Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill S-2, an act to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, otherwise known as the strengthening motor vehicle safety for Canadians act.
The safety of Canadians is of high importance to this government, and this bill will help further ensure Canadians can enjoy peace of mind while driving on our roads.
The rapid development of automated and connected technologies for light duty vehicles is of great interest to this government. This summer I had the pleasure of attending the conference of U.S. governors in Rhode Island, where we were treated to a talk by Elon Musk, the owner of Tesla, about the advent of fully autonomous vehicles, which can fully drive themselves without the aid of a driver.
He predicted that this type of vehicle will replace human-operated cars in the next 15 years, so members should enjoy their cars while they can. The prototypes of some of these vehicles are already undergoing on-road testing in the U.S. This exciting area of vehicle technology development can be seen as both a safety benefit and an economic innovation opportunity.
Shifts in the global technology landscape are placing a growing reliance on vehicle safety innovation while transforming business practices and consumer demands. These emerging and disruptive technologies offer promising opportunities for economic safety and environmental benefits, as well as a number of regulatory challenges. The challenges at the pace of change associated with these technologies, and how they are transforming the motor vehicle sector, is rapidly increasing while the regulatory process remains unchanged.
New technologies offer promising opportunities for improving road transportation, including the environmental impact of vehicles. However, these technologies can be challenging in terms of safety oversight. Much of the technological safety of a vehicle cannot be seen by the naked eye. From the outside, two vehicles may look the same, but many of the safety elements are internal to the structure or operating system of the vehicle.
Safety standards include those related to crashworthiness and crash avoidance. Crashworthiness or how to survive once one is in a collision standards include those related to front and side impacts. As we shift to new technologies and building materials, we need to ensure that this survivability is not compromised.
Personally, I prefer the second element of crash avoidance. These crash avoidance technologies allow drivers to detect and avoid collisions. One example of such a technology is electronic stability control, which has been mandated on new vehicles since 2011. For this type of technology, we need to ensure that the promises made by the developers are accurate, as consumers will be relying on these technologies. The speed and scope at which new technologies are being developed and implemented is challenging the status quo and is testing the ability of governments to respond in a timely manner.
Canadian industry and businesses need to understand, adopt, and deploy new innovations and business models to stay competitive and better position Canada for success in leveraging the full potential of emerging and disruptive technologies.
I had the opportunity to hear some of the debate on Bill S-2. Many of the issues that are involved in Bill S-2 have already been discussed in full, including the Auditor General's Report No. 4 from 2016, which my hon. friend and chair of the public accounts committee, the member for Battle River—Crowfoot, discussed yesterday at length. Therefore, I will be limiting my time today to the regulatory issues that are involved in Bill S-2.
I want to focus on motor vehicle technologies that are regulated. The legislation needs to be flexible and adaptive to promote Canadian leadership and to give Canadians access to these new technologies as quickly as practically possible. The regulations are aimed at keeping Canadians safe, but cannot be so rigid that they delay the introduction of new vehicle safety technologies or fuel systems. There is a balance to be struck there.
These proposed improvements to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act have been developed to address these and a number of other important challenges. Currently, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act includes a provision for interim orders. An interim order allows a Canadian regulation that corresponds to a foreign regulation to be suspended or modified if there is a change by that foreign government.
Currently, interim orders can only suspend or modify a Canadian regulation for one year, which does not reflect that some regulations could take longer to develop, particularly if they deal with a very technical subject matter. As such, Bill S-2 proposes to extend the period of an interim order to three years to reflect the typical length of time required to complete the full regulatory process for such a technical requirement.
The bill also introduces suspension orders, which would allow for the suspension or modification of existing Canadian regulations. For this type of order, a foreign government's enactment or regulation is not required. In this way, Canada would have a tool to lead the way in regulatory development to address new and emerging technologies. This process would permit the Minister of Transport to allow newer technology solutions, when appropriate, to take effect more quickly. The order would be in place for up to three years.
Both these tools would increase the flexibility of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act to address an ever-changing landscape related to the automotive industry. These orders would be published, and would apply to all manufacturers equally in order to provide a level playing field.
Another tool currently available in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act is an exemption order. These orders allow the minister to exempt a model of vehicle from a regulation.
Currently, exemption orders are only valid for one year and require approval from the Governor in Council. An exemption is requested by the regulated body, and it is up to that entity to demonstrate that safety is not negatively affected. An example of this type of request would be if a manufacturer applied to not meet a rearview mirror regulation in order to install instead a rearview camera that performed the same function or improved on the existing function.
As these requests are very technical in nature, under these proposed changes the minister would be given the power to decide, based on the best evidence, and I would think common sense, whether it is in the interest of safety to grant the exemption. The duration of the exemption would apply for three years to allow sufficient time to determine what technical regulatory requirements would be appropriate, and to allow time for the manufacturer to implement and use the proposed technology.
The exemption would only apply on that model of vehicle, but the exemption would be made public, again, this is very important, allowing other manufacturers to be knowledgeable about options for advancing their own technologies.
In summary, the automotive industry is changing very rapidly, and vehicle technologies are making vehicles safer and more fuel efficient. However, these changes are challenging our regulatory capacity to assess and apply them in the Canadian context in a timely fashion. This act would include a number of tools that would allow adoption of regulations already available in another country, and the ability to create new short-term regulatory changes in advance of a full regulation being available.
This represents a new regulatory process for Canada for the next century, will increase safety and fuel efficiency on our roads, and help Canada be an important player for the next generation of automobile innovation.
Madam Speaker, I neglected to say that I will be sharing my time. I am sorry, but I do not know who I will be sharing it with, but if there is another speaker, I will be sharing that time.