to the benefit of all Canadians, rather than the wealthy and powerful.
"I don't want to make anyone an enemy, but I want to definitely take on the powerful," he said.
"I think that they've had a free ride. ... We can work with business. We can create a good climate that allows businesses to thrive, but we don't want to create a condition where corporations thrive and people suffer."