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Charlie Angus has written to the federal government asking them to explain why FEDNOR, the regional northern development agency appears to be denying all applications for broadband investments in Northern Ontario. The decision to walk away on badly-needed broadband projects is putting the regional business plans at further risk because it is jeopardizing the security of the provincial funds, which need to be matched by the federal government.

In his letter to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, Angus says he is worried that the new government just doesn’t get it when it comes to the north.

Investing in broadband is essential to bring our economies into the 21st century, especially in rural communities in which deteriorating transportation infrastructure leave us even more isolated within a globalized economy. It is vital that we have a champion within your department and at cabinet to speak up for the distinct needs of the region. It would appear to me that a decision to walk away on rural connectivity for the north is a signal that this sensitivity to the northern reality is still lacking in the new government’s approach.”

The government has stated that rejected FEDNOR applicants can reapply to the Connecting Canadians Program, but Angus says this will mean a two year delay in projects that should already be getting off the ground. Angus says this is unacceptable and at minimum, the government needs to review these denied applications and bridge them into another program.

“Denying broadband funding is the continuation of a long pattern of cuts and stalled spending at FedNor. The government is unfairly penalizing these regional applications in Northern Ontario to squeeze them out of funding for at minimum two years. This is another example of why we need to make Fednor a standalone agency so that we can ensure greater independence,transparency and accountability.”

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