moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, today I would like to introduce Bill , the strengthening motor vehicle safety for Canadians act. The safety of the travelling public is of paramount importance to Transport Canada and to this government. Road safety is an issue that touches every Canadian in some manner. Many of us have either been directly involved or have loved ones who have been involved in a traffic accident. Collisions and the associated injuries, deaths, and costs are tragic. However, to a great extent, they are preventable.
We are determined to pursue the continued improvement of motor vehicle safety because we want to help Canadians avoid tragedy on our roads. We believe that the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and its associated regulations and standards are key reasons why progressively fewer people have been killed and injured on our roads despite the fact that more people are driving. Improving the motor vehicle safety regime is part of our commitment to the safety of Canadians.
The purpose of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act is to address safety issues related to vehicles on Canadian roads. The proposed amendments to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act would provide the government with new and better tools for making our roads safer.
The Canadian motor vehicle safety regulations are applicable to all vehicles designed to operate on public roads, from motorcycles to heavy trucks. They also apply to some off-road vehicles that are occasionally driven across or along the sides of roadways or on trails. The federal government uses the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and its attendant regulations to regulate vehicle and equipment manufacturers and importers, and to instil confidence in our stakeholders, including the provinces, territories, interested public organizations, and the general public.
The government has been heavily involved in improving and delivering vehicle safety for many years. The Motor Vehicle Safety Act came into effect in 1971. To keep the act current and effective, it has been updated at various times throughout the years. As innovations and technologies continue to evolve, there remains a continuing need to improve the act to ensure it remains current.
The act regulates the safety requirements that apply to new and imported motor vehicles and to new motor vehicle equipment in order to reduce the risk of death, injury, and damage to property and the environment. The act enables the development of regulations and safety standards for new and imported vehicles, new tires, and new equipment used in the restraint of children and disabled persons within motor vehicles.
In addition to creating robust regulations, the increasingly rapid advent of innovative vehicle technologies requires that the legislative framework be agile so that it does not inhibit the adoption of new safety technologies. Canada risks losing ground in this very important market unless we take the opportunity to add some flexibility to the act.
Continual improvement and adaptation to the environment help keep Canadians safe. That is why we are proposing further changes to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.
Proposed amendments to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act were tabled in the House of Commons for the first time in June 2015 as Bill to address safety gaps. The bill attained first reading before Parliament was dissolved. With a few additional provisions, the bill was introduced to the other House as Bill . It has completed its process there and is now being brought before this House.
While there are a number of proposed amendments that I will outline, the most significant ones have to do with motor vehicle and equipment recalls. Generally, the major vehicle manufacturers and importers have a good history of addressing safety defects in Canadian vehicles. However, if a situation arose today with a vehicle, tire, or child seat where there was clear evidence that the product contained a safety defect that could put the safety of Canadians in jeopardy and the company did not agree and was not voluntarily issuing a recall, there would be little that could be done except to take the company to court. This would result in delays in addressing safety concerns.
Therefore, it is proposed to amend the act to authorize the minister of transport to be able to order a company to correct a defect or non-compliance in a vehicle or equipment if the minister considered it to be in the interests of public safety. Under such an order, there would be three options available for companies to correct the defect or non-compliance. The first option available to companies would be to repair the vehicle or equipment. The second is that the company could replace the vehicle or equipment with a reasonable equivalent. Finally, the company could choose to reimburse either the repair costs to the vehicle or equipment that have already been undertaken or the sale price of the vehicle or equipment less reasonable depreciation.
In addition, the bill includes the power to order companies to pay the costs of correcting a defect or non-compliance in a vehicle or equipment. These provisions can have a significant impact on safety.
The combined order powers are are designed to prevent situations where the owner of a defective or non-compliant vehicle does not want to or is unable to pay to repair it. Such situations would place an unreasonable financial burden on Canadians, and potentially place other Canadians at risk, should their fellow citizens be unable to undertake the necessary repairs. Provisions have been drafted to help ensure that manufacturers would be responsible for costs pertaining to the repair of known safety defects.
To help ensure that new vehicles or equipment with safety defects or non-compliances do not reach Canadians, the bill also contains a provision for the minister to order companies to ensure that defects and non-compliances are corrected before the vehicles are sold to consumers. This measure will help keep vehicles with safety issues from being driven on Canada’s roads.
These order powers complement the existing powers to order a company to issue a notice of defect or non-compliance. They address major gaps in the motor vehicle safety regime and, once passed, will help ensure that the motor vehicle safety issues are corrected.
Beyond these powers, other powers would be introduced into Canada's motor vehicle safety regime. Vehicles on Canada's roads are incredibly sophisticated machines, with complex and proprietary computers and software. Their complexity is only going to increase in the years to come. This complexity could make it challenging to obtain information relating to defects or collisions or verifying compliance with the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Therefore, this bill includes the authority for the minister to order companies to conduct tests, analyses, or studies on a vehicle or equipment and to require them to provide those results to Transport Canada. This new ability to order additional studies would be very valuable to help determine details around safety issues.
As part of the proposed amendments, there will also be a requirement for companies to provide a contact person within the company to whom we can reach out for information and to verify compliance with the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. This requirement would help in the establishment of clear lines of communications between companies and Transport Canada.
While Transport Canada has good lines of communication with the major manufacturers and importers in Canada, which will continue, complete reliance on these informal mechanisms is risky.
Formal, clear lines of communication will help ensure and increase the safety of Canadians. The proposed changes to the legislation will also increase the ability of Transport Canada to verify compliance with the Act and identify and analyze defects and collisions. The bill clarifies where and how Transport Canada's inspectors may access sites in the discharge of their duties. Bill also adds the ability to require the presence of persons who may be questioned on matters relating to an inspection and to require that all reasonable questions be answered.
The proposed changes will help ensure that our inspectors get the information that they need to ensure that companies are complying with the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, while the authorities, requirements, and tools mentioned will help ensure Canadians' safety. However, there remains a gap in terms of the enforcement of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and its regulations.
Currently, the act only has limited enforcement tools to encourage compliance from companies. If a violation is suspected, Transport Canada notifies the company, and later follows up to monitor that any corrective action has been taken. If corrective action has not been taken, the only current option available to the department is criminal prosecution. This is time consuming and costly for industry and the government, and in some instances, may not be fully appropriate for a given violation.
Accordingly, the proposed changes introduce an administrative monetary penalty regime that will help encourage compliance from companies as an efficient, effective and less costly alternative to criminal prosecution. Companies will also have the ability to appeal an administrative monetary penalty to the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada.
The review process will examine if the company or person has committed a violation under the act and, if so, whether the penalty that was levied was appropriate. In specific cases, actions rather than fines may be more appropriate or have greater benefit for Canadians, such as a safety promotion campaign or changes to a company’s safety culture.
A newly proposed tool known as consent agreements would create that authority. These agreements would authorize the minister to negotiate mutually acceptable agreements that would result in enhanced motor vehicle safety for all Canadians. These agreements would be registered in the Federal Court and published. Once published, they would have the status of a court order.
Together, the addition of administrative monetary penalties and consent agreements would dramatically increase the enforcement options available under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The proposed additions to the act are not, however, exclusive to the enforcement and compliance regime. As noted, vehicle technologies are advancing at an ever-increasing pace. This is particularly an issue as the automation and connectivity of vehicles increases and as new environmental technologies are further examined and developed.
As these new technologies emerge, there may be benefits in terms of safety, innovation, or the environment. However, sometimes our regulations may not be able to keep with these changes. As such, it is proposed to adjust the interim order and exemption provisions of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act to help ensure the flexibility to support these innovations while concurrently maintaining safety for Canadians.
An interim order allows the temporary suspension or modification of an existing regulation while a permanent regulatory change is being developed. It can signal to industry and Canadians that a regulatory change is in progress that allows the early implementation of such advances. It is proposed to amend the interim authority to extend the period of such an order from one year to three years to allow sufficient time to complete the formal regulations and allow the earlier adoption of new technologies that could benefit Canadians.
In addition, it is proposed to make the current exemption process more efficient. This would support the adoption of new technologies or vehicles. The proposed powers would authorize the minister to grant an exemption from current standards in instances where it would support new safety measures or new kinds of vehicles and technologies but would not compromise the safety of Canadians.
Exemptions would be available to companies that applied for them and could demonstrate that the safety of Canadians would not be compromised. The exemptions would be made public, ensuring a transparent and fair process.
These measures will help to ensure that the Motor Vehicle Safety Act continues to protect the safety of the driving public, while not hindering innovation and technologies that can also benefit Canadians and their safety. This powerful suite of much-needed changes to the act will increase the tools available to the government and industry requirements while still keeping the focus on the safety of Canadians on our roads.
The other place amended the bill to add further protections for dealers. We appreciate the good intentions behind these amendments, as they have helpfully drawn our attention to certain concerns that dealers have about the impact of recalls on their industry. I would like to thank our colleagues in the other place for their efforts.
However, we also believe that these provisions, as they currently appear in the amended Bill , are beyond the authority and the purpose of the act, which is to protect the safety of the driving public, not to manage contractual financial matters or the relationship between dealers and manufacturers.
If such an amendment remains in the legislation, it may create imbalances between dealers and other buyers. Some could have advantages over others. It could generate legal challenges when it comes to enforcement authority over dealers and cause unintended consequences such as leaving no recourse for manufacturers when dealers do not meet their obligations. These types of issues could potentially have consequences on the commercial relations and agreements that dealers have with manufacturers. The amendment also does not take into account that there are other mechanisms to protect the commercial interests of dealers.
Again, I recognize that the amendments made by the other place are well-intentioned and reflect healthy dialogue between our two houses. We believe that it is possible to address dealers' concerns while avoiding those unintended consequences. We know that dealers care about safety and that they will want to work with our government and parliamentarians to modernize the Motor Vehicle Safety Act in a way that benefits Canadians.
It is imperative, now more than ever, to have rapid action on the part of elected officials to move Bill forward. Canada's ability to more fully address its oversight role and its ability to properly assess the safety aspects of new technologies depends on the success of this bill.
I look forward to the bill going to committee for the study of its provisions, including the implications and consequences of the proposed dealer amendment. I support and vote for the committee to undertake a thorough analysis. I look forward to testifying in front of the committee with departmental officials and to working with parliamentarians to strengthen the act to make the roads safer for all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill , an act to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and to make a consequential amendment to another act.
The bill was introduced in the Senate by the Leader of the Government in the Senate on May 11, 2016, referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications in October, and one month later the committee reported the bill back to the Senate with an amendment. The bill passed third reading in the Senate, as amended, on February 2. It has been in the queue for some time. I recall being on call every evening of the last week of the last session, prepared to debate the legislation.
This issue is important. Whether via public transit, personal vehicle, foot, or bike, nearly every Canadian relies on roads to get around and/or receive the goods and services they need on a daily basis. A trip to the grocery store may feel routine to the drivers and passengers, but millions of hours of work have gone into designing the technology and innovations that power the vehicles in which we travel.
As with anything, vehicles have thousands of moving parts and despite the best of intentions, occasionally systems do not work as they were designed to. That is why Canada needs a robust regulatory regime that ensures Canadians are informed of risks and that vehicles that are a safety hazard to the driver and passengers as well as other road users are repaired or taken off the road with haste.
I will discuss the content of the bill further in my remarks, but first it is important to note that beginning in November 2015, the Auditor General began a 10-month examination on the efficacy of the processes at the Transport Canada motor vehicle directorate. His report was published on November 29 and is worthy of further study. The overall message highlighted a number of issues, and I will quote from the introduction. It states:
Overall, we found that Transport Canada did not develop motor vehicle safety standards to respond to emerging risks and issues in a timely manner.... We could not always determine how the Department used evidence and research to develop or amend safety standards.
I will discuss the Auditor General's report in greater detail later in my remarks, but for now I will just note that the measures included in Bill would have no bearing on many of the structural problems uncovered by the AG in his fall report.
By and large, auto manufacturers voluntarily initiate recalls. In 2015, five million passenger vehicles were recalled in Canada. That is five million vehicles recalled out of just under 24 million licenced vehicles in Canada. Between 2010 and 2016, manufacturers issued at least 318 recalls for which Transport Canada had not received any complaints.
Most of the time when an issue is identified, whether by the manufacturer or Transport Canada, the manufacturer begins a recall. The manufacturer gets in contact with each impacted vehicle's owner and the vehicle is repaired at no cost to the owner. It is almost routine, but on occasion a difference of opinion exists between Transport Canada and a manufacturer.
Right now the Motor Vehicle Safety Act limits the role the Minister of Transport can play in issuing notices of safety defects and criminally prosecuting manufacturers when a potentially dangerous flaw is found. The reality is that the last time a minister of transport criminally prosecuted a manufacturer was nearly 25 years ago, in 1993, when Transport Canada took Chrysler Canada to court over defective tire winch cables. The case was dismissed in 2000.
Criminally prosecuting manufacturers has not proven to be an effective or efficient way to ensure compliance with the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Since that last prosecution 23 years ago, manufacturers have voluntarily issued thousands of different recalls.
What would this legislation do and how would it make our roads safer? Proposed sections 10.5 and 10.51 would amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act to provide the Minister of Transport with the authority to order a recall and order companies to correct the defect at no cost to consumers.
The intent is pretty straightforward here, but the process outlined certainly is not. The minister must, before issuing any order, make a preliminary determination on the basis of testing, analysis, inspection, examination, or research that the minister considers appropriate. Then he or she must notify the company in writing and publish a notice of preliminary determination and invite persons to make comments in writing. Here is where the ambiguous language shows up:
The Minister shall not make a final decision that an order is necessary unless the Minister has taken into account information that he or she considers relevant.
It raises this question: how else would a minister make a decision, other than taking into account information that he or she considers relevant? I find it surprising that the minister can make a decision based on information that he or she considers relevant, which may be anecdotal, rather than on repeatable testing and facts.
Once again, nearly five million vehicles were recalled last year in Canada, so it is not as though manufacturers are not generally being proactively cautious. This tool will not be used with any frequency, if ever.
Proposed sections 16.01 and 16.1 would give the Minister of Transport the power to impose financial penalties on companies up to a daily cap of $200,000, depending on the offence.
Additionally, this clause grants Transport Canada the authority to oppose non-monetary penalties on companies, referred to as compliance agreements, to promote acquiescence with the act. Furthermore, the clause gives the Governor in Council the discretion to prescribe by regulation the total maximum payable for a related series or class of violations.
Overall, clause 16 is straightforward. If monetary and non-monetary penalties are properly applied, they can have a positive impact in promoting compliance with the action.
Proposed section 10.4 of the bill increases the number of notices that a company must send to consumers once a recall process has been initiated. The issue that has been highlighted in the Senate about this clause is that parts or the technology to fix a defect are not always available, and a date for when a repair will be possible is not immediately known. Theoretically, companies would be required to send a new notice every time a new timeline for repairs has been established.
In the case of Takata airbags, where millions of cars were affected and the company had gone bankrupt, estimates on when new parts would become available were changing every day. A manufacturer would theoretically have had to send out an updated notice of recall on every update.
As consumers start getting multiple letters advising yet another day for when new parts or a new fix will be available, there is a real risk that these notices will begin to be ignored and the number of vehicles that are brought to a dealership for repairs could drop below the current 78%.
Proposed section 15 of the bill would give Transport Canada inspectors significant new powers. Some of these powers are quite surprising for what is considered technical legislation, so I will quote directly from the bill. For example:
...an inspector...may enter on and pass through or over private property...without being liable for doing so and without any person having the right to object to that use of the property.
...examine any vehicle, equipment or component that is in the place;
...examine any document that is in the place, make copies of it or take extracts from it;
...use or cause to be used a computer or other device that is in the place to examine data that is contained in or available to a computer system or reproduce it or cause it to be reproduced...
...remove any vehicle, equipment or component from the place for the purpose of examination or conducting tests.
To summarize, an inspector can enter into any private property, so long as it is not a private dwelling, without being liable for trespassing, inspect any vehicle or equipment, copy any data from a computer, and remove any equipment for further testing, all this to verify compliance with the act, rather than to verify non-compliance.
The difference is significant. Verifying noncompliance implies that the inspector is following up on a series of complaints from consumers or an investigation taken up by Transport Canada engineers. Verifying compliance implies that Transport Canada can conduct inspections without having to demonstrate cause for doing so. In our justice system in which the presumption of innocence is the foundation of all, the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not the one who denies.
The proposed act would also give the inspector strong authority to order testimony at manufacturing plants as follows:
Every person there shall answer all of the inspector's reasonable questions related to the inspection, provide access to all electronic data that the inspector may reasonably require.
This gives an inspector the power to interview not just managers and the owners of a facility, but the line workers without their union representatives present. Whether the information collected during these spot interviews could be used during the prosecution is not defined in the proposed act.
“Reasonable” is also a loose term that should be better defined. Beyond getting to a less ambiguous definition, if there is a disagreement between an employee and an inspector over what is reasonable, who will settle that dispute?
Proposed section 8.1 of the bill gives the minister the power to order a manufacturer to conduct specific tests on their products to verify compliance with the act. Transport Canada will never have the same resources and know how manufacturers have to test their own products, so this clause partially rectifies the asymmetry of information. The problem here is that people cannot ask for something if they do not know it exists, so while requesting a test is good, it is a lot like fishing. There are no guarantees.
Proposed section 13 gives the minister the power to suspend an existing regulation for a period of three years or less if it is in the interests of public safety to do so, or if this exemption will promote innovation that will make vehicles safer. I believe that lengthening the amount of time the minister can suspend a regulation from one to three years will give companies more time to experiment and test new processes. This is a good thing overall.
What is missing in this legislation? The bill does not cover important replacement parts like windshields, brake lines, brake fluids, or replacement airbags. These areas are covered in the United States, so I am surprised that they are not a part of the legislation we are discussing today.
Earlier in my remarks, I referenced the Auditor General's report on the motor vehicle safety directorate at Transport Canada, released in late November 2016. The report noted that Transport Canada gives disproportionate influence to manufacturers when writing up regulations or when looking to amend existing regulations. This is important because broad public consultations on safety-related issues do keep our roads safe.
Unfortunately, Bill does not enshrine a requirement to consult beyond the manufacturers. Considering that Bill spells out in incredible detail what steps the minister must take before ordering a recall, I am surprised that a similar process for setting new and amending existing regulations cannot be enshrined in law.
The Auditor General also found that despite years of research on the need for stronger booster seat anchors, as booster seats now weigh more, Transport Canada did not implement regulations that follow the findings of its research because it would in this case be detrimental to trade. There is no purpose in having Transport Canada conduct years of research on a safety matter if we will only implement it after the United States does. Bill will not address this problem.
Paragraph 4.42 of the Auditor General's report noted that Transport Canada possesses incomplete data on collisions and injuries in the national collision database because provinces are not providing the information.
Furthermore, paragraph 4.43 notes that Transport Canada does not have access to data from insurance companies, hospitals, police, and others involved in vehicle safety matters, so it is missing information that could help inform future vehicle safety priorities. Neither of the issues concerning data quality raised by the Auditor General's report will be fixed or even partially addressed by Bill .
Finally, the Auditor General noted that the motor vehicle safety directorate's budget had been compressed in 2016 and that the directorate subsequently did not have a long-term operational plan for its activities. For example, the budget for crashworthiness testing was cut by 59% in fiscal year 2016-17. At the same time, funding for six regional teams situated in engineering departments in universities and colleges that were charged to assist in outreach activities on vehicle safety also saw their funding cut. These regional teams will no longer be able to feed information into the regulatory decision-making process, which the Auditor General had noted was not functioning as well as it could.
Despite these cuts, the department chose to announce the construction of a $5.4-million outdoor crash barrier at the motor vehicle testing centre in budget 2016. Try to square that circle. Given that the budget allocation for testing had been significantly reduced, the Auditor General questioned the rationale for proceeding with the project. Whether this item would have been included in budget 2016 if the Auditor General had not started his evaluation is unknown.
In conclusion, while Bill will help advance vehicle safety, I believe it contains clear omissions. I hope the government will be willing to consider amendments to improve this piece of legislation and motor vehicle safety in Canada. Finally, I do note that statistics from the U.S. indicate that less than 5% of all motor vehicle injuries and fatalities can be attributed to vehicle maintenance and safety-related defects. While the bill is a good start, more attention needs to be given to addressing the other 95%.
Mr. Speaker, this session is certainly kicking off in high gear. That is an image that fits in nicely with the auto industry theme.
This being my first speech since Parliament resumed, I would like to start by saying how glad I am to be here. It is always an honour to recall the mandate I was given by the voters of Trois-Rivières. They entrusted me with a very important mission, namely to be an opposition MP, a parliamentarian who will hold the government responsible and accountable for its decisions and its legislation. As members of Parliament, we do not necessarily control the legislative agenda. However, we do everything in our power to make sure the bills tabled here are as good as possible at the end of the process and that we, as members, did what we could to improve them.
I would say that there are three types of bills that we debate. There are bills that garner the unanimous support of the House, something that happens all too infrequently. Bill S-2 probably falls into the second category of bills whose main objectives and principles enjoy a general consensus. In other words, we have to work on ironing out the details to get the best possible wording and best implementation possible. Bill S-2 does not fall into the third category of bills, but we will likely see one that does before the end of this session. It is the kind of bill that could not set the parties further apart. Sometimes, often even, when I take part in these jousting matches, I will attack the proposed ideas with guns blazing. Such is the nature of our work in the House. However, I never, ever attack people. It is not lost on me that the people who voted for me are no different than the people who voted for every member of the House, regardless of their political stripe. We have a duty to work together to find the best wording.
It is also appropriate, whenever the House rises, to thank all of the staff who make our work possible. This time, I would like to do it now, at the beginning of the session, because after six years of working in Parliament, I understand just how important the work these people do is and just how much we ask of them, given the nature of our work. They return at the beginning of the session with a big smile and the desire to once again serve Parliament and democracy. They deserve to be commended and thanked in advanced.
Let us move on to Bill , which deals with motor safety. I am not the only one, but I believe that I am well placed to talk about this subject because I live just a few kilometres from Trois-Rivières, but the city's airport does not offer flights from Trois-Rivières to Ottawa. Trois-Rivières can be reached by bus, but even that requires transfers, and there is no passenger train service at all. The only realistic transportation option available to me is travelling by car.
That means that year after year, week after week, I have to drive between 800 and 1,000 km a week. I am sure others here travel even greater distances. I am not complaining. I am merely pointing out that, as I zoom along the highway or make my way through cities, always staying well within the posted speed limits of course, I unfortunately see quite a number of accidents. Some of these accidents are caused by driving errors, but others are caused by mechanical problems, and we are hoping to put an end to that type of accident.
There was a time when almost everyone could make minor repairs to their own vehicles because engines were rather simple. Those days are long gone. Even at the dealership, most cars must now be hooked up to a computer to identify the problem. Then the mechanics can do the necessary repairs or maintenance.
The automobile market has changed considerably. Let me go on a little rant here. I will restrain myself considering that we just got back. Once again, the government is introducing a bill that overuses the word harmonization. The Conservatives were known for doing the same. Bill seeks to harmonize motor vehicle safety practices between Canada and the United States. That is fine, but just to be clear, in Canada, every time we talk about harmonization it is understood that we are playing catch-up. When it comes to safety, our laws always fall short of U.S. legislation.
We could try to find a way to be leaders, but instead we play catch-up; Bill is a fine example of that. The bill has merit, as I said to the minister, and we will vote in favour of it at second reading so that it can be further reviewed in committee, where stakeholders will develop the best bill possible. However, it would be interesting to see how Canada might become a leader instead of always playing catch-up.
I already brought this up in the first question I was able to ask the minister, but I would like to start by comparing the bill's intentions, which are laudable, to the actual situation at Transport Canada as described in the Auditor General's last audit on oversight of passenger vehicle safety. I will quote the audit report because it articulates, far better than I ever could, a reality I am very concerned about:
Overall, we found that Transport Canada did not develop motor vehicle safety standards to respond to emerging risks and issues in a timely manner. It generally waited for the United States to change its motor vehicle safety standards before modifying Canadian standards. The Department often limited consultations to the automotive industry. We also found that it did not have complete collision and injury data to inform its decisions. We could not always determine how the Department used evidence and research to develop or amend safety standards. Transport Canada did not plan or fund its research and regulatory activities for the longer term.
No matter how wonderful the bill is, if Transport Canada does not have the means and tools necessary to ensure motor vehicle safety, we have a serious problem in Canada. Bill will not necessarily be the answer to solving this problem, but rather the administration of Transport Canada's budget, under the leadership of the minister himself.
What about all the new technology that cars now have? Is it not better that we be at the forefront, rather than lagging behind? I reread the Minister of Transport's mandate letter, and there is not a single word about vehicle safety. Fortunately, the minister went above and beyond his mandate to bring forward legislation in this area, but even so, it is troubling that such a huge issue was not included in his mandate letter.
When I mentioned budget cuts, I was referring to a decrease in funding for crash tests. That is probably one of the first things that comes to mind when we talk about motor vehicle safety.
I am sure everyone can picture what it looks like when cars smash into things at controlled speeds in accidents staged to see how the vehicle reacts, how well the safety features absorb the shock, and how well passengers are protected.
A number of studies have been done on the repercussions for passengers in the back seat, but they need follow-up. That is another thing I hope we can revisit in our committee work. Basically, we agree with many of the new powers set out in Bill , but if those powers are not properly managed by the department, we will not necessarily solve any problems.
Let us talk about which of the new powers that Bill would give to the minister actually make sense. There is a whole chain of events. I am sure that we have all at some point received a recall notice. I got one recently, but I will not give the company free publicity. I got a recall notice informing me that I was the owner of such and such a vehicle manufactured in such and such a year, that there was a particular problem with my model, and that if I wanted to find out if my vehicle was affected, I should go to the company website with my serial number and check.
Of course I was glad to get the letter, but I have to say that getting that kind of letter automatically worries people. I went to the website right away to find out if I was affected by the recall and if my vehicle was still safe to operate. That is what happens when a company issues a recall. It is pretty much the end point of a whole process. By then, the company has received complaints, done its reviews, analyses, tests, and studies, and found that there is indeed a problem it needs to address. Often in the past, years have gone by before a company acknowledges that there is actually a problem.
One example is the problem General Motors had with its ignition system that led to a recall. It was not until many years after the company started getting complaints and concerns that owners got their recall notice, almost 10 years. In the meantime, while the company was doing its tests to find out if there actually was a cause-and-effect relationship, accidents happened, and sometimes people were injured. There were even some deaths.
We certainly cannot be opposed to giving the minister the authority to expedite the process and to request that a recall be issued. We must also ensure that with the funding for Transport Canada the minister will be equipped to do these analyses and to come up with conclusive findings in a relatively short time. That is the difference between good intentions and good management. I share a good number of the concerns expressed by my Conservative colleague who spoke just before me about cuts to a certain number of areas. We were told earlier that $5 million was added to the budget for collision testing. We would all be inclined to applaud, because that is another $5 million. However, we would be forgetting that the budget had previously been cut by 59%. Basically, they cut the budget by 59% and then proudly announce that they are putting back $5 million. It seems to me that there is a difference between rhetoric and reality and that we should be examining the whole problem overall.
It goes without saying that the government should be given the power to order a company to correct defects or non-compliances. It is the logical next step to the power to order recalls. In general, auto manufacturers and importers are ordered to assume the cost of parts and repairs. There may be a few exceptions, but usually the industry does not argue when a manufacturing defect is found, since it wants to protect its reputation. It also goes without saying that the government should have the power to require that these repairs be made before the parts or vehicles are are sold to consumers. That seems like the minimum that should be required.
As an aside, I would like to talk about the amendment proposed in the Senate that many car dealership owners came to talk to me about. In theory, if the government harmonizes the Canadian legislation with that of the United States, it must also provide economic support for car dealers since, for now, most of them have to maintain an inventory of vehicles that have already been purchased from the manufacturer but that cannot be sold because they have been recalled.
In some cases, for example with the Takata airbags, which were manufactured for many auto companies, the dealers are aware that there is a problem, but they cannot necessarily repair all the vehicles overnight. That means that all of those cars are just sitting on the lot and the dealers cannot sell them to get the money back on their investment. We therefore have to give this issue some serious thought.
I understand the proposal made by the minister, who said that this is not a straightforward security issue. However, if the bill truly seeks to harmonize the Canadian legislation with that of the United States, we might need to consider this issue because the Canadian and American auto markets are highly integrated.
As for the power to require more information from manufacturers, we are not against it, but when I hear the ministers tell me that all reasonable questions from inspectors should be answered, I think we are having it both ways. Once again, we have legislation stacked with good intentions, but the meaning of the word “reasonable” remains unclear. Whether in French or in English, the word is open to interpretation. What can we do, then, but insist legislatively or legally on the meaning of the word “reasonable”? What seems reasonable to one person is not necessarily reasonable to me.
Therefore, it seems to me that there should be a way for us to collectively agree on a wording that would say “obligation to answer all reasonable questions that directly affect motor vehicle safety”. There is a way to establish guidelines that would clarify that. It is exactly the same kind of vague vocabulary that is found in other bills, such as those on employment insurance, that speak of “suitable” employment. I think that we ought to do away with the doublespeak that distracts us from the purpose of the bill.
There are a number of things I would have still liked to say, but I will have the opportunity to come back to them when I answer questions or when the bill goes to committee. I repeat that the NDP will support this bill at second reading, in the hope that we can help to improve it substantially. We will meet again for the vote at third reading. I would also like to ensure that all stakeholders involved in motor vehicle safety will be heard and that their comments, not just those from companies, will be taken into account.
Of course, companies are major players, but we should also be able to hear from consumer associations and police associations. I will stop there because the axe has just fallen. I am available to answer questions.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to share my time with the hon. member for .
I am pleased to speak today to Bill an act to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and to make a consequential amendment to another act. I think safety is of paramount importance, and I am sure it is equally important to all members of Parliament. This bill, as tabled by the government, will help improve the safety of Canadians.
The importance of motor vehicle safety and a strong motor vehicle safety regime is clear. Millions of Canadians rely on that regime as they travel on our roads every single day. Large vehicle recalls in recent years highlight the importance of motor vehicle safety. This importance placed on safety is why we are pursuing the proposed changes to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Those changes will, if passed, address key gaps in the regime and help ensure the safety of Canadians.
The proposed measures include new order powers for the to order a company to correct safety defects at no cost to the consumer, an administrative monetary penalty regime and consent agreements to help promote compliance, measures that will help foster the introduction of innovative technologies, and many other proposed changes. These provisions have been envisioned as a suite of changes to strengthen our current safety regime and help ensure Canada can benefit from new technologies.
This is a significant overhaul of these legislative provisions. The motor vehicle safety regime is not as robust as it should be in terms of the protections it provides to Canadians. Should a vehicle have a defect that would threaten safety but a company does not want to repair the defect, there is very little the Government of Canada can do.
This situation could endanger Canadian drivers.
This is not an acceptable situation. While our vehicle manufacturers have a good track record here in Canada, we do not want to be in a situation where there is a safety issue for which we do not have the proper tools or authorities to address the situation. It is our desire to pass this legislation as quickly as possible to ensure that this safety gap is addressed. This is not to state that safety recalls will not occur in the future or that unforeseen risks and problems will not arise, but that we are taking concrete steps to improve safety by including new tools in the legislation that will be available to help address issues when they arise.
As part of the review of the bill, an amendment was brought forward from the other House that would provide additional financial protections to automobile dealers above and beyond those available to purchasers in the event that the minister of transport orders a company to correct a defect or stop a sale. As outlined in the amendment, these protections would ensure that dealers would receive from the vehicle manufacturer or importer the parts needed to correct a defect or the manufacturer or importer would repurchase a vehicle at full price plus transportation costs and compensate the dealer at the rate of 1% per month of the price paid.
I must state from the outset that vehicle dealers are an important component of the Canadian economy. They employ thousands of people across the country. They help to ensure that our vehicles are well maintained, and they are valuable members of the communities in which they operate. The changes introduced in the other chamber were motivated by a sincere desire to protect them from financial harm. This is a perfectly understandable goal, and I would like to thank our colleagues in the other chamber for raising awareness about the concerns that dealers had with Bill .
The purpose of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, however, is to protect the safety of Canadians. It is not designed to regulate the commercial relations between automobile manufacturers and importers and their dealers.
Furthermore, the strengthening motor vehicle safety for Canadians act, as originally introduced, already included provisions that would require manufacturers and importers to be financially responsible for correcting or repairing a defective or non-compliant vehicle. This applies to dealers as well. To clarify, vehicle safety defect repairs would be covered by the manufacturer. This applies to importer vehicle owners, including dealers. I stress that these provisions include dealers because I think that this point was not always fully understood when the bill was initially considered or by the dealers themselves during previous study of this bill.
The originally proposed protections include repairing the vehicle or equipment, replacing the vehicle or equipment with a reasonable equivalent, reimbursing the reasonable cost of repairs to the vehicle or equipment that have already been undertaken before a notice of defect or non-compliance has been given, or reimbursing the sale price of the vehicle or equipment less reasonable depreciation on return of that vehicle or equipment.
The addition of dealer protections above and beyond those available to other purchasers, as well as the generous payment to this particular stakeholder group, would lead to an unbalanced regime that could raise significant risks of disputes between dealers and manufacturers. While the amendment introduced by the other House does impose some minimal obligations on dealers, as written, it would be challenging to enforce. Lacking any recourse mechanism, the involved parties would likely look to Transport Canada to mediate their commercial disputes. These powers are also not part of the amendment, and such activities are not in Transport Canada's mandate.
We believe that this amendment, as written, has many potential unforseen complications. It should be noted that it would actually remove some of the protections that were already built into the act. For example, it would create a mismatch of powers and may mean that dealers who had repaired their vehicle before would not be eligible for reimbursement.
Our overwhelming priority with this bill, as it is more broadly for the minister and across the entire transportation sector, is the safety of Canadians. Passage of the bill as introduced by the government as quickly as possible will help close some key gaps in the motor vehicle safety regime and help ensure the continued safety of Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to offer a few remarks on Bill , an act to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.
Before I begin, I was under the impression I would have 20 minutes, so I will give the Coles Notes version of a longer speech.
Before I get too deep into the weeds on this one, I will explain in broad strokes what the bill is about.
Currently, motor vehicle safety is a priority, and I think that is shared by every member in the House. When we look at the impact motor vehicle defects can have, there is a paucity of laws that allow the government to take action to correct a very serious problem. Over the course of my remarks, I hope to outline roughly the scope of this problem, that it is a priority, and then address three key points built into the legislative mechanisms that would help improve the government's ability deal with this problem, specifically dealing with the power to order recalls, compliance mechanisms, and, finally, the flexibility to deal with emerging technologies.
First and foremost, if I am to argue that this is a problem in Canada, I need to look no further than some of the very positive news coverage from last year that highlighted the impact that manufacturers' defects had on vehicles on the roads in Canada today. If I am to believe the content of a Globe and Mail article from December of last year, one in six Canadian vehicles is currently subject to a manufacturer's recall in Canada. That means millions of vehicles on are on the roads today that manufacturers have acknowledged are not safe enough to meet Canadian standards. I urge anyone watching, and I know that on CPAC during House proceedings there is a massive audience, to visit Transport Canada's website, use the searchable database, and determine whether their vehicles are subject to existing manufacturers' recalls about which they may not know. These things can fly under the radar when Canadians have other priorities and things to worry about in their lives. However, they are important and pose safety risks.
We can safely assume that manufacturers' defects are a safety concern in Canada today. The legislation proposes a number of things to deal with them.
Let me first deal with the power of the minister to order a recall when becoming aware of defects, which is a power provided for in Bill . There are really two categories in which the minister would be empowered. One deals with consumers and the other with dealers, though perhaps I am simplifying it a little too much.
On the consumer side of the equation, right now the minister does not have the same power that exists elsewhere in the world, including the U.S., to order a recall. Importantly, the remedy would exist where consumers would not have to cover the costs of having their vehicles repaired or replaced. This is a burden that can and should be borne by the manufacturer responsible for the defect. This would enhance safety by allowing more consumers to have their vehicles fixed at no cost.
The second side of this equation has to do with dealers, and I will spend a little more time on this.
Right now in Canada, there is no law that says a dealer cannot sell a car with a defect. In fact, not enough information flows for dealers to know when defects may exist to ensure vehicles do not make it onto the roads. If I am dealing with a leaky roof at my house, the first thing I will do is find a bucket to stop the water from damaging my floor. The second thing I will do is try to fix the pipe causing the leak. If we are only dealing with the consumer side of the equation, we are going to maybe prevent more drops from hitting the floor, but we will have to keep replacing the bucket if we do not do something to prevent the sale of defective vehicles getting onto the roads in the first place.
This puts dealers in an admittedly difficult position. This could put dealers in a position where they are going to be left carrying inventory on their lots that they cannot sell, and that is not right. I want to draw attention to a discussion the upper chamber had on the issue and proposed amendments specifically on Bill .
Before I do that, I want to extend my gratitude to our colleagues in the other chamber for their thoughtful deliberations on this legislation, and many others, and for drawing attention to an important issue that has caused me to think very deeply about this. However, I must respectfully disagree that the suggested amendment is the appropriate mechanism to correct the social harm we all want to fight.
The mechanism proposed in the amendment seeks to address compensation for dealers that are left with inventory on their lots that they cannot sell. The amendment proposes a 1% interest rate on vehicles, based on the price of vehicles, per month. If I do the math in my head, this becomes very expensive for manufacturers and does compensate dealers somewhat.
When I was trying to understand whether this was the right policy, I had to think back to some of my work before where I had the opportunity to work in a litigation practice with a bit of a constitutional influence and back to law school and what we have the authority to do in this chamber.
My first obstacle, and reason why I cannot bring myself to support the amendment, is a constitutional issue. I do not know that we have the constitutional authority to legislate the terms of a commercial arrangement between contracting parties at the federal level. Sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution say what the federal government and provinces can do respectively and there is no question we can tackle issues that touch on public safety. However, when it comes to the contracting arrangements between commercial parties, this is exclusively within the purview of the provinces. In fact, there is a lot of sale of goods legislation in place in provinces specifically to deal with these issues. I cannot overcome this barrier and I cannot in good conscience support an amendment that I do not believe we have the authority to pass and adopt in the House.
The second and more practical stumbling point for me on the proposed amendment is the possibility we could be creating an unintended consequence that I do not believe our colleagues in the upper chamber had specifically drawn their attention to, again, with great respect and deference.
What we might be doing is creating an economic incentive for manufacturers to fix cars that are in dealers' lots today before they fix cars that are on the roads. If we assume. just to make the math easy, there is a recall that applies to 100,000 vehicles at a price of $25,000, we are looking at interest payments on the part of the manufacturer to dealers in the realm of $25 million a month. This is a great motivator for companies. If they are looking at a severe penalty like this, they are going to change their behaviour, and this might inspire them to fix cars sitting on dealers' lots more effectively. However, I do not want them to do that at the cost of cars travelling on Canadian roads today. Creating this incentive to deal with cars that have not yet been sold over cars that are owned by Canadians could pose a public safety hazard.
Finally, there are remedies available today for dealers. Bill puts dealers on the same footing that consumers are on. They will have access to have their vehicles repaired at no cost like consumers will. They will also have the protection of any negotiated provisions in a commercial contract that allocates risk as between the parties and they will have the protection outlined in provincial sale of goods legislation that deals with merchantable quality and fitness purpose for any goods that are sold in our provinces. Respectfully, for those reasons, I cannot support the Senate amendment, but I do believe the legislation is sound.
Very quickly in the remaining minutes that I have, the compliance regime put in place is going to replace one that more or less does not exist today. Today, if we want to enforce violations of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act when it comes to defects, there is an expensive and lengthy criminal prosecution, and many of the violations do not warrant a criminal prosecution. We are implementing a monetary administrative penalty regime that is going to be more like a speeding ticket. It is going to punish those wrongdoers and encourage them to change their behaviour, but often to the tune of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars per vehicle per day.
Though I do not have time to cover it, knowing we are on the precipice of emerging technologies in the motor vehicle sector, we want to ensure we do not stifle innovation, particularly when it comes to driverless vehicles. There has not been a disruptive technology in the motor vehicle industry in over a century. Knowing we are about to embrace this change, we need to ensure there is flexibility that allows the minister to encourage innovation in this exciting industry, without compromising our safety.
With these features in mind, I am very proud to support Bill because it will improve safety on Canadian roadways, with the caveat that I mentioned at length about the proposed amendment in the legislation.
Mr. Speaker, it is again a privilege to stand in the House after a good summer when Canadians were on the road travelling throughout Canada, appreciating our great country and celebrating Canada's 150th anniversary. It is nice to get back to Parliament and to represent the good folks of Battle River—Crowfoot.
I am pleased to participate in today's debate on Bill . Bill S-2 would give the Minister of Transport new vehicle recall powers. This bill is similar to legislation introduced by the previous Conservative government. Our Conservative Party is also concerned, and as a government was concerned, about passenger vehicle safety. We had legislative amendments in what was then called Bill . It has been referenced today in the House a number of times, and I thank the for his recognition of that bill as a good measure.
Bill would give the Minister of Transport the power to order companies to issue a recall notice. It would then compel manufacturers and importers to repair a recalled vehicle at no cost to the consumer. It is obvious that recalls are not only for safety on our roads and for our customers, but also to give Canadians confidence that the manufacturers of the vehicle models they have bought will comply when they realize there are questions about safety. The bill would give the Minister of Transport the power to order manufacturers and importers to repair new vehicles before they are sold. It would allow the Department of Transport to use monetary penalties or fines to increase safety compliance and to use the monetary penalties as a way to require manufacturers to take additional safety action. It would provide the department with flexibility to address ever-evolving vehicle safety technology and require companies to provide additional safety data and conduct additional testing to address safety concerns. Finally, the bill would increase Canada's vehicle inspection capability.
The importation of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment into Canada is governed by the safety standards established by the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.
Before vehicles imported to Canada and equipment manufactured in Canada can be shipped to another province for sale, they must have a national safety mark confirming that they have been manufactured according to the act and the existing safety standards that are in place.
Currently under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, only manufacturers can order the recall of vehicles in Canada. The Minister of Transport can only order a manufacturer to notify Canadians that their vehicle is subject to this safety recall. Bill proposes to allow Transport Canada to issue monetary penalties against manufacturers. This new power is intended to ensure that manufacturers comply with Canada's Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The monetary penalty system would replace the time-consuming and very costly criminal prosecution of automobile manufacturers.
Bill would more closely align Canada's automobile recall process with the existing process in the United States. I asked the minister this morning how closely it would align with that in the United States. He was fairly clear that the intent of the measure was to reduce enforcement gaps between Canada and the United States, although I think he also insinuated that there were other safety precautions—I am not so sure if those are in Bill S-2, but in our safety standards—that go further than what the United States may have.
The previous Conservative government had already strengthened the Motor Vehicle Safety Act in 2014. Our previous government also passed into law provisions that brought the Motor Vehicle Safety Act very closely in line with American legislation. We know that we have an integrated industry. We know that there are vehicles manufactured in Canada and then sold in the United States, and vice versa.
It is an integrated market. Therefore, it is very important that we not put up red tape or barriers that limit the industry from having that equivalency between the two countries. For example, we were explicit in differentiating between an automobile defect compared to an automobile's non-compliance with Canada's Motor Vehicle Safety Act.
In 2014, our Conservative government gave Canada's former minister of transport the power to order an automobile company to inform Canadian consumers of safety defects. Bill is building on that effort by giving Canada's transportation minister the power not only to inform the public but also to recall those vehicles.
Canadians want and expect our vehicles to be safe and want defects to be identified as quickly as possible. The power to order vehicle recalls will help manage vehicle safety in Canada. Everyone knows that technological advances in motor vehicles are evolving so quickly that cars are becoming more and more technical and complex. We see it everywhere, with our cellphones, our videos, and anything dealing with electronics. We see it now in vehicles and vehicle safety. As the technology grows, the question is whether we are keeping up. I will talk a bit about that later on.
For us to be competitive we must facilitate these needs. Canada's regulatory regime needs to be more responsive to new and emerging technologies. We need to be responsive to new fuels as they come online, and also to safety advances. This bill will allow the department to require manufacturers to provide more safety information and do testing when needed, as well as increase their flexibility to address ever-changing safety technology.
Bill has provisions that did not appear in Bill , tabled by the previous parliament in June 2015. Consent agreements relating to safety improvements and non-compliant companies have been added. As well, the current government wants to impose initiatives to provide some early flexibility to address the challenges of rapidly changing vehicle technologies. This measure needs to be pursued carefully when Bill is studied in committee.
This is again time to express the important work that committees do. We need to allow our committees the ability to look at these measures, to look at the timeliness of how we can deliver change, of how we can adapt to the ever-changing world of technology, of how that equates back to vehicle safety, and whether all of the possibilities are being checked out.
Also, the current government needs to pursue this measure carefully. The purpose of Bill is to increase consumer protection and motor vehicle safety in Canada. That is why we moved on this in 2015. It obvious today that the official opposition wants to support Bill in principle. However, we want this bill to go to committee to have the proper work done there.
We should also recognize and thank the Senate for bringing this forward quickly. Again, I am not certain why the government did not bring this as a government bill, but the Senate did bring it forward with some amendments, which we will talk about later on as well.
I had the privilege of chairing the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts. I am pleased that the Auditor General's report, as well as the report of the public accounts committee, and the important work they have done, is part of the debate today in the House.
The 2016 fall reports of the Auditor General of Canada included a chapter on oversight of passenger vehicle safety and the performance of Transport Canada. The Auditor General's report, entitled “Oversight of Passenger Vehicle Safety—Transport Canada”, found a couple of things. It states that vehicle safety technology is evolving faster than Canadian regulations and standards can keep up, and that Transport Canada faces challenges in exercising its important role of keeping passenger vehicles safe.
The Auditor General noted a number of significant deficiencies in the regulatory framework, including a lack of timeliness, an absence of broad stakeholder consultation, and outdated regulations. The report states:
For example, Transport Canada’s regulations did not allow vehicles to be equipped with advanced headlights that are controlled by software...[and] unregulated semi-autonomous vehicles are being driven on Canadian roads.
Those are a couple of areas where Transport Canada was not keeping up with what is available out there for the general public in some cases. The report goes on to state:
...Transport Canada waited for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States to develop new or amended standards before proposing regulatory actions in Canada.
The Auditor General was concerned about that. However, I am pleased that we recognize the integrated nature of the industry and that we are not always making changes after the United States does. Rather, we are watching what it does so we can have access to its market. The report further states:
This reactive approach created significant delays in implementing new standards, and meant that some passenger vehicles were not equipped with the newest safety features available in other countries, such as the...advanced headlamps.
There were lengthy delays—sometimes of more than 10 years—from the time that Transport Canada started to work on an issue to the implementation of new or amended standards.
As has been mentioned, technology is advancing quickly. What is new today in much of our technology will be old news or old technology in six months. Therefore, Transport Canada needs to address ways in which it can keep up.
The report further states:
Prior to making proposed regulations public in the Canada Gazette, Transport Canada consulted with manufacturers but did not engage broadly with stakeholders such as consumer associations, medical associations, and [our] police [forces].
The audit found that the important standards were not working as intended or were outdated.
Furthermore, the Auditor General stated:
...Transport Canada was aware that child seat anchorages could fail under certain conditions, but it had not proposed a new regulation or issued an advisory by the audit completion date.
The response by Transport Canada to the Auditor General was that introducing a unique-to-Canada requirement for anchorage strength in passenger vehicles would be detrimental to trade, and for that reason there was a delay.
Most concerning, and a challenge for the current Liberal government, is that Transport Canada has not been focusing on planning or funding its research and regulatory activities for the longer term. The department could not prioritize resources and spending decisions. It sounds like there are some real administrative problems there. For example, between April 2012 and December 2015, the department purchased 98 passenger vehicles for research testing. However, as of December 2015, a number of them had still not been tested. The vehicles were sitting there but many of the tests had not taken place.
The department appears to adequately assess complaints by Canadians and identifies vehicle safety defects. However, the report states:
...the Department did not request information about critical safety issues that manufacturers were investigating. As well, manufacturers issued 318 recalls between 2010 and 2015 for safety-related issues that were not brought to the Department’s attention.
Therefore, we can see the communication, the passing of information, and the data that is there. Data in just about everything in government is problematic. Here was a case of the department not working closely enough with the industry for it to be aware of recalls implemented by manufacturers on their own.
The report continues:
Furthermore, the Department did not have the authority to assess whether manufacturers implemented effective processes for identifying and reporting safety defects. This limited the Department’s ability to investigate defects and better protect Canadians.
While Transport Canada adequately assessed vehicle manufacturers' efforts to complete safety recalls, it was left to the manufacturers to contact owners for some recalled passenger vehicles. Manufacturers had difficulty identifying and contacting owners, especially owners of older vehicles. We know that sometimes other related or unrelated issues in an older vehicle may compound the problem it is actually being recalled for. We almost have a double whammy with these old clunkers on the road, as another politician in the past said, so we need to be certain that we comply with this.
The good news is that Transport Canada has agreed with the seven recommendations made by the Auditor General and is pursuing a detailed action plan. Again, I am pleased to report that the public accounts committee has studied and reported on this. We are still involved in a follow-up process that will hold them to account and make Canadians feel even safer.
I am going to read some of the recommendations the Auditor General had. Recommendation 1:
Transport Canada needs to confirm in writing to the Committee that it provides regular public updates on the status of its regulatory plans.
The public needs to have confidence.
Transport Canada needs to provide the Committee with a report detailing the implementation of an expanded and standardized consultation process seeking comments in a timely manner from expert stakeholders on Motor Vehicle Safety’s regulatory initiatives.
Again, this goes back to stakeholders, including the industry and our emergency responders, police forces, and other stakeholders.
Transport Canada needs to provide the Committee with a report detailing how it has implemented its action plan to improve the quality of collision and injury data.
Again, that is part of the process of follow up that committees do.
Transport Canada needs to provide the Committee with a report detailing the progress of the updated regulatory process and how evidence and scientific research are used to inform the development and/or modification of Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
How is science and research helping?
Transport Canada needs to provide the Committee with a report outlining its long-term operational plan for the Motor Vehicle Safety Directorate.
Transport Canada needs to provide the Committee with a plan detailing how Bill S-2’s proposed new authorities will be implemented into the passenger vehicle safety regulatory regime.
Finally, Recommendation 7:
Transport Canada needs to provide the Committee with a report outlining its process to support a new authority in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act to request that major auto manufacturers provide information on their data sources and internal processes for identifying and reporting safety defects.
Those were the Auditor General's recommendations in the audit, but one of the things he concluded with was this:
Transport Canada did not maintain an up-to-date regulatory framework that responded to emerging safety risks and technological issues. As a result, the approach failed to ensure that Canadian-driven passenger vehicles had the highest possible safety features and technologies.
I see that I only have one minute left. I will quickly say that I believe that there are laudable measures being taken in Bill that should be supported. The current government faces some formidable challenges in addressing vehicle safety in Canada, but I think this is a step in the right direction. As he stated, it is adopting the Conservative bill, Bill , and we commend him for that.
Beyond that, as always, the devil is in the details. Again, we will be watching to see how quickly this is implemented and how quickly a minister would actually step out and tell manufacturers that there should be a recall. It needs to be not only passed but complied with by a minister who is prepared to make those tough decisions.
There are numerous challenges in keeping Canadians safe in the vehicles on our roads. Our former government was aware of that, and that is why we acted in 2014 and again in 2015 with the tabling of Bill .
I commend the Liberal government for moving on this issue as well for adopting a bill that, unfortunately, had to start in the Senate. I hope that the government will allow the committee to do its work and that we will see this legislation move through the committee in a timely fashion.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for attending our public accounts committee and for the very good work she did that day with questions to the Auditor General and his department.
There is so much I could say about the Auditor General's office. We know that in a democracy, transparency and accountability are paramount in maintaining a strong democracy and a strong country. Canadian citizens must have confidence that whether they are provincial, territorial, or federal governments, there is someone doing performance audits as well as financial audits and that they are holding departments, ministers, and governments to account.
We can be very proud of the Auditor's General's office and of our Auditor General and his staff. When they come with a decision, we need to accept it. We need to accept the recommendations. We need to accept, generally, certainly on all public accounts, financial audits and performance audits. They hold departments to account.
There is no gray area with vehicle safety. I do not think there will be a lot of differences among political parties on whether we believe there should be standards for vehicle safety. I may be going on a bit of a rabbit trail and a rant here, but I am very concerned about safety on the road. I am concerned about young people texting and being on the phone at times. On occasion, we have talked on the road. We still see people on the road texting, looking down, or being on the phone. I am very concerned when I see it.
I had a call from Mothers Against Drunk Driving this week. They are very concerned about alcoholism and travel on the road. I am very concerned about our movement towards the legalization of marijuana and what that will mean without the ability to do roadside testing yet.
I think Canadians get it. There are very few people who think we should be an open society with no regulation.
Obviously, we want safety on the road. When I go into a dealership to buy a new vehicle, and I see the new technology we have, although I do not understand the electronic components and what the vehicle can do, I expect that it is going to be safe. I expect that it is not going to injure or harm me or anyone else on the road because of that technology.
The Auditor General spoke more specifically to process than to the politics of any of those issues. Again, it is very important work the Auditor General does. I again thank him for that. We can be very pleased that the report came out and that the government has moved with Bill as part of the answer to the Auditor General's report.
Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House. I welcome all members back. This is my first opportunity to stand and add some of my thoughts on an important piece of legislation.
To begin, I am reflecting on how very important it is during breaks for members to meet with their constituents to get a better sense of the messages they want us to bring to Ottawa. One thing I respect immensely about the is that he continues to challenge members of Parliament to go into their constituencies and represent their constituents' interests here in Ottawa, as opposed to bringing the interests of Ottawa to their constituencies. We need to ensure our priorities are right, and our priorities are to ensure that constituents in our ridings are represented, whether it is in the chamber, in committees, or in our respective caucuses.
It is a pleasure to be back in Ottawa to deal with important government legislation. All legislation is important, but today is special in the sense that we are talking about Bill , legislation that would make a difference in the safety in our communities. It is very important for all of us to understand and appreciate what sort of impact this bill would have.
One of my colleagues mentioned that it is estimated, and I suspect this is a conservative estimate, that 20% of newer vehicles on the roads today have recalls for some sort of manufacturer defect, and there is a substantial cost to that. In addressing that issue, this legislation carries the ball quite far, I would suggest, and I applaud the minister, the parliamentary secretary, and all of those involved in bringing forward the legislation. I appreciate the fine work that the other chamber has done in providing us with the legislation we are debating today.
After listening to my colleagues across the way, I have a couple of comments. A New Democrat representative referred to the fact that we will be expected to look at different types of legislation and then suggested that Bill should be relatively uncontroversial. It is a piece of legislation that I believe will ultimately receive the support of all members of the House, at least in advancing it to the standing committee, where there will no doubt be a much more detailed analysis of the legislation. If there are ways it can be improved upon, I am sure the committee will attempt to do so, recognizing that where we can do better, we will strive to do so.
With regard to vehicle safety, we need to recognize that there are two jurisdictions that play a critical role, one being the national government. The bill before us today, Bill , is important legislation dealing with manufacturers. Cars do not last a lifetime. Individuals today have two major expenditures: the homes they live in and the vehicles they acquire. Many vehicles are purchased at face value, meaning that if they are brand new, there are certain expectations for those vehicles. The national government plays a critical role in not only ensuring that vehicles are safe but also, to a certain degree, in providing assurances to consumers. That is done through recalls, ensuring that manufacturers take responsibility for their products.
If I walk into a showroom today and buy a nice, brand new, shiny vehicle, and I pull off, and then a month later there is an issue with an airbag or a steering column, I should have some sense that there is going to be a recourse whereby the manufacturer will have to rectify the problem, because it is not my driving that caused the issue; rather, it was a fault or manufacturing-related issue that caused the problem.
We know that situation exists. As I mentioned earlier, it is estimated that over 20% of all manufactured vehicles will at one point or another have something recalled or something that needs to be tweaked or replaced. It can be fairly substantial. It can be somewhat inconsequential in terms of cost, but important in terms of safety. We know those are the types of things we have to face.
Ottawa, in coming up with legislation such as this, is empowering the minister to do certain things we are not able to do today, and I want to focus some attention on a few of those things. However, to speak more broadly about the industry as a whole, we understand and appreciate how important the automobile industry is to our nation in terms of the overall GDP and the impact it has on real middle-class jobs and on our economy in every region of our country. It is not only the manufacturers; it is also the individuals who service the vehicles and those who sell. Major retailers out there are very dependent on the automobile industry. It is an industry I am quite familiar with. My father or other family members have been involved in it in excess of 40 years.
When the average person purchases a car, even though they might think it is the car for them for the rest of their life, very few will purchase a car that will be their car for the rest of their life. Surveys show that an individual will keep a car for six to eight years. After that, they will sell it, but just because they lost interest or decided to go for a new car does not mean that this car leaves the road. It then becomes a second-hand car, and at this point many provincial jurisdictions recognize that we need to ensure that our roads continue to be safe. In my own province, Manitoba, if someone sells a second-hand car, there is an obligation to have it safety-checked, so that whether it is two years, 10 years, or 11 years old, the vehicle is in fact safe for driving.
As provinces continue to look at ways to improve the condition of those second-hand cars on the road, we also have a responsibility to ensure that the new cars that are being sold are safe. Where we can play a role in ensuring they are safer, we should do just that.
When I look at what the legislation specifically does, there are a few things that come to mind, but one of the things that tweaked my interest was how the manufacturers would be financially responsible for correcting a vehicle defect and also have an enhanced responsibility to provide information related to the safety of the vehicle to Transport Canada. That information would go into the Transport Canada data bank.
One of my colleagues made reference to the data bank. If one goes to the motor vehicle safety recalls on the Transport Canada site, one would be amazed at just how detailed that data bank is. For many people who are driving newer vehicles today, whether one, three, or four years old, there is a very good chance there has been a recall of some part on that vehicle, but drivers are just not aware of it.
It is very simple to find out whether a vehicle has been recalled. People visit the website, virtually click on the type and model and the style of the vehicle. The recalls that have taken place will pop up. It is a fantastic data bank. I would suggest to all consumers, people who have purchased cars in the last number of years, not to take it for granted just because their vehicle seems to be driving well. They do not have to wait for something to go wrong. There is a fantastic data bank that is there to be utilized. One of the things that this legislation is proposing to do is to enhance that data bank by requiring additional safety information to be passed on, some of which no doubt will ultimately end up in some form of the data bank. I see that as a very strong positive, and I would encourage others to look into it. The minister would have the power to call for additional testing to address safety concerns. That is something that all of us need to be concerned about.
In listening to a number of the Conservatives, it is interesting to hear that they talked a lot about Bill , which is a piece of legislation that the former prime minister, Stephen Harper, had brought to the floor of the House. This is one of the reasons why I am somewhat optimistic that the Conservatives should be onside and wanting to see this legislation pass sooner as opposed to later. I would suggest that the legislation originates not necessarily from the former Conservative government as much as actions that were being taken in the U.S.A. There is a gap between the U.S.A. and Canada related to safety issues and recall processes and procedures and what that government is able to do in comparison to the Government of Canada. I suspect that what we saw was a Conservative government looking at what was happening in the U.S. and then wanting to adopt some of those measures, and I give the Conservatives credit for doing so.
I know that the NDP expressed some concern that this legislation was not in the mandate letter of the current minister. The only thing that I can say to that issue is that just because it is not within a mandate letter does not necessarily mean that the ministers are not looking at still improving the system. We have ministers who are very keen to look at and administer the mandate letters and achieve things within the mandate letter, but there are many other initiatives, and this is one of those. It would appear that, across the way, both the New Democrats and the Conservatives are in general supporting the principle of the legislation, and we see that as a good thing. We look forward to the opposition parties supporting it.
In the legislation, the minister of transport would have the power to order companies to make manufacturers and importers repair a recalled vehicle at no cost to the consumer. For those who use vehicles and have to get vehicles serviced, there is a substantial cost factor to it. As one would obviously argue, why should a consumer, who purchases a brand new vehicle and three months later finds out that there was a defect, have to be financially responsible for recovering or bringing that vehicle up to Canadian safety standards? Enabling the minister to have that additional power or authority is a very strong message that is being sent to the industry.
I do not think we need to say all manufacturers are not taking up their responsibilities to ensure that their vehicles are safe and at the highest quality. We recognize that manufacturers do whatever they can. We have seen manufacturers institute massive recalls well into the billions of dollars.
We understand and appreciate that this legislation is there, because at times, whether today or in the future, a minister should have the authority to do what is being proposed in the legislation. The bill would allow Transport Canada to use monetary penalties or fines to increase safety compliance and to enter into compliance agreements with manufacturers to take additional actions for safety. The legislation would also increase and clarify Transport Canada's vehicle inspection capabilities. It is important that we have a sense of enforcement that is real and tangible, so that if we have a vehicle that needs to be recalled for whatever reason, we would have the ability to ensure that it would be carried out. This is something we see within the proposed legislation.
I look at the legislation as a whole and recognize that what is being proposed by the Senate amendment is ultimately dealt with in the legislation. With the Senate amendment, a company would be required to compensate a dealer for an amount equivalent to at least 1% per month of the price paid by the dealer. The amount would equal an annual interest rate of at least 12%. This arbitrary rate does not take into account the fluctuations in the real financing costs, and therefore the amendment could have the perverse effect of a dealer potentially making more money by not making the repairs, keeping the vehicle on the lot, and charging the manufacturer. Therefore, when we look at the amendment being proposed by the Senate, as much as the intent might have been very good, I do not believe it is required. Within the legislation, the minister would have the authority to have manufacturer defects dealt with, paid for, and recovered by the manufacturers. The minister would have that authority already.
We have to be very careful that, within the Transport Canada legislative framework, it is not required for us to be arbitrary or work between the dealerships and manufacturers. It is very much a consumer issue. At the end of the day, as much as the intent of the Senate's amendment is meant to do well, I do not believe it is required. The opportunity to see dealerships adequately taken care of through the current proposed legislation is there, and the minister would have that authority.
It is interesting that one of my colleagues made reference to the fact that, when we think of recalls, we have to ensure that the priority of manufacturers is to get the vehicles that are actually on the roads dealt with as a first priority. Those vehicles in the large compounds, which we have all seen, will ultimately be on the road, and I suspect there will be modifications made to them before they are sold to the consumer. The bottom line, once all is said and done, is that the legislation before us is all about increasing the safety on Canadian roads, and therefore ensuring that manufacturers and companies take on their responsibilities by providing the type of vehicles that consumers expect when they purchase them. I think this is legislation that we should all be supporting.