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.