Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise, on behalf of the Liberal Party, to speak to Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. The short title of the bill is “Ensuring Safe Vehicles Imported from Mexico for Canadians Act”.
This was introduced in the Senate on April 14. The purpose of the bill is to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Canadian Environment Protection Act to allow for the importation of used vehicles from Mexico, subject to certain conditions. These amendments are necessary to ensure that Canada is in compliance with its international trade obligations under NAFTA.
Everyone knows what NAFTA is. It is the free trade agreement that was signed between Canada, the United States and Mexico. Its objectives were to eliminate trade barriers and facilitate cross-border movement of goods. NAFTA, like all free trade agreements, establishes reciprocal rights and obligations for all parties to the agreement. Thus any trade benefit or rights that are granted in the agreement apply to all parties.
There has been some inconsistency or incongruity in the application of NAFTA where it concerns Mexico. There are some amendments to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act which would allow for used vehicles from the United States, previously sold at the retail value in the United States, that failed to meet the Canadian safety standards, to be imported into Canada on condition that the person importing the car would make a declaration that before the vehicle would be presented for registration, it would be made to conform with safety requirements. This is to allow importers of used vehicles from the United States the time to bring their vehicles up to the stringent Canadian safety standards.
The amendment to this section therefore would also extend to importation of used vehicles from Mexico that fail to meet Canadian safety standard requirements. These are important because there have been restrictions on vehicles from Mexico and not from the United States. As a partner of NAFTA, this will provide the mechanism to ensure vehicles that are sold in Canada meet Canadian safety requirements.
Bill S-5 would also amend the Canadian Environment Protection Act to allow for the importation of used vehicles from Mexico with certain conditions applied. The CEPA is necessary because any vehicle that comes into Canada has to meet our CEPA standards.
Simply put, Bill S-5 would bring Canada into compliance with its NAFTA obligation regarding the importation of used cars from Mexico. Although NAFTA was signed approximately two decades ago, several provisions were delayed. This is one of those provisions. When NAFTA was signed, Canada reserved the right to maintain all our restrictions on used vehicles until January 1, 2009. Since then, we have embarked on a 10 year process to phase out all of Canada's restrictions.
Currently, when used vehicles are imported into Canada from the United States, they do not have to meet our environmental and safety standards as they cross the border. However, as I mentioned, the owner must commit to ensuring that before he or she registers and licenses the vehicle, the necessary repairs and upgrades have been made so the vehicle is compliant. This is a really straightforward concept. We do not want cars that keep on emitting greenhouse gases because they have not been properly maintained. I listened to the debate and presentations on this.
We have problems in the third world, for example, with recycled and reconditioned cars. In Japan, for example, where after four years a car cannot be utilized and must be disposed of, those cars are reconditioned and sent off to third world countries. The cycle of cars going from one country to another without meeting proper environmental standards is problematic for us if we do not enforce the legislation.
The legislation would rectify an incongruity. The odd thing about that is that permission was not granted to vehicles imported from Mexico despite the fact that it is a NAFTA partner, so Bill S-5 attempts to rectify the incongruity.
The bill deals with two sets of regulations, the Canada vehicle safety regulation and Canada's environmental regulations, both of which are critical for the safe and clean operation of motor vehicles in Canada. Used vehicles imported into Canada from any location must meet both our safety and environmental regulations. I do not think anyone in the House would oppose this type of regulation. However, I would argue that it makes sense for us to allow the importers of these used vehicles to bring them into Canada for the upgrades necessary to bring them up to standard.
If our laws continue to prevent that work from being done in Canada, we would be punishing our auto mechanics. If used cars are at our borders, and we are not saying there are thousands of vehicles at the borders, and we allow the Mexican businesses to look after it, we would lose a lot of ground for our own auto mechanics. As part of NAFTA, we cannot give up that portion of the job creation that we would have. Plus, we have environmental standards that need to be met and our environmental standards are probably not the same as the ones in Mexico.
I believe it is an important aspect that those vehicles should come here for upgrades instead of allowing the advantage to go to some other country.
What I do not understand is why it took the government so long to introduce the measure because, as I mentioned, it was January 1, 2009 when we were supposed to implement the restrictions on used vehicles and it has taken until 2010 for the government to bring about these changes. The delay cannot be attributed to the opposition. Sometimes the government has a tendency to say that every delay on every bill is an opposition problem and because it was introduced late in the Senate, we need to move it quickly to ensure that it can go to committee for a better review.
What are the implications of the bill? The obvious implication of the bill is that the Canadian market may see more used cars from Mexico for sale domestically as a consequence of the increased liberalization of trade in used vehicles. The bill, however, proposes amendments to these two pieces of legislation in order to maintain a consistency in the level and safety standards of all vehicles being used in Canada regardless of whether they are used or whether they have been imported from the United States or Mexico.
If we look at what the stakeholders have said, the Imported Vehicle Owner's Association of Canada, which claims to represent hundreds of businesses and thousands of individuals who import vehicles into Canada, it indicated that it was in support of this amendment. The Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association has yet to present its views on this. If we are to ensure safety, consistency and congruence with NAFTA, I would like to see that the bill goes to committee.
It is important that Canada live up to its NAFTA commitments. There is no evidence to suggest there is a caravan of dirty, unsafe Mexican cars waiting at our borders. Bill S-5 would not weaken our environmental or safety laws but we need to send it to committee to ensure that a thorough analysis is done. We should let the committee do its job and listen to various witnesses.