Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few moments to speak to Bill C-273, An Act to amend the Competition Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (right to repair).
This government takes private members' business seriously. In the case of Bill C-273, the spirit of the bill is in the right place and, for this reason, the government wishes to support it. The government will, however, be seeking amendments should the bill progress to committee stage.
Before I get into the details of some of the reasons that the government will be seeking amendments, I would like to acknowledge the work that the member for Windsor West has done on this bill.
I also would like to highlight some areas in which, I think, all parliamentarians can agree.
First, I am sure that all members of Parliament are concerned with the recent economic challenges and the effects of these challenges on Canadians and Canadian businesses. The government has acted quickly in addressing these concerns through the Budget Implementation Act.
Second, members opposite must recognize the government's commitment to protecting Canadians and businesses from crime, abuse and economic uncertainty through its ambitious legislative agenda. In these times of economic uncertainty, it is important for the government to act in a manner that directly addresses what is most important to people's lives and economic security.
Third, all members of the House were elected to represent our constituents' interests to the best of our ability. This does not mean that parliamentarians will always agree but I would hope that members opposite will accept my remarks today in that spirit.
Finally, I am sure that all members believe in supporting a competitive economy that benefits businesses and consumers. The government has been working hard to support Canadian businesses to be stable and more efficient.
Let us be clear on one thing: healthy competition is the best way of empowering consumers and that is what the Competition Act sets out to do.
When companies compete with one another for a consumer's dollar, it opens the door to lower prices, better services and wider product selection, all of which benefit consumers.
There are many who believe a voluntary system rather than a legislated approach to aftermarket issues would satisfy the needs of the Canadian aftermarket auto repair industry. There are benefits to establishing a voluntary system, aside from the obvious benefit of keeping government out of regulating how businesses run their affairs. A voluntary system would, for example, have the flexibility to evolve over time so it addresses changes in technology as they arise, which is one of the root causes of the aftermarket concerns.
With that in mind, in April of this year, the Minister of Industry sent a strongly worded letter to all automakers calling on them to develop a voluntary accord here in Canada. I am pleased to say that there has been progress. Representatives of the vehicle manufacturers and aftermarket industries met last month to begin discussions on the development of a voluntary accord. Most parties have signed on to a process and timeframe to draft this agreement.
One of the signatories is the National Automotive Trades Association, or NATA. NATA represents a large portion of the aftermarket repair shops across the country. It had this to say in a recent letter to its members and to the public:
NATA has publicly stated that in absence of a voluntary agreement it would participate in the legislative process. Now that we have a commitment from the Canadian auto manufacturers, we do not believe legislation is necessary.
I would like to more directly address some of the government's concerns with this private member's bill. The bill seeks to amend the Competition Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. I will be focusing my comments today on concerns raised by amending the Competition Act in the way that the bill proposes.
As members opposite know, the Competition Act is framework legislation, the enforcement of which has wide-ranging implications for the Canadian economy.
Even before the recent improvements contained in the Budget Implementation Act, the Competition Act was generally considered to be effective legislation.
Consultations on changes to the act have taken years to complete and have assisted the competition policy review panel in its assessment of Canada's competition and investment policies. This government has acted on the recommendations of the panel to ensure that the Competition Bureau has the tools it needs to continue to be effective in the years to come.
As all members of the House know, Bill C-273 proposes an amendment to section 75, refusal to deal, of the Competition Act by adding to the definition of product, for the purpose of that section, technical information that is required by a person in order to provide a service to a customer.
The member opposite may believe that this small change to the Competition Act will help to address the issues in the auto repair sector but this is not the case. This amendment to the Competition Act is problematic in at least two significant ways.
First, the amendment could have serious, unintended consequences. Bill C-273 has not been drafted in a way that applies only to the automotive industry to strictly address the right to repair issue. The proposed change to the definition of product could impact on all industries and all relevant bureau investigations under section 75. Such an amendment could raise questions regarding safety issues or intellectual property rights, which could cause other concerns that I do not intend to address today.
Second, amending the Competition Act to address the right to repair issue is not necessary. This issue can already be reviewed under section 75 or section 79, abuse of dominance, of the Competition Act. In the case of section 75, refusal to deal, if a party could establish that the inability to obtain the technical information was the result of another's refusal to provide a product as currently defined would satisfy the other elements of section 75. They would be able to address those concerns under the act.
Either the Competition Bureau or the affected party could make an application to the Competition Tribunal for a remedy. Another way to address this is that the bureau could make an application to the Competition Tribunal for a remedy if a party could establish that the refusal to supply the technical information was an anti-competitive practice and could establish the other elements of section 79, abuse of dominance.
Given the avenues already existing under the Competition Act to review the right to repair issue in the appropriate case and given the unintended consequences that could result from the proposed change to the definition of product, the government will be seeking to remove this Competition Act amendment during the committee stage.
We look forward to more debate on this issue and I am sure t all members will act in the best interests of their constituents.