House of Commons Hansard #78 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vehicles.

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The House resumed from October 5 consideration of the motion that Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and another Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division at second reading of Bill S-6.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #96

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from September 29 consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

Instruction to Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment to Motion No. 517 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #97

Instruction to Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the amendment defeated. The next question is on the main motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #98

Instruction to Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

It being 6:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from June 3 consideration of the motion that Bill C-511, An Act respecting the reporting of motor vehicle information and to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (improving public safety), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Proactive Enforcement and Defect Accountability Legislation (PEDAL) Act
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Newmarket—Aurora has eight minutes to conclude her remarks.

Proactive Enforcement and Defect Accountability Legislation (PEDAL) Act
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to comment on Bill C-511, introduced by the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence, which proposes amendments to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act with respect to its notice of defect provisions.

To help provide some context for the changes it proposes to the act, I feel that it is important to provide some background on the act itself.

The Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which is the object of the hon. member's bill, regulates the manufacture and importation of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment in order to reduce the risk of death, injury and damage to property and the environment.

The Motor Vehicle Safety Act came into effect in 1971 to establish comprehensive safety standards for the design and performance of vehicles and equipment manufactured in, or imported into, Canada.

It is important to note that since 1971 there have been many Canadian motor vehicle safety regulations established under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act that have contributed extensively to the safer operation of vehicles.

Examples of noteworthy Canadian motor vehicle regulations that were introduced as a result of research carried under the auspices of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act through the decades include crash tests in the 1970s on fuel system integrity and windshield zone intrusion; the introduction of three-point seat belts in front and rear seats in the 1980s; the introduction of stringent crash test requirements for occupant protection, including new seat belt designs and air bags in the 1990s; and, in the last decade, more efficient means for installing and securing child restraint systems, which have contributed to safer transportation for children.

Even though we strive for harmonization with the United States, our largest automotive trading partner, I must caution that full harmonization with U.S. vehicle safety standards is not always possible because of the complexity of the individual safety programs and the different needs of each country.

The Canadian driving environment and vehicle mix is different from that of the United States. Our safety standards were developed to meet national requirements, while harmonizing to a large extent with those of the United States. For example, the decreased daylight levels in winter necessitate the use of daytime running lights on vehicles in Canada. We have a requirement for speedometers to have kilometres per hour instead of miles per hour. There is also the makeup of the vehicle fleet in Canada, as compared with that of the United States. Smaller and more fuel efficient vehicles account for a greater part of the vehicle fleet in Canada than in the United States, and this requires attention to safety standards that affect the smaller, lighter vehicles.

We are continually striving to increase the level of road safety and to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries related to road collisions.

Continued regulatory improvements are planned for the next decade. It is hoped that even more effective child restraint systems, which would allow children to use them longer, will be introduced.

In addition, electronic stability control will become mandatory on all new vehicles manufactured in, or imported into, Canada, and more stringent occupant-protection regulations are planned.

I think we would all agree that it is important to maintain our level of vehicle safety, as the consequences of allowing unsafe vehicles are significant.

The cost of collisions in Canada has recently been estimated at $62.7 billion per year. This estimate of the cost of motor vehicle collisions includes direct and indirect costs.

Direct costs relate to property damage, emergency response, hospital care, other medical care and insurance administration, out-of-pocket expenses by victims of motor vehicle collisions, and traffic delays resulting in lost time, extra fuel use, and environmental pollution.

Indirect costs relate to human consequences of collisions, such as partial and total disability of victims, productivity and work days lost, as well as the pain and suffering of victims and their families.

The notice-of-defect provision in the current Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which is the subject of this bill, is an integral part of the act, aimed at reducing the risk of death and injury associated with vehicles and vehicle use.

The notice of defect provision mandates and establishes criteria under which a company must inform the minister and owners of affected vehicles and equipment when a defect in the design, construction, or functioning of the vehicle or equipment that is likely to affect any person's safety has been identified by the company.

Transport Canada receives on average 1,700 complaints a year from the public, and each complaint is reviewed and actioned as warranted. This year, with the increased media activity, there have been approximately 1,000 public complaints to date. During the same time, approximately 35,000 complaints were received by the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The number of recalls recorded and monitored by Transport Canada has increased significantly in the last 10 years to approximately 400 recalls per year. The volume of vehicles recalled over the last ten years averages two million vehicles per year. It is estimated that approximately 10% of the recall notices occur as a result of investigations carried out by Transport Canada inspectors. It is also estimated that the recalls resulting from Transport Canada's actions account for approximately 50% of the total volume of vehicles being recalled annually.

It is difficult to attribute the increase in the number of recalls to any single factor. The industry and the world economy have evolved significantly over the last decade and a number of conditions have to be taken into account.

First, with the population increase and the rising standards of living, the total number of vehicles sold has increased. There are also more makes and models of vehicles being imported and sold. Furthermore, there has been a significant increase in the technological complexity of vehicles. As well, a number of new entrants are involved in the international commerce of vehicles.

This government remains committed to addressing road safety by exercising its powers and authorities under the act. By supporting Road Safety Vision 2010, a joint initiative between the federal, provincial, and territorial governments and other partners, we can contribute to achieving this vision and set a standard of leadership for our road safety partners by maintaining the integrity of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

I thank the House for the opportunity to provide some background information on the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, and to suggest how, with modifications, we can strike the right balance so that the act continues to be a strong anchor for road safety in Canada.

Proactive Enforcement and Defect Accountability Legislation (PEDAL) Act
Private Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-511, An Act respecting the reporting of motor vehicle information and to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (improving public safety).

From the outset, I can tell the sponsor of this bill that the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of the proposed legislation. We are in favour of referring the bill to committee. Every member in this House is concerned about road safety.

Over the past few months, several recalls have shocked the collective psyche, perhaps because they received more media attention or they involved manufacturers that were generally thought to be road safety conscious. I think for instance of the recall affecting some Toyotas. We should not focus on that make of car, because other car manufacturers have also recalled products.

Updating the Motor Vehicle Safety Act is totally appropriate. We are for making changes to it, so that the reporting of certain critical information between car manufacturers and the regulatory body, namely, Transport Canada, is improved.

The Bloc Québécois is also in favour of hearing from various witnesses and stakeholders from the industry about the technical aspects that could strengthen safety standards for these vehicles. We would be very happy to see this bill sent to committee.

The sponsor was surprised by the fact that automobile manufacturers, who were known for their dedication to safety, who had built their reputations and had gained significant market share in North America and throughout the world, were heavily criticized for their inability to manage problems that were identified.

Initially, experts at Toyota denied that there was a problem with the accelerator pedal in the Toyota RAV4. I do not know if that was the only model with that problem, but I am very familiar with the problem, because I experienced it myself. A dealer's first reaction, even if it is not directly responsible, will be to deny the problem. Unfortunately, it is the law of supply and demand that prevails: the person selling a product always has more information than the person buying it.

Over the years, legislation has been passed to protect consumers—car buyers, in this case. It makes sense to extend this protection, given that problems are increasingly complex because of the sophisticated technology that goes into cars today. It used to be that we would take our car to any garage, where any mechanic could look at the problem and say whether it was a common problem and what caused it. Now, we need computers to do that. Sometimes, the mechanic even needs to have technical knowledge that not every garage operator we take our car to can necessarily afford.

Although certain protections in the act once met the technology and consumer protection requirements, new realities mean new needs. The Bloc Québécois is very open to referring this bill to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities for review.

The bill would make four major amendments to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. First, it would introduce the concept of safety-related defect. As I said, because of new technology, this is something that needs to be done. The bill would also give the minister new powers to recall vehicles and equipment if he makes a preliminary determination that they contain a safety-related defect.

Unfortunately, automobile manufacturers—and I do not want to target any specific one—are in business to make a profit, and safety concerns, while they do exist, are often somewhat secondary. And this does not happen solely in the automobile sector. We have seen it in the financial sector with the financial crisis we have just experienced.

A third element is to create an early warning system, which requires manufacturers to provide the minister with quarterly updates on potential safety-related defects based on data from domestic and foreign sources. One final element is the mandatory installation of a brake-override system in vehicles that employ an electronic throttle control system. This is in reference to the recent problems that we have seen with certain Toyota models.

For all of these reasons, I believe that this is completely normal, and I imagine that all of the parties in this House want this bill to be studied in more detail and would perhaps like to improve it. However, it certainly would meet an essential need regarding safety on our streets as well as the consumer's right to purchase a product over which they have little control and in which they have a great deal of confidence.

Proactive Enforcement and Defect Accountability Legislation (PEDAL) Act
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to debate and support Bill C-511.

The NDP also has Bill C-513 from the member for Elmwood—Transcona, which would enhance the bill if we could get some amendments made to it. Some key elements are missing from the bill, but this is a good start and an important one.

I want to note a statement, and it is important to put this in context. As things currently stand in Canada, there is very little protection for consumers and public safety under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act as it currently stands. Basically we allow decisions in Washington and Tokyo to decide what vehicles are on the road in Canada and what can be recalled, as we really have very little enforcement power.

We have also seen, through the Toyota case, Canada being treated as a second-class citizen. The government's behaviour in this action has been rather troubling. Quite frankly, it has been ignorant of this issue and has not been willing to move forward with changes to legislation. I do not understand, when there has been support offered by myself and others to move on this, why we have not done so.

The result has been the treatment of Canada by Toyota as an example. In the United States, it was fined the largest fine possible under its act. It promised the United States over $100 million for a new research training and safety centre. Canada is getting nothing. It provided its citizens with different recall supports than in Canada. Therefore, Canadian consumers were treated differently.

In fact, when the original recall took place, I wrote Toyota Canada and asked it to at least treat Canadians the same. I wrote Toyota on November 26 for the first time. Although it contacted the American customers individually, it refused to do so for Canadian customers.

There is a history that is now backed up with facts. Later today I will discuss how some of Toyota's investors are now suing it because they believe it withheld information.

The one case that I want to talk about, and a statement I am going to read, is from Mr. Ron Eves, whose partner is Lori Eves. They lost their son Christopher in a car accident in Washington. This is Mr. Eves statement about the situation that took place in 2007.

The minister told the Eves family that he would investigate this matter, but he has yet to do so. Members will hear the circumstances, which are very important, as well as the credibility of the witnesses.

This is what Mr. Eves has to say:

As a Canadian my experience the past three years has been appalling. One would expect the federal government whose responsibility it is to ensure the public's safety with regards to motor vehicles would take seriously a potentially suspicious single-vehicle accident that resulted in the death of the driver. The fact that the manufacturer has gone out of its way to obfuscate and ignore examining in detail the vehicle, the electronic data recorder, and the possible issues the accident raises should be alarming and initiate an immediate comprehensive investigation by the regulator, Transport Canada. This has not been the case which should be extremely troubling to all Canadians, drivers or not, since we all are affected by the vehicles on our roads. Before I continue, I would like to make one thing perfectly clear, my family is not suing Toyota and we are not involved in any litigation for monetary compensation. We only seek the truth of what happened to our son and to ensure that the reforms needed take place actually happen so that all of us are protected.

My son Chris was killed in a mysterious single-vehicle crash in Washington State when he drove off a highway and hit a tree on October 26, 2007. As a former police officer I examined the vehicle and found hair and scalp tissue near the gas pedal which would indicate he was reaching down there to potentially release the gas pedal or floor mat when the accident occurred. I had a veteran accident investigator with more than 25 years experience examine the scene. His analysis raised more questions.

I asked Toyota to reveal the contents of the electronic data recorder and the company refused. Earlier this I asked then [minister of transport] for help and he said that he would. To date he has not.

I reached out to the United States Senator from the State of Washington, Maria Cantwell. She agreed to help me. During committee hearings in Washington in front of the U.S. Senate Commerce committee in March of this year she asked Yoshimi Inaba, President of Toyota Motor North America, to provide that readout from the electronic data reader to our family. He agreed to do that.

The results, taken by Toyota in early April, indicated that the truck was travelling at roughly 75 miles per hour, but somehow accelerated by 177 mph after hitting a tree.

William Rosenbluth, an expert in electronic data readers, the “black boxes”, who has been assisting our family, has stated that the readout from Toyota was flawed and incomplete. Even with this incorrect or flawed readout Toyota refused to examine the situation further.

Then in August a strange turn of events took place. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a rare subpoena to William Rosenbluth to obtain the electronic data reader of our son's vehicle.

Finally, on September 15, Toyota Motor Corporation admitted publicly that they had a software bug in the device used to read the electronic data readers. This exposed the fact that Toyota cannot be trusted to use data from these recorders in regards to sudden unintended acceleration. This is the opinion of Clarence Ditlow, the Executive Director of Centre for Auto Safety, an expert in the field.

Our family's situation demonstrates a few facts:

1. That we did not get the assistance needed or the protection we should have from our government.

2. We were helped by U.S. regulators and politicians. During the entire Toyota recall episode there are many others including the general public who found out more from U.S. sources, regulators, and government agencies than from our own Canadian government or our Canadian regulator, Transport Canada.

3. This inadequate and unacceptable circumstance demonstrates the need for reforms to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act to modernize the tools and enforcement powers of the regulator Transport Canada. We have to change the law.

4. Also we have to put more resources, money and personnel, into the regulator. Having the best laws on the books does not mean anything if we don't enforce them and that takes funding and people.

I thank Ron and Lori Eves for this gift to the country and their advocacy, because if they had not done so, their case would be diminished for sure. They are doing this as good Canadian citizens. Sadly, this took place in 2007 and there has been no action from the government. Chris' vehicle, although it crashed in Washington state, could have crashed as well in Canada because the Toyota Tundra was made in one factory but it has the same elements across the world. This is a serious issue.

What is sad about this issue is that when I asked Toyota why it was treating Canadians differently with regard to this matter, it simply fluffed it aside. I received a letter back on December 1 from Toyota and it basically brushed this under the carpet, so to speak. What is sad is that our government said, on November 26, 2009, after it had been providing uniquely better service and provisions to the United States already, that Transport Canada applauds Toyota's actions to protect consumers.

What we found out later was that the list of vehicles and some of the problems with those vehicles, especially in the letter that Toyota wrote back to me, would grow exponentially and recalls would grow exponentially. What is sad about this situation is that the government and the department have a cozy relationship with Toyota. Maybe it has it with others, I do not know, but that is not in the interest of public safety. It is well documented that it is short on staff. What this bill attempts to do is bring some greater accountability to it.

We also want to explore other issues in the bill, which I will highlight in a couple of minutes. However, I want to again note the way things stand right now in this country. Despite everything we have gone through, Toyota had several ways to correct the situation along the line and it refused to do so, and we say that is wrong.

What do we want to do? The member for Elmwood—Transcona has a great bill that would enhance this bill, Bill C-513, which has elements in it that would create more of a balance in this bill. In particular, it deals with the black boxes, which is why I read the Eaves' story. It gave some public as well as some consumer rights advocacy for the black box information and ensure there are industry standards to which people can actually get access and can prove whether their accident was the fault of the vehicle manufacturer or the driver, which is a critical element in this.

I have other important issues but I know I must wrap up right now. I do, however, want to say that the government has failed Canadians. A famous line used in the United States was that Toyota was safety-deaf. The Conservative government has been voiceless on this issue. We are hoping--