Bill C-273 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Competition Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (right to repair)
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.
Brian Masse NDP
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Dead, as of Nov. 17, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
This enactment adds a definition of “product” in section 75 of the Competition Act to make it clear that that term includes technical information that is required by a person in order to provide a service to a customer. This ensures that the Competition Tribunal is able to require a supplier to provide this information to a customer in accordance with section 75 in cases where the supplier has previously refused to do so.
The enactment also amends the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 to provide that companies that manufacture motor vehicles in Canada or that import motor vehicles into Canada are required to make available to Canadian motor vehicle owners and repair facilities the information and diagnostic tools and capabilities necessary to diagnose, service and repair those motor vehicles.
- May 13, 2009 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.
Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
November 17th, 2009 / 6:10 p.m.
Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to address Bill C-273.
I want to commend the member for Windsor West for having proposed the bill. It is not easy for members of the House to successfully propose legislative changes that will better the lives of Canadians and Canada. It is rare for a private member's bill to be adopted by the House and even rarer for that bill to be adopted by the Senate and to receive royal assent. In effect, that is what has happened here.
The bill has been successful because of the adoption of the Canadian Automotive Service Industry Standard by automotive stakeholders. It is precisely because the purpose of the bill has been effected that the bill will not go any further in the parliamentary process. For that I want to commend the member for Windsor West.
In proposing the bill last spring, the member for Windsor West really forced auto sector stakeholders to recognize that they had to change. Those auto sector stakeholders realized that if they could not come together voluntarily to improve access to information and technologies that would allow independent repair shops to fix late model vehicles, then they would be forced to legislatively.
As a result of this realization, the stakeholders worked through the summer to resolve their differences and at the end of the summer they arrived at a voluntary agreement that was satisfactory to all parties involved. This voluntary agreement would not have happened had this private member's bill not been tabled in the House and had it not gone to committee.
The agreement, which is called the Canadian Automotive Service Industry Standard, or CASIS, is a voluntary agreement that was negotiated by vehicle manufacturers along with other stakeholders. It will make information and tools for the repair of vehicles available to independent repair shops on the same basis that brand name auto dealers have had for some time now.
Before I talk about the specifics of this voluntary agreement, let me first talk about the important role that the auto sector plays in the Canadian economy.
In 2008 there were 14 large scale passenger and commercial vehicle assembly plants which assembled more than two million vehicles in Canada. To put that in a North American context, this year North Americans are expected to purchase somewhere in the range of 10 million vehicles or so. Clearly, we have a significant portion of vehicle assembly in North America, close to 20%.
These 14 plants, which assembled these two million vehicles, represented 12% of our overall manufacturing output and 18% of our manufactured exports.
The sector directly employs 140,000 Canadians and another 230,000 Canadians are employed in the aftermarket sector. In addition, 30,000 Canadians are employed in the service and repair industry.
In 2008 the average life of a vehicle on the road was eight years. It is estimated that over the course of an average vehicle's life, $14,000 in repairs and service would be required. By 2010, it is estimated that this overall market in Canada will be $19.2 billion. That is a big market.
Because the aftermarket repairs and service is such an important part of the Canadian economy, the government is pleased to see that the automotive sector, that is the automakers on the one hand and the aftermarket repair and service sector on the other hand, come together to sign on to CASIS.
Before CASIS was agreed to some independent automotive service and repair shops expressed concern that they were not always able to provide service to their customers because they lacked the information, the tools, the software and training required to accurately perform the diagnostic and repair services so often required on today's computer controlled vehicles.
Under this voluntary agreement, all repair and service shops will be able to access repair and service information provided they do two things: first, they commit to the provisions of CASIS; and second, they make the necessary investments in equipment, tools and training.
This voluntary agreement is consistent with the spirit and intent of the instructions that were provided by the Minister of Industry when he wrote to officials in the automotive sector on April 14 of this year. In that letter he expressed a desire to resolve the right to repair issue and stated the government's support for an industry-led voluntary solution, fashioned after the U.S. agreement, which would satisfy the needs of Canadian automotive auto repair companies.
In the United States, vehicle manufacturers in the aftermarket industry worked together to develop a national automotive service task force, a voluntary agreement that has been in place for more than a decade. The benefits of the Canadian agreement is that it will foster greater competition by giving automotive consumers greater choice on where they get their vehicles repaired.
While we have supported the intent of my colleague's private member's bill, Bill C-273, we believe that a voluntary agreement negotiated by the private sector is superior to government regulation and are pleased that the committee and the member has agreed to this as well.
Let me finish by thanking all the people who worked so hard to get this agreement in place, the people at the National Automotive Trades Association, the people at the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association, the people at the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers of Canada, and all their member companies. I also want to recognize the Automotive Industries Association, AIA, for its persistence in bringing this matter to the attention of parliamentarians. I want to recognize the Minister of Industry for using this private member's bill to convince all the stakeholders involved to come to a voluntary agreement.
Finally, I want to recognize and thank the member for Windsor West who recognized the significance of this issue, introduced a bill that brought the issue to the forefront, and resolved the issue in the industry. Without him, none of this would have happened.
Competition is essential to the functioning of the marketplace. The Canadian automotive service industry standard agreement enhances competition by providing automotive consumers with a greater degree of choice about where they fix their vehicles. That is why I will support this voluntary agreement and that is why I support this motion not to proceed any further with Bill C-273.
Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
November 17th, 2009 / 6:15 p.m.
Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-273 on behalf of the Bloc Québécois.
Before I begin, I want to thank the hon. member for Windsor West for presenting this legislation, which seeks to promote competition in the automobile maintenance sector, so that Quebeckers and Canadians can enjoy affordable, accessible and quality services.
When a member tables a private member's bill and invests time and efforts in it, it is always nice to see that things can be changed. In this case, some actions were taken. The parties involved came to agreement, which means that this bill is no longer necessary.
In recent months, many if not all members of Parliament have received emails and letters asking them to either support Bill C-273, or oppose it. Personally, I received numerous representations from independent repair shops, dealers, associations and officials representing the various stakeholders.
On September 29, an agreement was reached on the maintenance of motor vehicles between the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers of Canada, the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association and the Canadian auto repair and maintenance industry. This agreement means, for all intents and purposes, the death of Bill C-273. I am using the word “death”, but we could also talk about a “happy event”, since an agreement was reached between the parties involved.
Even though Bill C-273 did not go further in the changes that it proposed, it was still a step in the right direction.
This is why, during its review by the Standing Committee on Industry, the main witnesses were pleased to see that the agreement essentially put an end to Bill C-273.
I am convinced that the pressure resulting from the introduction of Bill C-273 and its review in committee helped negotiate a quick solution. Since a similar voluntary program has been in place in the United States for the past few years, it was probably just a matter of time before an agreement would be reached here.
During my speech at second reading, I explained why the Bloc Québécois supported this legislation. I am going to quickly explain our position on this issue.
More and more, vehicles require electronic diagnostic tools. As a result, independent repair shops in more remote regions do not have access to the information needed for proper maintenance and repairs to vehicles. People who live in rural areas must travel great distances to have their vehicles serviced and repaired.
The bill would allow repair facilities in the regions to service vehicles for Quebeckers and Canadians in the very communities where they live. It would also allow consumers to go to the repair shop of their choice.
Neighbourhood garages in all regions of Quebec and Canada are important. Two of the largest replacement parts distributors, NAPA and Uni-Select, are located in Quebec. Together, they employ hundreds of Quebeckers in a Montreal plant, and they rely on neighbourhood and rural garages.
We think that the agreement and the forthcoming discussions among the parties will help protect jobs.
It is clear that this agreement among the parties will give consumers more flexibility in choosing the businesses they want to maintain and repair their vehicles. Auto makers want consumers to keep doing business with them. The Bloc Québécois believes that vehicle owners should have the right to choose their own mechanic.
During my previous speech on the subject, I asked why the solution we are talking about today had not already been implemented. For several years now, the United States has been considering legislation that would establish a policy similar to what we are debating today. They implemented a voluntary system that enables anyone to access the information for a fee.
In closing, I would like to thank all of the groups and stakeholders who appeared before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology for sharing their point of view with us.
Providing vehicle maintenance and repair technicians with access to the information and tools they need will improve the vehicle repair and maintenance market. Businesses will benefit from healthy competition and consumers in Quebec and Canada will benefit too.
I will close by saying that we support this motion. Once again, we are pleased to see that the parties to these talks have reached an agreement that will be good for consumers.
Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
November 17th, 2009 / 6:25 p.m.
Brian Masse Windsor West, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today in support of this motion.
I want to begin by thanking the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, the chair of the industry committee. It is important for people to know that our committee, not only on this bill, is an example of the parliamentary process for a number of different reasons. The first and foremost reason is that the chair provides a fair and balanced approach, which is appreciated for many other pieces of legislation, as well as this one.
I would also like to thank the member for Saint John who just spoke. It is important to recognize that when this bill went through its first vote in the House of Commons, it passed with a margin of 248 in favour. I thank all those members who considered the importance of this bill, and that is critical.
I would also like to thank the parliamentary secretary, the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, because this has been very much a challenging issue. I have spent three years on this bill trying to get a result, hopefully, for Canadians. If it had not been for working through problems, I do not think we would actually see a solution, which is now the CASIS agreement. As noted earlier, this is a provision that is new to Canada, which is something important to recognize. It has been available in the United States. The Americans actually have a different system. They have a system that is a national automotive service task force but it is backstopped by legislation.
I believe, though, that this bill is no longer necessary because there has been an agreement reached by all parties involved and I believe there will be enough public pressure on that.
I also would recognize that the current Minister of Industry and the previous minister of industry took interest in this, and I thank them both for doing so, to ensure Canadian consumers are protected.
I do want to impress upon people the importance of this bill in terms of what it means. It is important not just in terms of competition but it means a cleaner environment and it means public safety.
What was happening in our country is that we were literally being treated as a colony in many respects. We were being treated differently from the United States, Europe and other jurisdictions where new technology relating to onboard diagnostics, computerization literally of the automobile, was not being successfully passed on to the aftermarket industry. The end result was that Canadians could not get the best service or the most competitive prices.
What it meant for many of these aftermarket garages, many of which I visited across the country over a number of years, is that we would see technicians in Canada, who were better trained than those in the United States, who could not successfully repair vehicles because they could not download a program, for example, which is a real quick and easy thing to do. They wanted to pay for it and wanted to ensure it was done within the law but at the same time they were not provided it.
Meanwhile, the people in Windsor, Ontario, where I am from, could drive their cars over to Detroit, Michigan and get the same type of service from somebody less trained because the information was being provided by that company. Quite frankly, there were some companies that were better than others. General Motors is better, in general, about providing this information. Ford has recently released more of its information to comply with the spirit of the agreement which comes into effect later on, but will roll out, I hope, a very successful program. I believe the minister in this Parliament will have a due diligence to ensure that Canadians are treated fairly past the date of this bill.
When we look at the aftermarket, it is important to recognize its significance. This concerns over 200,000 jobs in Canada. I come from the auto sector. In terms of the auto industry, and Windsor being the auto capital of Canada, a bill like this would be seen with some type of curiosity. People may wonder why the member who represents the area of the auto market would bring in a bill that some of the auto companies were very opposed to. The reason is that after we sat down and started talking to some of these small shop owners and to the consumers, we saw what was going to take place. We were going to lose some very successful businesses across this country and we were going to see people even in the rural areas having to drive hundreds of kilometres further to get their vehicles serviced because of unfair competition, in my perspective, with the unavailability of codes, training and diagnostic equipment that was being provided in other nations across the globe, and particularly the United States, our neighbour.
That is why I introduced the bill and I would like to thank my family for putting up with travelling across the country to promote this.
I think of the people who have been part of this, and first and foremost are Nancy and Roger Suranyi of Namao Automotive who live just outside of Edmonton. I had a chance to really see the spirit of what was happening. They could not provide the same services they once did. Their facility was as clean as a whistle and their technicians were very well trained. It had been a family business for many years but they were slowly losing business related to the aftermarket. They could not get the same codes and equipment that were available before. In looking around the facility, not only did we see vehicles that needed repair but we also saw other vehicles, like a school bus, an ambulance and other types of service vehicles. I saw them in Windsor as well when I went to visit John Sawatsky of MSJ Automotive. We would have our Windsor police cruisers and ambulances in there.
The loss of this other business puts these businesses at risk and, subsequently, the service of other types of fleets of vehicles that we need a strong aftermarket for because they are not serviced through the normal dealership associations that are available.
That is why I introduced a bill in the previous Parliament which, at that time, was Bill C-425 and now it is Bill C-273 in this Parliament. It was fortunate enough to be selected high on the order paper.
It has been a great experience because I have learned more about Canadian business and the spirit of competition through this process than I ever thought I would. I would like to thank my staff who put up with this as well: Mohammed Pierre, Melanie Namespetra, Darlene Dunn Mahler, Karen Boise and Kieren MacKenzie, and all the volunteers we have because we really worked with a team. This took a lot of extra resources. Without their constant support, I would not have been able to go across the country.
I think about people I met, like Art Wilderman from the Canadian Independent Automotive Association, Bento from Toronto, John Strickey of Midas Auto Service in Halifax, Ron Jones of Mid-Island Automotive in Nanaimo and Mario Schuchardt of Canadian Tire in Burnaby. Those people often represented people who did not have a voice in the previous process. The aftermarket association had been advocating for a change for many years and, in my opinion, there had not been the respect paid to the industry that was necessary. Hence, the legislation was seen as the alternative because they could not go any further.
I also would like to thank a number of people from AIA: John Cochrane, Larry Goudge, Marc Brazeau, Deborah Moynes-Keshen, Mireille Schippers, Patty Kettles, Christine Farquharson and Scott Smith who I particularly want to recognize because he worked diligently on this bill and spent a lot of time away from his family. Also from the association were John Watt, Brad Morris and Mauro Cifelli.
It was an interesting group to work with because we saw medium and small businesses that banded together to bring forth an issue.
What we get with this agreement, the Canadian automotive service information standard, is a voluntary agreement that I am hoping the minister will keep a strong eye on. I am sure it will come to fruition. There will now be a process in place for the disbursement of the information, the codes, the technical information for the equipment, as well as the training capability.
It is very important that we recognize that none of this is to be provided for free. What they are asking for is the right to compete and that is why the bill has come forward. There is now a process in place to regulate the actual advancement of the codes, the training and the technology. There is also a dispute mechanism if there is a problem with regard to the releasing of that.
It is also important to note that it will no longer be a dog's breakfast in terms of which company will provide information and when. There would be a process in place for fair competition for all Canadians, which is good for public safety, for the environment and for consumers to choose the right to repair.
Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
November 17th, 2009 / 6:35 p.m.
Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to discuss Bill C-273.
The auto sector is an essential part of the Canadian economy. It has created hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs for Canadians and has fuelled the growth and prosperity of cities and towns across the country. The automotive repair and services sector has certainly played a large role in contributing to our prosperity as well.
The automotive repair and services sector encompasses non-warranty activities related to automotive repair, which includes autobody and collision service. The activities are performed at over 30,000 establishments located at car dealerships, independent garages, specialty shops and branded retail outlets.
However, as I am sure all of us in the House are aware, the technology that goes into automobiles today is becoming increasingly sophisticated. In order to repair and service newer vehicles, there are highly specialized and specific tools that require technical training and diagnostic information. As these vehicles become more complex, aftermarket repair shops have become increasingly frustrated as the latest repair information was not always readily or easily accessible.
In search of a solution to this problem, the hon. member for Windsor West brought forward Bill C-273, a private member's bill that would legislate auto manufacturers to make information and tools for the repair of vehicles available to independent aftermarket repair and service facilities.
While the federal government supported the notion that all aftermarket service providers should have access to diagnostic information on the fleet of vehicles on Canada's roads and highways, we certainly prefer the voluntary approach recently agreed to by the automotive industry over the legislative approach that Bill C-273 proposed. Therefore, we agreed with the industry committee's decision to adopt the motion of the hon. member for Windsor West last month that Bill C-273 need not proceed any further.
The voluntary approach agreed to by the auto industry, which I referred to earlier, is known as the Canadian Automotive Service Industry Standard, or CASIS. It is a voluntary accord in which vehicle manufacturers have agreed to make information and tools for the repair of vehicles available to independent service and repair facilities.
This voluntary agreement is consistent with the spirit and intent of the instructions provided by the Minister of Industry when he wrote to officials of the automotive sector on April 14. In that letter, he expressed his desire to resolve the right to repair issue and stated the government's support for an industry-led voluntary solution, fashioned after the U.S. agreement, which would satisfy the needs of the Canadian after-market auto repair industry.
One primary benefit to a voluntary system, in addition to keeping government out of telling business owners how to run their affairs, is that it would do more to harmonize our approach with the approach taken in the U.S.
On September 29, the Minister of Industry participated in the signing ceremony of CASIS between the National Automotive Trades Association, or NATA, the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers of Canada. Things are moving very quickly on the implementation of this agreement.
The Automotive Industries Association of Canada, or AIA, has since stated their intent to enter into the agreement as a full partner. Each of the automakers have committed to implementing the terms specified in the agreement by May 1, 2010.
CASIS is modelled after the standard established and currently operating in the United States, known as the National Automotive Service Task Force. The National Automotive Service Task Force was the model of choice because it has a proven track record, having now been in operation for more than 10 years. All repair and service shops, regardless of association, will be able to access available repair and service information provided they commit to the provisions of CASIS and make the necessary investments in equipment, tools and training.
While CASIS is modelled after the American version of the voluntary agreement, it is actually broader in its application than its U.S. counterpart because it includes collision and glass aspects of repair service.
CASIS will see the creation of an associations' working group that will monitor the implementation and ongoing effectiveness of the agreement to ensure continued industry support. As part of the agreement, any unresolved issues will be taken directly to the automaker, an approach that is both co-operative and aimed at resolving issues quickly.
This agreement will pave the way for Canadian independent service and repair providers to access emissions and non-emissions related service information, diagnostic tools and training information. It will continue to protect the intellectual property rights of car companies while addressing implementation issues and technical challenges as vehicles evolve and become increasingly complex.
Since this is a national initiative, the accord will be operational in the entire Canadian marketplace for all companies in the automotive aftermarket. It is an agreement that is fair to the repair and service sector, it allows for choice for consumers, and it is industry-led, a great combination.
I want to thank some people as well. I want to thank the National Automotive Trade Association and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers of Canada, the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association, the Automotive Industries Association of Canada, and their member companies for their diligent efforts to arrive at this agreement and for their commitment to implement this agreement quickly.
The hon. member for Windsor West should also be commended for his determination to see the issue resolved. He originally introduced Bill C-273 in the previous parliamentary session on April 17, 2007, when it was known as Bill C-425. His initial decision more than two and a half years ago to put this issue in the spotlight has played a large role in getting us to where we are today and his efforts should be recognize.
I would like to close by noting that automakers are now working hard toward meeting their commitment to have CASIS fully implemented by May 1, 2010. Let us offer them our support, while recognizing that we have had a full debate on all of these matters and that our way forward is to allow the voluntary agreement to take hold. We should be proud of the fact that we have all worked together to achieve these positive outcomes for all stakeholders, including consumers and all members of this chamber.
Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
November 17th, 2009 / 6:40 p.m.
Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and speak to this seventh report. It seeks to stop the process regarding Bill C-273, An Act to amend the Competition Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which was put together by the member for Windsor West. Essentially, the bill sought to provide a real balance in the market place, provide information to independent repair facilities, and help Canadian consumers.
I know that a number of the other speakers have already spoken to the incredible diligence and energy of the member for Windsor West. He has done Canadians a fantastic service by conceiving the bill. Primarily, he understood that there was a problem and that the problem was not only becoming a bigger challenge for independent repair facilities but resulting in higher costs to consumers.
The member for Windsor West got to work and drafted the bill, even before people were really aware of the growing extent of the problem. Over the past couple of years, he pushed ahead with the bill so that it could come forward to Parliament. In doing so, he was able to provide the incentive to have the industry resolve the issue.
On May 1, 2010, as a result of the efforts by the member for Windsor West, we will be in a situation where the information is going to be provided to independent repair facilities. Costs will inevitably come down as a result. I would like to add my own bouquet to the many flowers that have been tossed in the direction of the member for Windsor West. He is a member of Parliament who has truly shown what honesty, hard work and diligence in advocating on behalf of his constituents and Canadians right across the country can result in. He is a real model for all of us. I cannot stress that enough.
The member for Windsor West came to my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster with his family. Terry, Alex and Wade are fully supportive of everything that the member for Windsor West has done. They came to my riding. We held a press conference at the Market Crossing Canadian Tire. As was mentioned by the member for Windsor West just a few moments ago, Mario Schuchardt, the manager of that Canadian Tire, was kind enough to open up his facility so that we could do that press conference.
The reaction from people in my riding and right across the lower mainland of British Columbia was strongly in favour of the legislation and the change. There was no doubt. It was essentially a no-brainer. People saw that there was a problem. People saw that the member for Windsor West was bringing a solution. People from my constituency and throughout the lower mainland of British Columbia supported the bill.
Why did they support it? It is very simple. In this case, it is just one more example of an NDP MP helping to make the market work. We are not those kinds of individuals who believe in blind adherence to market forces. We want to see the market work in a very effective way. That happens when information is shared freely and when consumers are not put in a bind or given a limited number of choices. There are very clearly cases when the public sector is an important alternative. We strongly support a public sector.
However, when we are talking about a situation like this that is driven by market forces, the information has to be made available. New Democrats stand up to ensure that information is available, to ensure that consumers have choices, and to ensure that we do not see the kind of imposition that we sometimes do. In this case, the bill sought to provide that information to independent repair facilities.
An increasing number of vehicles were subject to the onboard diagnostic analysis. As a result, the withholding of the information from independent repair facilities limited the number of places to which a consumer could go. That inevitably results in higher prices. When the independent repair facility right next door does not have access to the information needed to repair a vehicle, that not only means that consumers have to go further afield but it means that they have a limited number of choices.
We are talking about licensed mechanics who have the ability to repair automobiles, the ones people trust in their neighbourhoods. The ones who provide support in the community are there but people cannot go to them because increasingly we are seeing a situation where the diagnostic information and software was not made available even though the repair facility was trying to get it. This is obviously a problem, a problem for community businesses and, unfortunately, a real problem for consumers.
The member for Windsor West saw that situation and wanted to ensure that Canadian consumers had more money in their pockets, particularly at a time when most Canadian families have been earning less over the last 20 years. Under NAFTA, the free trade agreement, and various right wing economic policies, we have seen that most Canadians are earning less.
The member for Windsor West wanted to ensure that families were not being gouged. He put forward the bill and that really galvanized the industry sector, to its credit, to take action. The agreement, CASIS, the Canadian Automotive Service Information Standard, would not be before us without the bill by the member for Windsor West.
We have to be very clear about this. There would not be the stipulation that by May 1, 2010, the software has to be provided to independent repair facilities. This was the catalyst and motivation to push the industry to come up with standards and the agreement.
Now we have a situation where independent repair facilities and original equipment manufacturers are together, with a dispute resolution component and process, that allows the industry sectors, the aftermarket and original manufacturers, to come together and resolve the difficulties. That is extremely important. What that means is over the next few months, by May 1, information will be available to independent repair facilities.
For Canadians it means that if Joe and Jill down the street purchase a new automobile, they can go to the independent repair facility they have been going to for many years. If Joe and Jill have been dealing with an independent repair facility for many years, they may have an arrangement with the facility that may cost them a lot less. That is all because of the work of the member for Windsor West.
We have here an effective resolution to a problem identified by a member of Parliament, the member for Windsor West, due to his own due diligence and hard work right across the country. I do not know how many cities he went to, dozens of them, to talk to independent repair facilities, to people who were impacted by this, and to consumer organizations.
Through his due diligence he has brought forward a bill that provoked action and in the end has resulted in a win-win situation, an agreement within the industry that gets the industry's act together, that ensures that information is not withheld, and an agreement that leads to lower prices with the competition that we certainly want to see in communities across the country.
What the member for Windsor West has done shows the very best in parliamentary action. A member of Parliament who was elected to represent his constituents saw a problem that could be resolved through action. He took that action, did the drafting, educated the public and the media, and ensured people were aware of the extent of the growing problem at that time. Through his persistence, diligence, stubbornness and hard work resolved that issue for Canadians. It is the very best in parliamentary action.
Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
November 17th, 2009 / 7 p.m.
Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON
Mr. Speaker, I will not take up much of the House's time. All hon. members have had an opportunity to hear an important story that took place surrounding the subject matter of Bill C-273.
I became involved in this issue a number of years ago when a couple of constituents who owned repair shops told me about the movement that was happening and that they were very concerned about what was coming down the pipe.
As has been explained, this is a matter of competition and competition is a good thing. Competition means that people have choices and it also ensures that the purchase of goods or services is competitive and fair.
Automobiles have become more and more complicated to the point where independent auto repair shops were unable to provide the kind of service necessary for certain makes and models of cars simply because they required specialized tools, manuals and diagnostic equipment and training. This was just not possible and not really affordable.
It is interesting to note the parallel that is going on right now before the CRTC with regard to television and cable companies. The chair of the CRTC made an impassioned plea to the disagreeing parties and he basically asked them why they could not negotiate a way out of the problem. He asked them why they could not get together and deal with it. He was aware of both the issue and the problem.
The parallel is that the United States already has an arrangement between the major automobile manufacturers and the repair shops to provide the resources necessary for those businesses to continue to operate.
What we have now is basically an arrangement, and it is one of the reasons why this bill does not have to proceed. Repair shops and manufactures have come to a voluntary agreement and this agreement is in the public interest.
This issue caused members of Parliament to inform themselves, to meet with the automobile industry and the manufacturing industry, and to consult with the repair shops to determine what was going to happen.
One of the reasons I took a particular interest in this issue is because it was clear that business opportunities for independent repair shops was going to be contracted as a result of cars becoming more complicated. That meant people were going to be put out of business and families would have to find other ways to provide for themselves.
This issue became a consequence of a technological change. After warranty issues disappear, cars are lasting much longer, and there needs to be an alternative because if there is no competitive environment it means that consumers can be at risk.
A good thing has happened here. The subject matter has been discussed by Parliament under the proxy of this bill. The bill wanted something else, but ultimately the same result came out, and that is a good thing.
I am a big fan of private members' business. I know that the member for Windsor West has worked on this bill very diligently. I know he is pleased with what he has been able to bring to the table and send a message that one way or another we can make things happen here. It is always better if the parties who have a competing interest can see that there is a way for mutual benefit and that the public interest can be served at the same time. That is a good outcome no matter what we are talking about.
I want to congratulate the member for Windsor West. It has been a long-standing problem to resolve, and I think that the resolution is appropriate. The House should be proud of its participation in resolving an important issue in regard to a certain segment of our economy. To the extent that a small segment is a little bit more stable, a little more secure, then so is our country. Congratulations to the member.
Private Members' Business
May 11th, 2009 / 11:05 a.m.
Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to stand in the House today to share my thoughts on Bill C-273, An Act to amend the Competition Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (right to repair).
I commend the member for Windsor West for bringing the bill before us today.
In short, the auto industry is being asked to make available to third party repair shops intellectual property information and diagnostic equipment, among other things, perceived by some to be exclusively available to auto dealerships.
This is a matter of utmost importance involving issues of vehicle safety and the protection of intellectual property rights of auto manufacturers on the one hand, and small business needs for information on the other.
Though a challenge in striking a balance between competing interests, it is one that can be met without the need for invasive legislation, the effect of which will lead to the complete erosion of intellectual property rights of auto manufacturers and manufacturers of other equipment whose IP rights will be threatened by this precedent setting legislation.
I would like to spend a moment to offer my specific concerns with regard to Bill C-273. We know that Canada's non-franchised, non-dealership repair facilities conduct the majority of parts and service business in Canada. Clearly the absence of this legislation will not be a threat to an already thriving industry.
Another important fact is that a significant amount of repair and diagnostic information is often already available to the independent mechanics in garages through third party information providers on line for a monthly fee.
Further, with the advent of new technology like powerful hybrid batteries requiring expensive tools, gloves and diagnostics, only the best equipped mechanics can manage the safety issues arising with specialized equipment.
Other than two or three very large national auto repair shops able to afford the training and equipment required to conduct such services, who are we really helping? Would we be passing legislation to accommodate only two or three national repair shops when they all otherwise have access to necessary information?
Manufacturers go to considerable expense to develop the technology that we see in automobiles today. They also go to considerable expense to develop the training, tools and diagnostic equipment dealers use to repair these cars.
We are all well aware of the significant challenges facing our auto industry today. I believe it would be counterintuitive to place additional demands and regulations on the struggling auto sector at this particular time.
General Motors alone is expected to close 300 dealerships across Canada as part of its restructuring. I am assured that the location of dealerships closed will be strategic so that access to dealer servicing will remain available.
This is not the time for Canada's sagging auto industry to be confronted with new challenges. At this time the industry is being hit by a tsunami of events: lack of credit, plant shutdowns and recession.
We are asking, demanding, that the auto sector restructure into a leaner, more agile industry. It is not the time to regulate the industry out of existence entirely by requiring it to give up intellectual property rights completely for the benefit of its competitors.
Frankly, this might be considered by some to be an affront to normal business ethics.
I was pleased to learn last week that the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers of Canada, the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association and the National Automotive Trade Association have committed to the creation of a voluntary framework on this very issue.
This co-operative effort will put in place a framework that would establish a voluntary system for the systematic dissemination of repair and diagnostic information; a positive first step toward the further dissemination of information.
Surely, successful voluntary efforts are preferable to yet more legislation. Imagine all the additional costs of passing the legislation, monitoring compliance, amending it and enforcing it; cost to the industry and government and in each case cost to the taxpayer.
Of particular interest to me is the national automotive service task force that exists in the United States. This voluntary task force is considered by the assembly industry, dealers, many in the auto service industry and consumers alike, to be common ground where the needs of consumers on the one hand and the safety concerns and intellectual property rights of manufacturers on the other are addressed satisfactorily.
The national automotive service task force is a voluntary, co-operative effort among the automotive service industry, the equipment and tool industry, and automotive manufacturers. The task force ensures that automotive service professionals have the information, training, and tools needed to properly diagnose and repair today's high-tech vehicles, assures the flow of relevant information, and includes a system to deal with complaints.
A Canadian version of this task force is what is ultimately proposed by the industry.
We will be told by some that the American voluntary system is legislated. In fact, only a very small part is, a part dealing with emissions. The vast majority remains, indeed, voluntary.
I have learned that the industry has already begun working groups, including manufacturers and after-market servicers, to develop the technical and non-technical provisions of a voluntary model, from tooling to training, with an estimated time of arrival no later than September 1, 2009.
Once fully implemented, the national permanent and voluntary Canadian agreement would create a framework to provide all Canadian after-market service and repair providers with the desired and agreed upon information from all Canadian manufacturers and distributors, in a similar fashion as in the U.S.
Canada's auto industry has a long and successful history of developing, implementing and enforcing voluntary memorandums of understanding. In fact, 14 voluntary memorandums of understanding have been signed to date and the industry has met or exceeded the terms of each one of them.
Legislating the forfeiture of the auto industry's IP rights is akin to demanding the forfeiture of a food retailer's secret recipe so smaller retailers can compete against the very creator of that secret recipe. This is not fair.
Indeed, in my discussions with multiple non-dealer repair shops, I have learned that in addition to already having access to necessary information online, often a simple call to the local dealer's parts and repair shop usually leads to a complete explanation of the necessary work to be done. The fact is that this legislation is described by many in the industry as a solution looking for a problem that does not now exist.
There is no doubt that should a voluntary framework fall short in Canada, we can then take the necessary steps to implement the requirements set out in the legislation before us today. However, we have the benefit of a successful voluntary framework project at work in our neighbour to the south. We can look to this model to guide us in developing a voluntary initiative in Canada.
I am not saying third-party repair shops should be denied access to required information. I ask this House, however, to look to the leadership and competence of the industry, and support a voluntary system for the dissemination of repair and diagnostic information rather than the proposal put forward by Bill C-273.
Private Members' Business
May 11th, 2009 / 11:10 a.m.
Robert Vincent Shefford, QC
Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois would like to see this bill go to committee to be thoroughly studied. First of all, this bill addresses a legitimate concern, namely, allowing motor vehicle owners to benefit from increased competition when they need to have their vehicle repaired.
However, before going ahead with such a measure, it is our responsibility to carefully weigh the repercussions, particularly on carmakers and dealerships. We therefore plan to ask representatives from car dealerships, manufacturers, independent repair facilities and consumers groups to testify before the committee during our study of the bill. The committee study will allow for a more thorough analysis of what is going on with vehicle repairs in Canada. Based on that analysis, we will be in a better position to make recommendations for the government to follow.
I think it is too early to express an opinion on the conclusions the committee will reach regarding this bill. However, we will ensure that the committee's study of this bill will favour the interests of consumers, while taking into account the concerns of the auto industry. Any amendments brought forward by the committee must be along those lines.
Auto mechanics has become quite a bit more sophisticated in recent years, and more and more servicing can be done electronically. Technicians must have access to the equipment and the codes they need to service and repair a car. Bill C-273 addresses this problem by providing that motor vehicle owners and repair facilities can have access to the information and diagnostic tools and capabilities necessary to diagnose, service and repair those motor vehicles.
On the one hand, this bill could promote healthy competition in the automotive repair market, which in turn could make for a viable repair industry. The consumer would benefit in the end.
On the other hand, we are well aware of the negative impact such a measure could have on dealers as a result of the dramatic drop in new car sales. In addition, we will have to make sure that this bill will not curb innovation by threatening the provisions that apply to automakers' intellectual property.
In the interest of shedding light on these issues and getting an idea of the big picture, we have decided to support the bill at second reading, so that the committee can study it. However, as I said earlier, it is far too soon to venture to say what the committee's findings will be. One thing is sure: the Bloc Québécois will play an active role in the committee's consultations.
According to a recent study by the DesRosiers consulting firm, the number of vehicles and the concentration of automotive dealers are increasing in urban centres. Rural regions account for 21% of vehicles and only 12% of dealers. The committee study will therefore provide an opportunity to determine the extent to which controlling automotive repair technologies will affect the accessibility and competitiveness of regional vehicle repair facilities.
A number of years ago, the United States put in place a law establishing a right to repair similar to the one in the bill we are debating today. The U.S. has a voluntary system that anyone can use to access servicing and repair information, for a fee.
In Canada, service and repair technicians cannot consult this information. We want to know how adopting such a measure might affect the market and consumers in this country. But given the situation in the automotive market, we also need to hear from dealers, who derive nearly 30% of their profits from vehicle servicing and repairs, according to the DesRosiers consulting firm.
We have to consider the fact that, in Quebec, the vehicle maintenance sector is a $3.5 billion business that contributes to the health of our economy and must be allowed to continue to prosper.
This is not a straightforward bill. On the one hand, we have mechanics, and on the other, manufacturers. We have to consider both parties. We all know what is going on with the auto sector these days, but consumers should not be the ones who have to pay the price at the end of the day. We have to find a solution together.
I think that sending this bill to committee will give us our best opportunity to hear from all of the witnesses—dealers, consumer advocates, manufacturers and mechanics. They will talk to us about their concerns and about what they think we should do with the bill. Listening to what they have to say is the best way to figure out how the government should change the bill, if necessary.
We should not come to any conclusions or favour one option over another before that. Making up our minds ahead of time would put us at a disadvantage. We should not make assumptions about what should be done with respect to mechanics or manufacturers. We should not make up our minds yet. We have to give the parties a chance to tell us what they think about this bill, what should be done with it, and we have to carefully consider all of the ins and outs.
I believe that the members of the House and the members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology will send this bill to committee so that they can report on it. The members of the committee will approach the issue with clarity and a sense of cooperation. They will not take anything for granted. They will really think about what people have to say before coming to any conclusions.
Private Members' Business
May 11th, 2009 / 11:20 a.m.
David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to offer support to my colleague from Windsor West who has put forward this bill.
This gives me a chance to take a trip down memory lane for the next few minutes. A lot of this is about dealerships doing work versus work being done outside the dealership network but still in the repair part of the economy.
Back in the day, a lot of years ago now, I worked at such a place, for International Harvester. It was a truck centre where we sold and repaired international trucks, not the farm equipment but the trucks. I was there for about 11 years before I was elected to Hamilton city council. I can speak with some authority in terms of the way it was and relate that to where things are going now. Back then there was a level playing field.
Let us keep in mind that at its core the member for Windsor West is trying to bring in a fair, rules-based system that treats everybody the same. Back in the day when I was on the shop floor, that is the way it was. There was no advanced technology. We were in the early stages of that when I left, which would have been in the mid-1980s. There was a level playing field. Nobody held any secrets. Nobody had any special tools that they were not giving to others. Software was not even in the vocabulary. Everyone had to compete on the same basis.
Much like today, all the warranty work was done at our shop.That was probably the biggest part of our work, as well as work on the big fleets that were willing to pay for the very best mechanics, and I might say, parts people. They did not want any problems. They wanted things to go as smoothly as possible. A corporation at that level wants things to go smoothly. Working with a dealership with a major infrastructure attached to the mother corporation was a great way to go.
There were a lot of brokers and smaller trucking firms that would do their own work, or have it done by an offshoot of their company, or by someone such as a brother-in-law who ran a local garage, or Bill down on the corner who had been there for 30 years and treated everyone like family so people wanted to go there. People were able to save a few bucks, but they were not freebies or giveaways.
That was their choice, and that is the issue. To allow consumers and other after market repair businesses access to this material, the tools and the information takes us back to where we were before, which was that everybody was equal. It was business preference, productivity and efficiency that decided where people went, not whether or not they had the secret code.
They do not allow it in the United States, interestingly. It is done under the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency. Why? Obviously the environment is so crucial now, or at least we have now woken up to how crucial it is. The last thing we want to do is take cars that are being designed to do less damage to the environment and repair them in a way that suddenly has them polluting. It does not make sense.
That seems to be what the EPA in the U.S. has said. The U.S. has that system. Why do we not? It denies consumers a choice. It is not as productive. It increases costs through lack of choice. It creates unfairness. Everyone attached to the automotive industry ought to be thanking the member for Windsor West for this bill.
I can appreciate there are some employees, as I was, who see the possibility that their work is going to go somewhere else, and they are fighting to retain it. Fair enough. That is the union's job. However, my experience was that allowing others to do the same work or at least to compete did not detract from that because we had so much extra to offer.
Other communities may argue, but I am sure the member for Windsor West would be proud to say he is from the automotive capital of Canada. We will give him that for the purposes of this bill. Let us remember that he represents a lot of the workers who are trying to protect the work they have in the current system. It would have been very easy for the member to stand in the tall grass on something like this if somebody else had brought it forward. Not only did he not do that, he was the one who brought it forward. He is doing it because he knows it is in the best interests of Canadians and he believes it is not going to do any damage to jobs that exist.
All it does is provide an unfair competitive advantage, almost a monopoly on some work by virtue of keeping secrets, which are not allowed to be kept in the country that is our biggest trading partner, the United States of America. The U.S. understands that Toyota, Honda and others ought not to be able to send their cars here and keep the secrets back home. That ought to apply whether it is a domestic or foreign automotive producer.
That is what this is about at its core. Again, it is about choice. It is about fairness. It is about making sure that Canadians have an opportunity to decide for themselves where they want to spend their money and where they want to get their vehicles repaired.
In bringing in Bill C-273, the member for Windsor West, in a large way, is doing every consumer in Canada a huge favour by removing an unfairness, an imbalance that has now been created that did not exist before. It is part of going through the transition ultimately into the new digital economy. We need to keep an eye on it from a legislative point of view to ensure that these new technologies do not create an inherent unfairness. This is one of those times.
When the member for Windsor West saw what was happening and heard from his constituents and the tens of thousands of small automotive repair shops, 95% Canadian owned, all employing local people, he investigated and, as I said, in the face of a possibility of political backlash, he had the courage to bring it forward just because it is the right thing to do.
Many issues we deal with here are of utmost importance, and consumer protection is one of the most important. That is really what this is. It is not life and death. None of our kids are going to be facing critical health issues because of this. There is no pandemic attached to the bill, or those kinds of worries. However, protecting consumers is an important part of a legislative body's duty in a mature democracy. That is what this bill does.
I want to thank my colleague from Windsor West for bringing this bill forward and making things better for the Canadian people. I can only hope that the vast majority of parliamentarians will agree and at least allow us to get the bill to committee. Let us bring in the players and have a look at it. At the very least, let us do that.
I urge members to support this bill, at least at second reading, so we can look at it further.
Private Members' Business
May 11th, 2009 / 11:25 a.m.
Dona Cadman Surrey North, BC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few moments to speak to Bill C-273, An Act to amend the Competition Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (right to repair).
This government takes private members' business seriously. In the case of Bill C-273, the spirit of the bill is in the right place and, for this reason, the government wishes to support it. The government will, however, be seeking amendments should the bill progress to committee stage.
Before I get into the details of some of the reasons that the government will be seeking amendments, I would like to acknowledge the work that the member for Windsor West has done on this bill.
I also would like to highlight some areas in which, I think, all parliamentarians can agree.
First, I am sure that all members of Parliament are concerned with the recent economic challenges and the effects of these challenges on Canadians and Canadian businesses. The government has acted quickly in addressing these concerns through the Budget Implementation Act.
Second, members opposite must recognize the government's commitment to protecting Canadians and businesses from crime, abuse and economic uncertainty through its ambitious legislative agenda. In these times of economic uncertainty, it is important for the government to act in a manner that directly addresses what is most important to people's lives and economic security.
Third, all members of the House were elected to represent our constituents' interests to the best of our ability. This does not mean that parliamentarians will always agree but I would hope that members opposite will accept my remarks today in that spirit.
Finally, I am sure that all members believe in supporting a competitive economy that benefits businesses and consumers. The government has been working hard to support Canadian businesses to be stable and more efficient.
Let us be clear on one thing: healthy competition is the best way of empowering consumers and that is what the Competition Act sets out to do.
When companies compete with one another for a consumer's dollar, it opens the door to lower prices, better services and wider product selection, all of which benefit consumers.
There are many who believe a voluntary system rather than a legislated approach to aftermarket issues would satisfy the needs of the Canadian aftermarket auto repair industry. There are benefits to establishing a voluntary system, aside from the obvious benefit of keeping government out of regulating how businesses run their affairs. A voluntary system would, for example, have the flexibility to evolve over time so it addresses changes in technology as they arise, which is one of the root causes of the aftermarket concerns.
With that in mind, in April of this year, the Minister of Industry sent a strongly worded letter to all automakers calling on them to develop a voluntary accord here in Canada. I am pleased to say that there has been progress. Representatives of the vehicle manufacturers and aftermarket industries met last month to begin discussions on the development of a voluntary accord. Most parties have signed on to a process and timeframe to draft this agreement.
One of the signatories is the National Automotive Trades Association, or NATA. NATA represents a large portion of the aftermarket repair shops across the country. It had this to say in a recent letter to its members and to the public:
NATA has publicly stated that in absence of a voluntary agreement it would participate in the legislative process. Now that we have a commitment from the Canadian auto manufacturers, we do not believe legislation is necessary.
I would like to more directly address some of the government's concerns with this private member's bill. The bill seeks to amend the Competition Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. I will be focusing my comments today on concerns raised by amending the Competition Act in the way that the bill proposes.
As members opposite know, the Competition Act is framework legislation, the enforcement of which has wide-ranging implications for the Canadian economy.
Even before the recent improvements contained in the Budget Implementation Act, the Competition Act was generally considered to be effective legislation.
Consultations on changes to the act have taken years to complete and have assisted the competition policy review panel in its assessment of Canada's competition and investment policies. This government has acted on the recommendations of the panel to ensure that the Competition Bureau has the tools it needs to continue to be effective in the years to come.
As all members of the House know, Bill C-273 proposes an amendment to section 75, refusal to deal, of the Competition Act by adding to the definition of product, for the purpose of that section, technical information that is required by a person in order to provide a service to a customer.
The member opposite may believe that this small change to the Competition Act will help to address the issues in the auto repair sector but this is not the case. This amendment to the Competition Act is problematic in at least two significant ways.
First, the amendment could have serious, unintended consequences. Bill C-273 has not been drafted in a way that applies only to the automotive industry to strictly address the right to repair issue. The proposed change to the definition of product could impact on all industries and all relevant bureau investigations under section 75. Such an amendment could raise questions regarding safety issues or intellectual property rights, which could cause other concerns that I do not intend to address today.
Second, amending the Competition Act to address the right to repair issue is not necessary. This issue can already be reviewed under section 75 or section 79, abuse of dominance, of the Competition Act. In the case of section 75, refusal to deal, if a party could establish that the inability to obtain the technical information was the result of another's refusal to provide a product as currently defined would satisfy the other elements of section 75. They would be able to address those concerns under the act.
Either the Competition Bureau or the affected party could make an application to the Competition Tribunal for a remedy. Another way to address this is that the bureau could make an application to the Competition Tribunal for a remedy if a party could establish that the refusal to supply the technical information was an anti-competitive practice and could establish the other elements of section 79, abuse of dominance.
Given the avenues already existing under the Competition Act to review the right to repair issue in the appropriate case and given the unintended consequences that could result from the proposed change to the definition of product, the government will be seeking to remove this Competition Act amendment during the committee stage.
We look forward to more debate on this issue and I am sure t all members will act in the best interests of their constituents.
Private Members' Business
May 11th, 2009 / 11:45 a.m.
Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add my comments to the debate on Bill C-273.
I might just say that with respect to the issue of relevance, I did a little research the last time I heard the Chair suggest that we give a lot of latitude. The relevance issue is there because the time of Parliament is very important and valuable and should be used for the purpose for which it is intended. That is why there is an order paper. It is really up to the members to keep relevant. Unfortunately, sometimes members like to push the envelope a little further. However, I think we had better ensure that the important points about a piece of legislation before the chamber are known to all members who are going to have to vote on it. It is actually a little more difficult now, given the recent developments within the auto industry, and that is what I want to talk about.
So that everybody knows what we are talking about on Bill C-273, the member for Windsor West has introduced a bill to amend the Competition Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. He had a bill in the last Parliament, and the bill is back now, and it has received a lot of attention. It is one of the reasons I wanted to speak to this. Auto repair shop owners in my riding of Mississauga South have spoken to me many times over the last number of years about this problem, that as the automobile technology changes, the normal work done by automotive repair shops that are not associated with a car manufacturer gets a little more difficult. They need the manuals to know how to work on the equipment they are going to deal with. They also need the diagnostic equipment, in some cases, and they need some of the specialty tools. Without those they cannot service the automobiles. If they cannot service the automobiles, repair shops will find themselves in jeopardy with regard to staying in business. That is their argument.
The other part of the equation is the automobile industry itself. The dealers are in the business of selling cars, but they are also in the business of servicing them. If they continue to provide the full cycle of maintenance and service for automobiles, that is good and healthy for the automobile business. The technology is amazing. A 10-year-old car, as I recall, pollutes 37 times more than one of the brand new cars. It is phenomenal. All of this is because of the changes in technology. It makes this debate and this bill more relevant because it has to do with the consumer, with small businesses and with big businesses and how the interests of those parties are reconciled.
In the last Parliament, the debate might have been different because the automobile industry was not in jeopardy. Now the automobile industry is in jeopardy. There is going to be a massive rationalization of the auto industry. There is going to be a massive rationalization of dealerships, of plants, of places for people to get their automobiles serviced. The neighbourhood auto repair shop may become much more important than it has been in the past simply because there are not going to be as many dealerships to go to anyway. The debate in the last Parliament would have been different from this one. Now we have to balance the interests.
I have often thought that the best arrangement for consumers is to ensure that there is healthy competition within the service and repair sector so that they can choose. That would help to keep the costs fair and reasonable. Right now there is not that choice to the same extent there would be if the independent repair shops had access to the information, the diagnostic equipment and the tools they need to properly and professionally repair the vehicles and to maintain them. It is a dilemma.
The industry in the United States adopted a voluntary agreement to provide, and the right to repair is the generic name. In the United States there has been a facility whereby shops can have access to this. It is done on a voluntary basis; it is not legislated. We are talking about a bill that wants to legislate it. It appears with all of the dynamics that have occurred in the auto sector with the rationalization and changes yet to come, the industry has reached some agreements with regard to voluntarily providing the information, tools and diagnostic equipment, although I do not know to what extent because I have not seen all the details.
This issue is evolving. I wanted to bring to the attention of the House that this matter seems to be fairly fluid. There is a lot going on. We do not have the latest information but I think it is important that this bill survive and that it go to committee so that we can get the representations from the auto industry as well as the after market businesses that provide services.
We have to look at the impact on people and their jobs. This is a very important aspect. We have to look at the other implications of competition law and the rights of a person, organization or legal entity. We have to look at the implication of that person, organization or legal entity being forced to release that information to another so another can take business away. This is a very interesting problem. There is a model in the United States which I think is useful to look at.
With only two hours of debate in private members' business it is very difficult for all of the information to get out. My recommendation to my colleagues is that the bill go to committee. I would like all of the information to be brought to the committee so it can study it carefully to determine whether or not the voluntary deal that is evolving and may be taking place in Canada is the best thing on behalf of all stakeholders, whether it be the industry, the after market suppliers and the consumers.
We want to make sure there is a balance. I think this is our opportunity to look into this because how we approach this problem probably will be the same way that we approach similar problems in other sectors.
Having said that, I congratulate the member for bringing the bill forward. I know the auto sector is very important in his riding and that it is a very difficult time for the auto sector. There is a great deal of work to do. This is part of it. Let us send this bill to committee.
Private Members' Business
May 11th, 2009 / 11:55 a.m.
Brian Masse Windsor West, ON
Mr. Speaker, first, I want to thank all members for participating in this debate at first and second readings and bringing their thoughts forward. It is an important part of what has happened.
This issue has been around for a number of years. In fact, I researched the bill for a couple of years, going across the country and having people looking at it. The former minister of industry is here today. He took an interest in it. I am sure if he would have remained as minister of industry, perhaps Bill C-273 would not have been necessary.
We are here today because there is a problem with our current system. If we continue to ignore it, it will affect the environment, consumer choice and public safety. Bill C-273 attempts to address that.
I want to touch upon a couple of things that are important and that have been part of the debate. There are voluntary agreements in the Canadian automotive industry right now, but they are still based on the Consumer Protection Act. This bill would specifically address the issue through government legislation.
We have to be clear. In the United States, under the EPA, because of its environmental laws, it created an operating agreement with the original manufacturers so there would be a clear definition. The United States legislation creates the operating agreement as a solution. It still needs to be some work on it because there are some issues with it, but at least it is available to the manufactures. Canada does not have a voluntary agreement or a legislative agreement.
I know NATA, the National Automotive Trades Association, has promised a solution, which is important to recognize. All it can do is promise it might have a voluntary agreement in 2010 at best. It is not worth the paper on which it is printed because, at the end of the day, there could be manufacturers that would opt in or opt out at different times and resolution processes would not available through any type of legislation.
It is also very important not to forget that the automobile industry right now is revolutionizing in many respects. There will also be new entrants into the market. How can we have a voluntary agreement that would be based upon a group of businesses that are all foreign companies? They would have no Canadian legislative backstop to deal with any of the problems. There will be other ones, for example, China, as it emerges into the Canadian market with the Chery. China has over 100 different automotive assembly companies. Not all of them will get into our market, but some will and they could decide not to get into some type of agreement.
This dissipates the reality of having a rules-based system that is fair, open and transparent. The Competition Bureau would then be the arbitrator. The rules could be applied and there would be fairness. There is a whole process in place that could evolve.
That is why we want to get this to committee. We want to see Canadians have the same opportunity. It is important for Canadians to understand that, as things stand right now, they would be treated differently in the United States than in Canada. It is based on nothing more than the fact that it has chosen not to bring this forward to the Canadian public at this time.
When we look at our Canadian technicians in the after-market, it is interesting to note that the men and women have the same training as those in the dealerships, unless they get additional training later on. They have to go through the same type of schooling. In fact, our standards in Canada are better.
Ironically, someone could take a trip to the United States, have something go wrong with the car and go to a facility to have it repaired by a technician with fewer qualifications than a technician in Canada. We are denied that because the proper programs cannot be downloaded or the schooling or training is not provided by the company.
This is not fair, nor is it healthy. One of the reasons we want to deal with this is it is good for the environment. We want to ensure that vehicles are clean and well maintained. It is good for public safety, that cars are fixed and in good operating condition, especially in rural communities where people have to drive hundreds of kilometres to get to an facility. It is also about the consumer's right to choose.
Therefore, we hope the bill will go to committee. I appreciate the fact that there has been a lot of input, both from those who have concerns about it and those who support it. I look forward to working with everyone to ensure we have a fair, rules-based system based on Canadian legislation to protect Canadians.
March 6th, 2009 / 1:30 p.m.
Brian Masse Windsor West, ON
moved that Bill C-273, An Act to amend the Competition Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (right to repair), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-273, affectionately known as the right to repair and affectionately because it would bring in a set of rules that would be very appropriate for this country to have. It deals with the aftermarket situation with regard to fixing automobiles and repairing them. It is an environmental issue, a consumer issue and a safety issue.
The bill seeks to make some changes to the Competition Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. I want to read into the record some elements that are very important. However, before I do that, it is important to outline that I have been working on this bill for a couple of years. It is not a bill that just came out of the blue. It has been dealt with in terms of hearing from people across the country, ensuring the issue was something that needed addressing and ensuring there would be a required element of Parliament to move on the bill. I hope all members will look at this bill and the merit of it and endorse bringing it to committee for study and further work.
When I think about this bill and one of the key elements of it, I think of Nancy Suranyi. I went to her garage in Namao, Alberta, and that facility really showed another level to this. It is not only just about making sure consumers have the right to choose, but I found the public safety element very significant. In this facility, which requires this bill to move forward, there is everything, not only with regard to just vehicles for personal recreational use but also school buses and other types of public service vehicles where safety is required.
What is the consumer's right to a repair bill? The vehicle manufacturers are restricting access to tools, training and software to the aftermarket industry due to the increased sophistication of today's vehicles. It is gradually becoming more difficult for independent repair facilities to access the information and develop the skills required to service vehicles. By resolving some of this information for dealership networks, vehicle manufacturers are putting the aftermarket industry at an unfair disadvantage. The aftermarket market has made significant efforts in recent years to negotiate with vehicle manufacturers in order to find a solution to this problem. Unfortunately, the majority of vehicle manufacturers in Canada are unwilling to negotiate an industry-led solution and have little impetus to do so. The AIA has exhausted industry-led solutions and is now requesting the Government of Canada to intervene in order to restore the balance between the dealership network and the independent repair facilities.
It is important to note that the intent here, especially if we look at other parliamentary action we are taking, is to help the dealers as well. One of the things we are requesting is to pursue a new vehicle purchasing and procurement policy as part of a stimulus package to get more automobiles on the road that are more modern and will actually help the dealers. Therefore, this is very much done in balance.
What is the problem? Vehicle manufacturers are restricting access to the tools, training and diagnostic and repair codes to independent installers, preventing them from repairing late model vehicles. This effectively eliminates choice.
Over 18 million vehicles are on the road in Canada today and approximately 59% of them are equipped with onboard diagnostic capabilities, referred to as OBD-II. The ratio will increase over time. The number of vehicle components monitored by the OBD-II will also continue to increase. The tools and the software required to access the computer control units on vehicles have become increasingly proprietary. Vehicle design processes are also more sophisticated. The use of exotic materials and the changes in welding and assembly technologies make it necessary for independent repair shops to access factory specific training and tools. Consumer choice is evaporating and the impact of growing dealer monopoly is significant.
Fewer choices mean higher repair costs and many repairs will be delayed or ignored altogether, putting highway safety at risk and increasing the risk of poor quality emissions. Also, fewer choices mean lower productivity. The existing dealer network does not have the capacity to repair all vehicles on the road today. This means longer waiting times and increased travel distances for consumers, especially in rural communities.
Fewer choices mean instability. Independent repair facilities are primarily small enterprises found across Canada and many are located in small towns and rural areas. If this problem is not solved, many small businesses may be forced out of business within the next five years.
Fewer choices mean that emission standards for vehicles will not be maintained, leading to more pollution and contributing to other environmental problems.
Fewer choices endanger public safety because the safety mechanisms and the functions on the vehicle will be at risk of not being properly maintained, putting not only drivers and passengers at risk but also pedestrians and property owners.
It is important to note that this is a situation unique to Canada. I live very close to the border. When I walk down the front steps of my house and look to the left I can see Detroit, Michigan. It is literally two miles away. The river is two miles wide. Ironically, I could get my car repaired at an independent garage in Detroit within a matter of minutes and yet I could not do the same in Canada. What is also ironic is the fact that the repair technician working on my vehicle in the United States could have less training than a repair technician in Canada because Canada has some of the highest qualification requirements. Our technicians get their training in independent garages.
I want to thank Danielle Grech, Andre Chamberlain and Daniel Clement who attended the press conference here. These technicians had never done a public press conference before and, despite that, came to the nation's capital and took part in the public forum. They talked about the fact that even though they were professionally trained, they found it difficult to service people's vehicles. They talked about the fact that they had gone to school and received the necessary training and met the necessary requirements, but because of technical problems related to an industry that could not find consensus, they were not able to compete in a fair and open process.
What is at stake here is the thousands of people who are affected by this industry. They know they will see diminished opportunities, not because of competition or because of other issues, but because they do not have the ability to be in a market that allows them to do so, which is why Canada needs to change this.
The U.S. environmental protection act requires the manufacturer to provide this kind of information.
I want to ensure all members in the House understand that I am not asking for something free. The legislation would require a fair payment system. We want to protect intellectual property. We want to ensure these things will be maintained. There is a clear effort from the groups supporting the bill to have a basic set of principles that will be accountable.
In the United States, people can easily download any of the software they need for a vehicle with just a credit card purchase. In Canada, a vehicle in an independent shop would need to be towed to a dealership because independent shops cannot simply download a simple program.
Vehicles now have increased computerization that require more of this type of atmosphere. Things like tire pressure could be affected in terms of whether a vehicle can be serviced at a particular facility or not.
The bill has been looked at through a lot of different lenses. I want to read some of names of the organizations that are supporting the bill: the Retail Council of Canada; Pollution Probe; the Canadian Association of Retired Persons; Corporation des Carrossiers Professionnels du Québec; the Canadian Independent Automotive Association; the Barrie Automotive Repair Association; the Grey Bruce Independent Automotive Repair Association; Association des marchands de véhicules d'occasion du Québec; the Ontario Tire Dealers Association; Motorist Assurance Program; Automotive Oil Change Association; Atlantic Tire Dealers Association; Independent Garage Operators Association; Western Canada Tire Dealers Association and the Windsor Professional Automotive Repair Association. The list also includes associations in Kawartha, Sudbury, and western Canada.
I would be remiss if I did not thank John Sawatsky and Dave Santing from my local riding who have been pushing this issue and have been doing some very good work in terms of public policy.
The bill is not just about being fair to consumers, it is also about public safety. Repairs to municipal vehicles, ambulances and regular vehicles are being done In Dave's garage, in my riding. To keep his business going, he specializes in certain vehicles, as well as regular vehicles in order for him to make ends meet. It is important to note that not all car companies are like this but some are better than others.
I would note that General Motors is not opposing this bill and is one of the better companies that has provided information about this. There needs to be a clear accountability system. People need to access some of these programs, services and tools.
I spoke with Nancy Suranyi in Edmonton, Alberta. She had recently sent a team of employees to the United States to get the training, qualifications and equipment because they were not available here. There is a grey market aspect. Companies would love to train Canadians on their own soil. That is part of what is necessary to make sure we have a modernized fleet and will continue to see the issues addressed.
One of the issues is emissions. In Ontario there are a number of different clean air and drive programs. We need to make sure that small and medium size businesses are certified as well so that greenhouse gas emissions are lowered. A lot of vehicles will stay on the road for many years and they need to be function as cleanly and efficiently as possible. It is critical for controlling smog and greenhouse gas emissions.
Pollution Probe is supporting the bill. I want to read a statement that it generously provided to me:
Pollution Probe supports the “Right to Repair” Act presented by...M.P., Windsor West. Minimizing emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases from vehicles into the environment is a responsibility shared by government, automakers and drivers. An important step that drivers can take to minimize emissions is to keep their vehicle in a state of good repair and ensure that their vehicle's emissions control system is functioning properly. It is important that drivers have effective access to required vehicle maintenance and service in this regard. To the extent that the “Right to Repair” Act facilitates this objective, Pollution Probe supports this action.
That was written by Mr. Bob Oliver, executive director of Pollution Probe.
That is important recognition as we move toward cleaner running vehicles. There are more on the market. Hopefully we will see some of the newer models. Some of the better vehicles are emerging but many Canadians will not be able to purchase new vehicles. What do we do about that situation? Do we allow a slow strangulation of independent associations, or do we provide a set of rules so they can compete? It is critical for consumers who have bought vehicles. They may have extended warranties or they may decide to go to an independent facility later on to obtain that service.
It does not make any sense for our air quality that because a simple program cannot be downloaded in one facility, a tow truck has to be hired to transport a vehicle across the city to a dealership. That does not make any sense. It is also a drag on productivity in Canada. We need to make sure the individuals working in the facilities are doing so in an efficient way. Adding extra hours of labour on top of a simple procedure like that is not helpful to anyone. It is not going to make Canada competitive. It is certainly going to cause more congestion and will lead to more problems. It does not make any sense.
Nobody understands our roads better than the CAA. The CAA has been a very active element in Canadian society. It has provided the following statement:
CAA represents over 5 million motorists across the country. Our main concern on the “Right to Repair” issue is to ensure that automobile owners have the opportunity to choose and get the best possible service at a fair price. This bill will benefit the consumer by allowing for increased competition and consumer choice.
I want to thank all the individuals who have put their support behind this bill. The bill is intended to make significant improvements in terms of our economy and create a level playing field. Other countries have done so and I do not think Canada should be put at a disadvantage because other people cannot get their act together.
I have spoken about the automotive industry in the House for a number of years. I have been pushing for a greener, stronger automotive industry in Canada. The bill fits with that. That is why I hope it will pass this stage and go to committee. I believe it is an improvement for Canadians.
March 6th, 2009 / 2 p.m.
Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC
Mr. Speaker, as a new member of Parliament I have to say that I was somewhat surprised by the amount of discussion generated by this private member's bill within my party and by the number of representations made to me in the last several weeks. Certainly Bill C-273 has generated a great deal of debate, and I think this is something we should welcome.
I would like to commend the member for Windsor West for bringing forward this bill, because I think at its heart is the desire to offer a greater choice to the consumer.
It is also clear that on the face of it, the bill is commendable in the sense that it argues that implementing the bill will provide us with safer, cleaner cars and that the consumer will have a greater choice.
At the same time, obviously there are always two sides to every coin and to every argument, and certainly in the last week I have heard many arguments from groups that do not support Bill C-273.
I certainly welcome the opportunity to hear more, because I think it is important for us to have a full debate. The bill was presented before, but it did not get as far as it will hopefully get this time.
I think what is important here is that we allow a full airing of all issues. One of the things that has surprised me, I must admit, is that diametrically opposite viewpoints are being presented on the same issues. On the one hand, one group will argue that we will end up with safer cars, while on the other hand, those who are against it are arguing that we will end up with cars that are less safe. On the environmental side, arguments are presented by one side that we are going to end up with cleaner cars. On the other side are groups that say we will end up with cars that are less clean. If one looks at the cost side, on the one hand there are groups who say that this is ultimately going to cost the consumer less, while the other group, predictably, is saying that this will actually end up costing the consumer more.
Therefore it is very clear to me, as the hon. member of the government pointed out, that this is a very complex issue. Strong arguments have been brought forward by both groups.
I personally would like to see this debate continue. I would like us to air it more fully and bring the groups together. I believe that one way to do so is through the legislation proposed in this private member's bill.
I would like to argue that what is important at this point is that we bring all the players together and continue to discuss the bill. Hopefully we can come to some arrangement, perhaps through modifications to the bill, that will satisfy all the groups. Ultimately I think it is important for us to always be mindful of the importance of trying to make a bill that will offer the consumer a greater choice.
March 6th, 2009 / 2 p.m.
Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak today in the House of Commons, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, about Bill C-273. To begin, I would like to point out that we are in favour of this bill in principle and feel that it deserves to be studied in committee. I salute the efforts my colleague from Windsor West has made to encourage competition in the automobile maintenance sector so that Quebeckers and Canadians have the right to affordable, accessible and good quality services. This legislative measure will allow consumers to choose the business they want to use for vehicle maintenance.
As my colleagues have mentioned, cars and trucks are becoming increasingly complex. Some of the businesses that sell automobiles in Canada offer specialized information and tools needed to repair and maintain the vehicles they sell, but others do not. If a business does not do so, the customers are locked in to getting their cars fixed there. Such businesses then have a monopoly on the repairs and maintenance done on the vehicles they sell. A monopoly often means higher prices for the consumer, but above all, it means less choice. In this type of situation, the consumer cannot take the vehicle to any garage of their choice. They have to do business with the dealership. Without this legislative measure, the consumer has no other choice but to do business with the dealership.
The people of my riding, Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, elected me to represent their interests and this bill is a step in that direction, since it aims to promote accessible, affordable, good-quality maintenance services. Without this important legislative measure, Quebeckers and Canadians will be forced to continue doing business with dealerships for their vehicle maintenance. The situation is particularly difficult for Quebeckers who do not live close to a major urban centre.
More and more, vehicles require electronic diagnostic tools and as a result, garages in more remote regions do not have access to the information needed for proper maintenance, and repairs to vehicles can therefore be limited. People who live in rural areas must travel great distances to have their vehicles serviced and repaired. The numbers on this speak for themselves. According to a study by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, the number of motor vehicles and the concentration of dealerships is increasing in urban centres. Yet 21% of vehicles but only 12% of dealerships are located in rural areas, and this discrepancy will only become more pronounced over time. I therefore ask my hon. colleagues the following question. When was the last time any of us saw a new car dealership open up in a rural area?
This bill would allow garages in the regions to service vehicles for Quebeckers and Canadians in the very communities where they live. As a result, these people will no longer have to travel to urban centres to have their vehicles serviced.
As I pointed out, under this bill, independent mechanics in rural regions will be able to compete in the vehicle maintenance sector and do work for vehicle owners. This bill will ensure that local garages continue to be part of the landscape.
Neighbourhood garages in all regions of Quebec and Canada are important. Two of the largest replacement parts distributors, NAPA and Uni-Select, are located in Quebec. Together, they employ hundreds of Quebeckers in a Montreal plant, and their activities rely on neighbourhood and rural garages.
We think that Bill C-273 will be good for consumers because it will enable them to decide where they take their cars for service and repairs. Vehicle manufacturers want consumers to come to them, but the Bloc Québécois believes that car owners should have the right to choose their own mechanic.
This bill will ensure that consumers are not forced to go back to the dealer for repairs and maintenance, unless the committee finds, in its study of the bill, that some vehicle parts should be serviced exclusively by the dealer. That is why we think it is important to study Bill C-273 in committee.
We have to wonder why the solution currently before us has not yet been implemented. The United States has been looking at a similar bill for a few years now. They implemented a voluntary system that enables anyone to access the information for a fee.
In Canada, vehicle maintenance and repair technicians cannot get that information. I would like to ask the members of the House a question: if vehicle manufacturers have refused to supply the information to Canadians to date, then why should they start now, given that they make more money by forcing people to come to them for maintenance and repairs?
Some dealers even imply that if clients do not use the dealer's services, vehicle safety could suffer. However, members should know that to work in a car centre anywhere in Canada, technicians must have a valid licence. Whether they work at a car dealership or the corner garage, they are responsible for the safety of their clients' vehicles.
The bill gives consumers the right to choose where they have their vehicle serviced and repaired, and it enables neighbourhood garages to continue serving local communities.
The bill is not designed to deprive manufacturers of innovations in which they have invested a great deal of money. However, it does establish that when a consumer purchases a vehicle, the innovations it contains are included in the price.
In conclusion, Bill C-273 allows consumers to choose where they have their vehicle serviced and repaired and will prevent people from paying monopoly prices. It will also enable rural Quebeckers and Canadians to continue having their vehicles serviced and repaired at local garages.
In Quebec, the vehicle maintenance industry, which does $3.5 billion in business annually, could continue employing Quebeckers and contributing to the health of our economy.
Companies will be able to compete in the vehicle maintenance sector, and consumers will benefit from quality services that are more affordable and accessible. By giving vehicle service and repair technicians access to the training and tools they need, we will help the market work better.
Lastly, companies will benefit from healthy competition, which will be good for consumers in Quebec and Canada.