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.