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Archived - Changes to Industry Canada's Antenna Tower Siting Policy

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Speaking Points

The Honourable James Moore, PC, MP
Minister of Industry

Ottawa, Ontario
February 5, 2014

Check Against Delivery

Good morning, and thank you for joining me today.

Firstly, I'd like to thank my fellow members of caucus for the work they have done on moving us forward on the antenna towers file. Their efforts are a big part of why we're here today.

Over the last twenty years, wireless services in Canada have grown from a new technology to something that we rely on in all aspects of our daily lives.

Consumers, businesses, police, firefighters, ambulances, air navigation systems, and national defence—they all depend on towers and antenna systems for reliable wireless communication.

To do their jobs. To connect with loved ones. To save lives.

And, of course, supporting the increasing demand for wireless service means building new antenna towers, which transmit the radio signals that provide these services and link our cities—and our country—together.

As a result, we are seeing more antenna towers popping up in our communities. And their placement can often be a divisive issue among local residents.

For example, in an area in the west end of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, a company proposed to build a tower under 15 metres. When some residents learned of this proposal, they immediately joined together to express serious concern over the placement—close to an elementary school and a senior's home—and eventually the company withdrew its proposal.

It's no secret that many Canadian residents have concerns about the location of these antenna towers in their neighborhoods.

Too often, Canadians have told us that they did not have a say in where these towers were to be built in their communities. In some cases, residents weren't even aware a new tower was being installed until it was up and running.

Now going forward, we do expect many more new antenna towers to be constructed across Canada to meet the ever increasing consumer demand for wireless services.

Which brings me to why I am here today.

Canadians deserve to have a say in how new antenna tower locations are identified in their communities.

That's why our government is making changes to Canada's Antenna Tower Siting Policy to ensure that local residents and municipal governments are at the centre of the antenna tower placement process.

New rules will mean that citizens will be better informed and better able to engage in decisions about where new antenna towers are constructed. Decisions that touch them in their communities and their neighbourhoods.

Changes to the tower placement rules will mean that companies have an obligation to consult with local citizens before a tower is built, regardless of its size.

Previously, companies only needed to consult when they were planning to build a tower higher than 15 metres.

Now, they'll be required to consult on all new towers, regardless of height.

We are also putting a time limit in place, so that towers are built sooner after public consultation.

In the past, there was no limit to the length of time companies could wait before they built a new tower. Now they will be required to build the tower within three years of consulting with residents.

This means fewer surprises for the local community.

In addition, companies will be required to better inform community residents of upcoming consultations, so that they can have their say.

In the past, a resident might have received an unaddressed flyer or letter in the mailbox and easily confused it with junk mail.

Under the new rules, companies will need to make sure this type of mail is clearly marked.

This will help ensure that residents are aware of the company's plan to build a new tower and are able to participate in the consultation and make a fully informed decision.

We will also make changes to strengthen federal communications with the public on tower siting procedures. This will include new simple online resources on the process and new reporting mechanisms to track tower issues and report back to communities.

These measures build on our government's current tower sharing policies that require wireless companies to share their existing tower infrastructure, wherever they can, to reduce the number of cellphone towers needed in each community.

We took an important step in this regard last March, when we announced improvements to our telecommunications plan that reinforced mandatory tower sharing and roaming.

I want to mention that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has done good work in this area. It recently launched its Antenna System Siting Protocol Template, which calls for greater cooperation between the wireless industry and municipalities.

We want to build on this good work. In the weeks ahead, we will continue to work with the wireless sector on ways to more effectively balance the concerns of local communities.

Canadians deserve to have a say in how wireless services are delivered to them in their communities. We are listening and ensuring that, with these changes to our Antenna Tower Siting Policy, we are working with consumers and municipalities to make sure their voices can be heard.

Thank you.

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