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.