TORONTO, ON — At the annual conference of Ontario’s rural municipalities, MPP for Guelph Mike Schreiner called on the province to increase its investment in rural broadband infrastructure.

“In 2020, this isn’t a luxury, it’s a basic part of life – whether you’re paying the bills or using the latest technology to run your farm efficiently,” said Schreiner in his speech.

While the government re-announced its five-year, $315 million plan, the total represents a $100 million per year cut compared to what the Liberals budgeted in 2018.

“We must close the digital divide so rural communities can thrive in the new clean economy,” said Schreiner, calling for rural broadband to be deemed an essential service.

From tornadoes to lost crops, Schreiner said the province has a responsibility to provide assistance and relief to rural communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

“The bottom line is that it is fiscally irresponsible to put off climate action,” he said, criticizing the Premier’s cuts to tree planting, flood prevention, and low-carbon solutions.

Schreiner also recognized local municipalities supporting his bill to protect water, while thanking local leaders for standing up to the government’s cuts to water and farmland protection, from Bill 66 to Bill 132.

“We cannot pave over the asset base that generates our economic prosperity. I stand with you to defend the people and places we love in Ontario,” said Schreiner.

Schreiner amplified the call from local leaders to update the funding formula in rural areas to meet the special needs of rural hospitals, schools and other public services.

“From mental health services to long-term care to schools, we must invest more in the services that make small communities vibrant, livable places to raise a family,” he said.