Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House. I welcome all members back. This is my first opportunity to stand and add some of my thoughts on an important piece of legislation.
To begin, I am reflecting on how very important it is during breaks for members to meet with their constituents to get a better sense of the messages they want us to bring to Ottawa. One thing I respect immensely about the Prime Minister is that he continues to challenge members of Parliament to go into their constituencies and represent their constituents' interests here in Ottawa, as opposed to bringing the interests of Ottawa to their constituencies. We need to ensure our priorities are right, and our priorities are to ensure that constituents in our ridings are represented, whether it is in the chamber, in committees, or in our respective caucuses.
It is a pleasure to be back in Ottawa to deal with important government legislation. All legislation is important, but today is special in the sense that we are talking about Bill S-2, legislation that would make a difference in the safety in our communities. It is very important for all of us to understand and appreciate what sort of impact this bill would have.
One of my colleagues mentioned that it is estimated, and I suspect this is a conservative estimate, that 20% of newer vehicles on the roads today have recalls for some sort of manufacturer defect, and there is a substantial cost to that. In addressing that issue, this legislation carries the ball quite far, I would suggest, and I applaud the minister, the parliamentary secretary, and all of those involved in bringing forward the legislation. I appreciate the fine work that the other chamber has done in providing us with the legislation we are debating today.
After listening to my colleagues across the way, I have a couple of comments. A New Democrat representative referred to the fact that we will be expected to look at different types of legislation and then suggested that Bill S-2 should be relatively uncontroversial. It is a piece of legislation that I believe will ultimately receive the support of all members of the House, at least in advancing it to the standing committee, where there will no doubt be a much more detailed analysis of the legislation. If there are ways it can be improved upon, I am sure the committee will attempt to do so, recognizing that where we can do better, we will strive to do so.
With regard to vehicle safety, we need to recognize that there are two jurisdictions that play a critical role, one being the national government. The bill before us today, Bill S-2, is important legislation dealing with manufacturers. Cars do not last a lifetime. Individuals today have two major expenditures: the homes they live in and the vehicles they acquire. Many vehicles are purchased at face value, meaning that if they are brand new, there are certain expectations for those vehicles. The national government plays a critical role in not only ensuring that vehicles are safe but also, to a certain degree, in providing assurances to consumers. That is done through recalls, ensuring that manufacturers take responsibility for their products.
If I walk into a showroom today and buy a nice, brand new, shiny vehicle, and I pull off, and then a month later there is an issue with an airbag or a steering column, I should have some sense that there is going to be a recourse whereby the manufacturer will have to rectify the problem, because it is not my driving that caused the issue; rather, it was a fault or manufacturing-related issue that caused the problem.
We know that situation exists. As I mentioned earlier, it is estimated that over 20% of all manufactured vehicles will at one point or another have something recalled or something that needs to be tweaked or replaced. It can be fairly substantial. It can be somewhat inconsequential in terms of cost, but important in terms of safety. We know those are the types of things we have to face.
Ottawa, in coming up with legislation such as this, is empowering the minister to do certain things we are not able to do today, and I want to focus some attention on a few of those things. However, to speak more broadly about the industry as a whole, we understand and appreciate how important the automobile industry is to our nation in terms of the overall GDP and the impact it has on real middle-class jobs and on our economy in every region of our country. It is not only the manufacturers; it is also the individuals who service the vehicles and those who sell. Major retailers out there are very dependent on the automobile industry. It is an industry I am quite familiar with. My father or other family members have been involved in it in excess of 40 years.
When the average person purchases a car, even though they might think it is the car for them for the rest of their life, very few will purchase a car that will be their car for the rest of their life. Surveys show that an individual will keep a car for six to eight years. After that, they will sell it, but just because they lost interest or decided to go for a new car does not mean that this car leaves the road. It then becomes a second-hand car, and at this point many provincial jurisdictions recognize that we need to ensure that our roads continue to be safe. In my own province, Manitoba, if someone sells a second-hand car, there is an obligation to have it safety-checked, so that whether it is two years, 10 years, or 11 years old, the vehicle is in fact safe for driving.
As provinces continue to look at ways to improve the condition of those second-hand cars on the road, we also have a responsibility to ensure that the new cars that are being sold are safe. Where we can play a role in ensuring they are safer, we should do just that.
When I look at what the legislation specifically does, there are a few things that come to mind, but one of the things that tweaked my interest was how the manufacturers would be financially responsible for correcting a vehicle defect and also have an enhanced responsibility to provide information related to the safety of the vehicle to Transport Canada. That information would go into the Transport Canada data bank.
One of my colleagues made reference to the data bank. If one goes to the motor vehicle safety recalls on the Transport Canada site, one would be amazed at just how detailed that data bank is. For many people who are driving newer vehicles today, whether one, three, or four years old, there is a very good chance there has been a recall of some part on that vehicle, but drivers are just not aware of it.
It is very simple to find out whether a vehicle has been recalled. People visit the website, virtually click on the type and model and the style of the vehicle. The recalls that have taken place will pop up. It is a fantastic databank. I would suggest to all consumers, people who have purchased cars in the last number of years, not to take it for granted just because their vehicle seems to be driving well. They do not have to wait for something to go wrong. There is a fantastic databank that is there to be utilized. One of the things that this legislation is proposing to do is to enhance that databank by requiring additional safety information to be passed on, some of which no doubt will ultimately end up in some form of the databank. I see that as a very strong positive, and I would encourage others to look into it. The minister would have the power to call for additional testing to address safety concerns. That is something that all of us need to be concerned about.
In listening to a number of the Conservatives, it is interesting to hear that they talked a lot about Bill C-62, which is a piece of legislation that the former prime minister, Stephen Harper, had brought to the floor of the House. This is one of the reasons why I am somewhat optimistic that the Conservatives should be onside and wanting to see this legislation pass sooner as opposed to later. I would suggest that the legislation originates not necessarily from the former Conservative government as much as actions that were being taken in the U.S.A. There is a gap between the U.S.A. and Canada related to safety issues and recall processes and procedures and what that government is able to do in comparison to the Government of Canada. I suspect that what we saw was a Conservative government looking at what was happening in the U.S. and then wanting to adopt some of those measures, and I give the Conservatives credit for doing so.
I know that the NDP expressed some concern that this legislation was not in the mandate letter of the current minister. The only thing that I can say to that issue is that just because it is not within a mandate letter does not necessarily mean that the ministers are not looking at still improving the system. We have ministers who are very keen to look at and administer the mandate letters and achieve things within the mandate letter, but there are many other initiatives, and this is one of those. It would appear that, across the way, both the New Democrats and the Conservatives are in general supporting the principle of the legislation, and we see that as a good thing. We look forward to the opposition parties supporting it.
In the legislation, the minister of transport would have the power to order companies to make manufacturers and importers repair a recalled vehicle at no cost to the consumer. For those who use vehicles and have to get vehicles serviced, there is a substantial cost factor to it. As one would obviously argue, why should a consumer, who purchases a brand new vehicle and three months later finds out that there was a defect, have to be financially responsible for recovering or bringing that vehicle up to Canadian safety standards? Enabling the minister to have that additional power or authority is a very strong message that is being sent to the industry.
I do not think we need to say all manufacturers are not taking up their responsibilities to ensure that their vehicles are safe and at the highest quality. We recognize that manufacturers do whatever they can. We have seen manufacturers institute massive recalls well into the billions of dollars.
We understand and appreciate that this legislation is there, because at times, whether today or in the future, a minister should have the authority to do what is being proposed in the legislation. The bill would allow Transport Canada to use monetary penalties or fines to increase safety compliance and to enter into compliance agreements with manufacturers to take additional actions for safety. The legislation would also increase and clarify Transport Canada's vehicle inspection capabilities. It is important that we have a sense of enforcement that is real and tangible, so that if we have a vehicle that needs to be recalled for whatever reason, we would have the ability to ensure that it would be carried out. This is something we see within the proposed legislation.
I look at the legislation as a whole and recognize that what is being proposed by the Senate amendment is ultimately dealt with in the legislation. With the Senate amendment, a company would be required to compensate a dealer for an amount equivalent to at least 1% per month of the price paid by the dealer. The amount would equal an annual interest rate of at least 12%. This arbitrary rate does not take into account the fluctuations in the real financing costs, and therefore the amendment could have the perverse effect of a dealer potentially making more money by not making the repairs, keeping the vehicle on the lot, and charging the manufacturer. Therefore, when we look at the amendment being proposed by the Senate, as much as the intent might have been very good, I do not believe it is required. Within the legislation, the minister would have the authority to have manufacturer defects dealt with, paid for, and recovered by the manufacturers. The minister would have that authority already.
We have to be very careful that, within the Transport Canada legislative framework, it is not required for us to be arbitrary or work between the dealerships and manufacturers. It is very much a consumer issue. At the end of the day, as much as the intent of the Senate's amendment is meant to do well, I do not believe it is required. The opportunity to see dealerships adequately taken care of through the current proposed legislation is there, and the minister would have that authority.
It is interesting that one of my colleagues made reference to the fact that, when we think of recalls, we have to ensure that the priority of manufacturers is to get the vehicles that are actually on the roads dealt with as a first priority. Those vehicles in the large compounds, which we have all seen, will ultimately be on the road, and I suspect there will be modifications made to them before they are sold to the consumer. The bottom line, once all is said and done, is that the legislation before us is all about increasing the safety on Canadian roads, and therefore ensuring that manufacturers and companies take on their responsibilities by providing the type of vehicles that consumers expect when they purchase them. I think this is legislation that we should all be supporting.