House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreement.

Topics

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

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
Routine Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

NDP

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
Routine Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too am very proud of the member for Windsor West in his long uphill struggle with this particular issue. Having had a background myself in consumer affairs for 23 plus years in Manitoba, I recognized this issue right away upon being elected. I must admit it took me a couple of minutes to sort it out because I did not really understand it straight up. I talked to the member about it.

In Winnipeg I spoke to two General Motors dealers who are friends of mine. They were quite concerned. As a matter of fact one of them contacted me. When we sat down to get to the bottom of their concerns, we found there was a certain amount of misrepresentation. At the end of the day, they accepted that it was not a bad idea after all. It was interesting that General Motors was apparently the most cooperative company to deal with this.

When we think about it, the bill started with the member from the fourth largest party in the House. We can talk about rolling the ball uphill. Not only did the member start this two and a half years ago, but when Parliament dissolved the member had to start over again. After every election and with a new government everything has to be reintroduced. When one goes through that process, at a certain point one wants to throw up one's hands and give up in a lot of cases, but the member did not do that.

This particular issue was not as sexy as some consumer affairs issues, and I have dealt with a few of them over the years. Nevertheless it did have its appeal.

I knock on a lot of doors in my constituency and over the course of a weekend in the fall, this issue came up two or three times, as did the credit card issue and the air passenger bill. Interestingly enough, in a couple of cases it was put forward by teenagers, people who were 19 and 20 years old, which really amazed me. I asked how they knew about this right to repair. They knew exactly what it was all about.

I think the member had a terrific issue. He carried it as long as he could. He in effect was the cause of the final resolution of the problem. This is going to benefit consumers for many years to come.

When most members in this Parliament were young kids, we all knew the local garage could fix that '49 Ford and that '57 Chev. In fact I had one of those at one time. It cost me $35. Each door was a different colour, as I recall. That car could be fixed by anyone.

Today it is not possible to find a garage that will fix any car newer than 10 years. It boils down to the owner having to go back to the dealership and repairs by a dealership can cost a lot of money. If one has a lot of money, then it is not a problem, but if one is operating on a budget, going back and forth to the dealer can be a problem.

I want to lead from there into another area that many people are not familiar with, which is CAMVAP. CAMVAP is our answer to a lemon law which has become very popular. There has been a lemon law in all 50 of the United States for the last 15 or 20 years. I introduced legislation in Manitoba a number of years ago on the lemon law. There is the weak lemon law that can be found in the car belt in Michigan and there is the very tough lemon law that can be found in Florida.

Generally speaking, under the lemon law dealers are required to give consumers a book when they buy a new car so that they know their rights.

If the car has lots of problems and turns out to be a lemon, the manufacturer has four attempts to fix it. I have attended arbitration panels in Florida. By the way, they settle roughly about 50% for the public and 50% for the car companies. Of course, air conditioning is a big issue there. If the car cannot be fixed within four attempts, the car company will have to buy back the car with a depreciated amount so and the consumer will get out of the problem.

What did Canada's manufacturers do as an answer? They saw that the consumer groups and legislators were starting to introduce bills across the country and they were alarmed. They formed CAMVAP, an organization consisting of all of the governments across Canada. The head of the Consumers' Association of Canada sits on CAMVAP. The downside is that no one knows about it. The last two cars I bought, I prodded and poked the salespeople at the dealership about my CAMVAP book. I wanted the information on what would happen if the car turned out to be a lemon. I got blank stares. They did not have a clue about it.

Unlike the lemon law in most of the United States where consumers are given the book when they buy the car and the coverage is explained to them, in Canada we do not have any such procedure. We have the lemon law, but no one knows about it. As a matter of fact, when I gave this speech the other day, someone in the crowd asked me to spell out the name, CAMVAP. She said that her car was at the 160,000 kilometre mark and it was not acting very well and she wanted to check into the CAMVAP situation.

The general insurance companies and the life insurance companies have done a similar thing to what the member for Windsor West has succeeded in doing. The general insurance companies had bankruptcies 20 years ago which left consumers hanging. Their claims were not being paid because the little company which insured their house went bankrupt. The insurance companies recognized if they did not do something, government would step in and people such as the member for Windsor West would start introducing private member's bills, so they moved quickly. They formed an organization similar to CAMVAP whereby general insurance companies as a group would take responsibility for any failures within that group. If the insurance company in Manitoba for example went bankrupt and could not pay its house insurance claims, then the insurance companies would use the money they had been levying each other to pay for those claims. They would pay the costs of taking care of the problem and winding down the company.

That was happening almost 20 years ago. The life insurance companies did the same thing because they had the same sort of problem.

This points out the fact that MPs and MLAs in any jurisdiction in this country should not get discouraged. They tend to, but they should never be discouraged because it is private members' bills like this one that can end up with conclusions such as the member for Windsor West just achieved. He will be remembered for that for many years to come because he has done something that no one else was able to do. The problem did not start yesterday; it has been around for a number of years and he provided the solution when no one else did. He deserves full credit and full honours for that.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

November 17th, 2009 / 7 p.m.

Liberal

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.

Industry, Science and Technology
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Pursuant to an order made earlier today, the motion is deemed adopted.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, about mid-September I received an email which turned out to be from the executive assistant to the president and chief executive officer of the Toronto Port Authority. It was sent out using the generic “Dear Friend”, and it relayed information about a political fundraiser for the Minister of Natural Resources. Attached to it was a flyer that had information about a political fundraiser on September 24 at a downtown Toronto restaurant. Admission was $250 a head minimum, it said. There would be no corporate donations. The only name that appeared on the order form for tickets to this event was that of a gentleman, Michael McSweeney.

Michael McSweeney is a registered lobbyist. He works for the Cement Association of Canada. He was the one who was the principal organizer, we found out subsequently, of this fundraiser on behalf of and for the benefit of the Minister of Natural Resources whom he is also registered to lobby. The Cement Association, over the prior eight months I believe, had lobbied a number of officials and ministers, including the Prime Minister and the Minister of Natural Resources on six or seven occasions or more.

I brought this matter to the attention of the House because the Prime Minister has a guide for the ethical conduct of ministers. Annex G of that code or guideline specifically states that government resources should not and cannot be used for political purposes. The Toronto Port Authority is a federal agency. Its resources were used; the computers were used; its database was used to send out emails to people, soliciting purchase of tickets for a fundraiser for the benefit of, it turns out, the Minister of Natural Resources.

It appears that there are clear violations. There are a number of potential violations. They have been reported to the Ethics Commissioner, to the Commissioner of Lobbying, to the Privacy Commissioner and also to the Commissioner of Elections Canada. There are other investigations flowing from this that have already been brought forward.

This story broke the day before I actually asked my question, and the Minister of Transport, who is the minister responsible for the Port Authority, is quoted as saying when it was raised:

The practice is wrong, it is totally unacceptable, it is totally inappropriate.

My question to the minister was basically what the consequences would be if someone had done something that was wrong. There was an impropriety, and whether that was under the rules guiding port authorities, the Canada Marine Act, their own bylaws or the Prime Minister's own guide for ethical conduct of ministers, there must be a consequence.

To date there has been no response from either the Prime Minister or the transport minister other than to say that they would wait until the Ethics Commissioner dealt with the complaint lodged with her, and that she was doing this investigation.

The fact is, it has nothing to do with the Ethics Commissioner. It has to do with the Prime Minister's code of conduct, and I really want to know why there is no action, no answer to the allegations that have been made against the Minister of Natural Resources.

7:10 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the hon. member for Mississauga South for his intervention this evening.

Our government takes these allegations very seriously. This government prides itself on accountability and ethics, and that is why we strengthened the powers and responsibilities of those arm's-length agencies that are charged with investigating such matters.

The Minister of Natural Resources continues to cooperate fully with the ethics commissioner. The minister is following and will follow the commissioner's advice and guidance.

The issue is being examined by the ethics commissioner, and therefore it would be inappropriate for me to comment.

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we found out today in the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, the ethics commissioner has no responsibilities and no authority with regard to the Prime Minister's guide for the ethical conduct of ministers.

In fact, the only person who can determine whether there is a breach is the Prime Minister. The only person who can mete out a sanction against the minister is the Prime Minister.

In prior Parliaments there used to be an ethics counsellor between the Prime Minister and his code to advise the Prime Minister. That is not the case now.

The facts are clear. The port authority has admitted that it occurred and has said that it will not happen again. The board of directors has taken no action. They are waiting and are calling for the Auditor General to come in. The Prime Minister has refused to respond to these allegations. This is totally unacceptable.

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government takes these allegations very seriously.

We are a government that prides itself on accountability and on ethics. That is why we strengthened the powers and responsibilities of those arm's-length agencies that are charged with investigating such matters.

The Minister of Natural Resources continues to cooperate fully with the ethics commissioner. The minister is following and will follow the ruling and guidance of the commissioner.

This issue is being examined by the ethics commissioner, and therefore it would be inappropriate for me to comment.

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:15 p.m.)