Mr. Speaker, first, I want to thank all members for participating in this debate at first and second readings and bringing their thoughts forward. It is an important part of what has happened.
This issue has been around for a number of years. In fact, I researched the bill for a couple of years, going across the country and having people looking at it. The former minister of industry is here today. He took an interest in it. I am sure if he would have remained as minister of industry, perhaps Bill C-273 would not have been necessary.
We are here today because there is a problem with our current system. If we continue to ignore it, it will affect the environment, consumer choice and public safety. Bill C-273 attempts to address that.
I want to touch upon a couple of things that are important and that have been part of the debate. There are voluntary agreements in the Canadian automotive industry right now, but they are still based on the Consumer Protection Act. This bill would specifically address the issue through government legislation.
We have to be clear. In the United States, under the EPA, because of its environmental laws, it created an operating agreement with the original manufacturers so there would be a clear definition. The United States legislation creates the operating agreement as a solution. It still needs to be some work on it because there are some issues with it, but at least it is available to the manufactures. Canada does not have a voluntary agreement or a legislative agreement.
I know NATA, the National Automotive Trades Association, has promised a solution, which is important to recognize. All it can do is promise it might have a voluntary agreement in 2010 at best. It is not worth the paper on which it is printed because, at the end of the day, there could be manufacturers that would opt in or opt out at different times and resolution processes would not available through any type of legislation.
It is also very important not to forget that the automobile industry right now is revolutionizing in many respects. There will also be new entrants into the market. How can we have a voluntary agreement that would be based upon a group of businesses that are all foreign companies? They would have no Canadian legislative backstop to deal with any of the problems. There will be other ones, for example, China, as it emerges into the Canadian market with the Chery. China has over 100 different automotive assembly companies. Not all of them will get into our market, but some will and they could decide not to get into some type of agreement.
This dissipates the reality of having a rules-based system that is fair, open and transparent. The Competition Bureau would then be the arbitrator. The rules could be applied and there would be fairness. There is a whole process in place that could evolve.
That is why we want to get this to committee. We want to see Canadians have the same opportunity. It is important for Canadians to understand that, as things stand right now, they would be treated differently in the United States than in Canada. It is based on nothing more than the fact that it has chosen not to bring this forward to the Canadian public at this time.
When we look at our Canadian technicians in the after-market, it is interesting to note that the men and women have the same training as those in the dealerships, unless they get additional training later on. They have to go through the same type of schooling. In fact, our standards in Canada are better.
Ironically, someone could take a trip to the United States, have something go wrong with the car and go to a facility to have it repaired by a technician with fewer qualifications than a technician in Canada. We are denied that because the proper programs cannot be downloaded or the schooling or training is not provided by the company.
This is not fair, nor is it healthy. One of the reasons we want to deal with this is it is good for the environment. We want to ensure that vehicles are clean and well maintained. It is good for public safety, that cars are fixed and in good operating condition, especially in rural communities where people have to drive hundreds of kilometres to get to an facility. It is also about the consumer's right to choose.
Therefore, we hope the bill will go to committee. I appreciate the fact that there has been a lot of input, both from those who have concerns about it and those who support it. I look forward to working with everyone to ensure we have a fair, rules-based system based on Canadian legislation to protect Canadians.