Madam Chair, thank you for this opportunity to present the results of our audit on the oversight of passenger vehicle safety by Transport Canada.
Joining me at the table are Richard Domingue and Dawn Campbell, who were responsible for the audit.
Vehicle safety technology is evolving faster than regulations and standards. Transport Canada faces challenges in exercising its important role of keeping passenger vehicles safe. An up-to-date regulatory framework and the proper oversight of passenger vehicle safety help to ensure that Canadians are driving the safest vehicles possible. We examined whether Transport Canada's regulatory framework and its oversight of vehicle safety defects and recalls were adequate to respond to emerging safety risks and issues in a timely manner. We noted a number of significant deficiencies in the regulatory framework, including a lack of timeliness, an absence of broad stakeholder consultation, and outdated regulations.
We found that Transport Canada did not develop motor vehicle safety standards to respond to emerging risks and issues in a timely manner. For example, Transport Canada's regulations did not allow vehicles to be equipped with advanced headlights that are controlled by software. At the same time, however, vehicles partially controlled by unregulated software are on Canadian roads.
We found that, in general, Transport Canada waited for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States to develop new or amended standards before proposing regulatory actions in Canada. This reactive approach created significant delays in implementing new standards, and meant that some passenger vehicles were not equipped with the newest safety features available in other countries, such as the aforementioned advanced headlamps. There were lengthy delays—sometimes of more than 10 years—from the time that Transport Canada started to work on an issue to the implementation of new or amended standards.
Prior to making proposed regulations public in the Canada Gazette, Transport Canada consulted with manufacturers but did not engage broadly with stakeholders such as consumer associations, medical associations, and police. Manufacturers may have exercised disproportionate influence on regulatory decision-making.
We found that some important standards were not working as intended, or were outdated. For example, Transport Canada was aware that child seat anchorages could fail under certain conditions, but it had not proposed a new regulation or issued an advisory by the audit completion date. The department stated that introducing a unique-to-Canada requirement for anchorage strength in passenger vehicles would be detrimental to trade.
We also found that Transport Canada did not plan or fund its research and regulatory activities for the longer term. As a result, the department could not prioritize resources and spending decisions accordingly.
Finally, we looked at Transport Canada's oversight and analysis of public complaints and manufacturers' recalls. Overall, we found that the department adequately assessed complaints from the public to identify vehicle safety defects. However, the department did not request information about critical safety issues that manufacturers were investigating. As well, manufacturers issued 318 recalls between 2010 and 2015 for safety-related issues that were not brought to the department's attention. Furthermore, the department did not have the authority to assess whether manufacturers implemented effective processes for identifying and reporting safety defects. This limited the department's ability to investigate defects and better protect Canadians.
We found that Transport Canada adequately assessed vehicle manufacturers' efforts to complete safety recalls. However, manufacturers had difficulty identifying and contacting owners for some recalled passenger vehicles, especially for owners with older vehicles.
Transport Canada has agreed with our seven recommendations and has prepared a detailed action plan.
Madam Chair, this concludes my opening statement.
We would be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have.