MP REPORT: New cell tower rules are needed

Colin Mayes provides information on the government's policies about cell towers

Over the last 20 years, wireless services have grown into something Canadian consumers rely on daily.

As a result, we are seeing an increasing number of new cell towers being constructed in our communities. Their placement is becoming an ever more divisive issue with the rapidly increasing demand for wireless services.

Canadians deserve to have a say in how new cell tower locations are identified in their communities.  Improvements to Industry Canada’s antenna tower siting policy will ensure that local home owners and municipal governments are at the forefront of the tower placement process.

The changes guiding the installation of new antenna towers will include requirements that companies:

Consult communities on all commercial tower installations, regardless of height.

Build any tower within three years of consulting with communities.

Ensure home owners are well informed of upcoming consultations.

The improvements will also strengthen federal communications with the public on tower siting procedures, including new 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 companies to first look at sharing existing tower infrastructure, whenever they can, to reduce the number of new towers needed in each community.

Under the existing cell tower siting policy, a company is only required to consult the community when it plans to build an antenna tower taller than 15 metres.

Before any company can build a new cell tower, it is required to look at alternatives like whether there is an existing tower in the same area that it can share.

All antenna towers, no matter the height, location or power, have to satisfy Industry Canada’s technical requirements and comply with Health Canada’s rules to ensure the safety of Canadians.

The placement of new cell towers is often a divisive issue in communities across Canada. It is essential that homeowners be at the centre of the process to determine the location of a new tower, and it is up to the wireless industry to ensure local voices are heard.

These new rules will give communities a better say in the placement of new cell towers.

When I was mayor of Salmon Arm, this issue came forward twice when towers were going to be placed in residential developments.

The city council had no authority to prohibit or set standards for the placement of a tower.  This policy change will allow local councils to make the decisions on tower placements and guidelines to make them less aesthetically offensive.  This new policy has been supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Colin Mayes is MP for Okanagan-Shuswap.