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PQ leadership candidate mulls nationalizing Internet in province if elected

FILE PHOTO - Lights are illuminated on a modem in Chelsea, Que., on July 11, 2011.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
August 30, 2016 - 6:00 AM

MONTREAL - Parti Quebecois leadership candidate Martine Ouellet says she would consider nationalizing Internet infrastructure in Quebec if telecommunications companies failed to comply with certain demands.

Ouellet said Monday that if she is elected PQ leader this fall and then premier in 2018, she will demand that Internet companies improve access, speed and bandwidth as well as cut prices.

If they don't, they will risk having their infrastructure taken over by the government.

Internet access is an essential service and a right similar to electricity, she said.

Ouellet says Quebecers should pay one common reduced rate and have speeds of one gigabit per second and that people living under the poverty line should be offered even cheaper access.

"If there is a lack of co-operation, I am not excluding the possibility of nationalizing the service everywhere in Quebec with a standard price rate," Ouellet said.

Although telecommunications are a federal jusrisdiction and are regulated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Ouellet does not believe that will stop her.

"When I'm talking about nationalization...I'm talking more about the infrastructure," she said. "It's clear the CRCT is involved but it's not true that the CRTC is going to prevent us from giving Quebecers and small- and medium-sized businesses access to economic development. We will never accept that as an answer.

"Anyway, I want Quebec independence in my first mandate. So, as of then, the CRTC will no longer be a factor."

Ouellet has promised a sovereignty referendum within four or five years if elected premier in the 2018 election.

Bell Canada, one of the companies targeted by Ouellet's objectives, said it preferred to not comment on a "political" matter.

The three other candidates running to replace Pierre Karl Peladeau are Alexandre Cloutier, Jean-Francois Lisee and Paul St-Pierre Plamondon.

Voting takes place Oct. 5-7.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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