Ontario gov’t plans to expand mobile broadband service; plans to improve autism support

S-D-SG MPP Jim McDonell. Nation Valley News file photo

This Week At Queen’s Park – May 24

by Jim McDonell

On Friday, May 17, my colleague, the Hon. Monte McNaughton Minister of Infrastructure joined a number of other Eastern Ontario MPPs to announce that the Ontario Government will be investing $71 million in the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN). The project will bring cellular service to large parts of Eastern Ontario that are currently cell dead zones. Approximately 10 percent of Eastern Ontario is currently without any kind of cell service. Once completed, approximately 99 percent of Eastern Ontario will have access to stable, fast mobile broadband service.

It is essential that in a modern economy, homes and businesses have access to high-speed broadband, both at home and on mobile devices. We know that access to smartphones is as much a public safety concern as it is a personal choice. Having a call dropped on the highway when you are in distress can have terrible consequences. This investment will help ensure you can access the internet from a smartphone almost anywhere in Eastern Ontario. This is a matter of public safety as much as it is an economic opportunity.

Minister McNaughton said at the announcement: “Our government has committed to help people get the broadband and cellular connections they need.” Currently, there are too many homes, businesses and major roadways where it is difficult to access the internet from a smartphone. We all know examples where people are put in dangerous positions because of dropped calls or lost connections during emergencies.”

The public-private initiative requires contributions from the federal government as well as the private sector and municipal partners. To date, the Federal Government has not committed funding for this important project. The total value of the project will be an estimated $213 million. It is expected to generate up to 3,000 jobs over ten years and potential revenues of $420 million.

This announcement shows the Ontario Government’s commitment to improve the lives of Eastern Ontario and support the infrastructure needed to build a modern and efficient community.

Fear of significant layoffs is being greatly exaggerated by teachers unions. Redundancy notices for the upcoming year are sent to teachers every spring as required by their collective bargaining agreements. The number of positions to be filled is based on seniority within each school board. Our proposed changes to class sizes and e-learning will not result in job losses. Furthermore, we have allocated $1.6 billion for school boards to have the resources to make the best decisions for students and to protect teacher positions.

The government continues to listen to parents and caregivers with children in the autism spectrum. As of May 3, 2,228 individuals took part in an online survey that will assist the government to better support residents with complex needs. We are pleased with the feedback from families but also with experts and providers who are interested in reforming the Ontario Autism Program. We will be holding a second telephone town hall on May 28, from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Individuals can register for the telephone town halls at http://www.ontario.ca/autism.

We have heard from experts and stakeholders, such as CAA, on ways to make our highways safer and more efficient. As a result, we are conducting pilot projects to increase the speed limit to 110 km/hr in three stretches of the 400 series highways, including Highway 417. These highways are designed to handle speeds of 120 km/hour, and many of our neighbouring jurisdictions have already made these changes. Ontario highways are among the safest in North America and we will evaluate these trials to determine the need for further changes.

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