Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill S-5, which is an act that would amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. This would actually allow used vehicles from Mexico that are less than 15 years old to be imported into Canada.
These amendments are very important because they would enable the Canadian government to meet our obligations, as a country, to the North American Free Trade Agreement and create greater choice in the Canadian vehicle market while maintaining the high safety and environmental standards that Canadians expect.
In order to facilitate the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement with respect to vehicles, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act had to be amended in 1993 to enable the Canadian government to establish a regime to regulate and monitor the importation of vehicles under the purview of the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement.
These changes actually resulted in the creation of the Registrar of Imported Vehicles. These changes to the act provided Canadians with more options in the vehicle market.
Following the implementation of the earlier Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1992. The goal of the North American Free Trade Agreement was, of course, to eliminate barriers to trade and investment between the United States, Canada and Mexico. The agreement came into effect January 1, 1994, which created one of the world's largest free trade zones in the world. That is correct and, in fact, it laid the foundations for strong economic growth and increased prosperity for Canada and Canadians as well as the United States and Mexico.
Since the agreement came into force, the North American Free Trade Agreement has demonstrated how free trade actually increases wealth and competitiveness, delivering real benefits to families, especially here in Canada, to workers, to manufacturers and to consumers who have more choice, more competition, lower prices and a better selection.
It is important to honour the commitments defined in this agreement, as well as to actually deliver on the commitments of the result of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
While this agreement was signed in 1992, the automotive provisions did not come into effect until January 1, 2009.
Now, as with the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement, importation of used Mexican vehicles would begin with older vehicles and gradually expand, over the next 10 years, to include all used vehicles.
Again, I would like to underscore that neither the North American Free Trade Agreement requirements nor the proposed amendments to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 affect the importation of new vehicles built specifically to Canadian standards, nor used vehicles that are over 15 years of age and are, thus, not subject to those standards.
Similar to what occurred under the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, the existing importation provisions in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act need to be updated to comply with NAFTA, which makes sense, and to comply with some of the more strenuous provisions in NAFTA to which we have agreed.
Changes to these acts are necessary in order to implement a regime for regulating and monitoring used vehicles originating from Mexico, since the coming into force date of the North American Free Trade Agreement automotive provisions has obviously just passed almost two years ago.
There is, as a result, a heightened need to amend these two acts so that Canada becomes compliant with its trade obligations and is not subjected to a potential challenge under the North American Free Trade Agreement, which obviously would not benefit our country, our consumers or, generally, Canadians, nor would it benefit United States consumers.
Therefore, I appreciate the co-operation of all members here and all parties to get this bill through.
I want to stress, however, that the government's commitment to the health and the safety of all Canadians would not be compromised at all by these changes. Road safety and the environment are, as members know, matters that the Government of Canada treats extremely seriously. Only vehicles that meet these very high standards we have set for motor vehicle safety and the environment would be allowed into the Canadian fleet.
The government is committed to the goal of making Canada's roads the safest in the world, which includes, by extension, the need to keep our vehicles safe. Our road safety program that emanates from the Motor Vehicle Safety Act is actually based on mandatory performance-based regulations and safety standards and an industry self-certification program to attest that those standards are being met.
We conduct research to enhance the level of safety provided by regulations and we conduct independent compliance testing to verify that the safety standards are, indeed, being met. We hold manufacturers to account in this country. The government's job is to do that, and we are making sure that Canadians remain safe on the roads.
Vehicle safety is, of course, a key component of road safety, as I mentioned. The physical attributes of a vehicle work in conjunction with road infrastructure and with user behaviour to create a systems approach to minimize the number of road collisions and their impact on our society. Nothing has gone further for road safety in this country in the last 30 or 40 years than Canada's economic action plan, our answer to the world economic decline. Rehabilitated roads and investments in new roads certainly keep people safer because of less congestion and less wear and tear, et cetera, on vehicles themselves.
I have met with Transport Canada several times, and I can assure everyone that it is researching and developing new safety standards almost on a daily basis. It is investigating these things. For example, the department itself carefully studied the safety potential of electronic stability control, which of course, has been the rage in the news over the last several years. It did this for all new light vehicles sold in Canada and conducted a cost versus benefit study.
Based on the results from our studies, a new Canada motor vehicle safety standard was proposed, which would require such a system be installed on prescribed vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 4,536 kilograms or less and manufactured on or after September 1, 2011. This is a big step toward the safety of our vehicles.
For people who are interested, this proposal was published in the Canada Gazette, part I, in March 2009. Based on stakeholder submissions, a final regulation was published in the Canada Gazette, part II, in December 2009. The implementation of this Canadian safety standard will reduce the number of collisions in which the driver loses control of the vehicle.
Once fully implemented, it will save hundreds of lives. That is correct. It will save hundreds of lives and prevent thousands upon thousands of injuries to Canadians on a yearly basis. It is great news, indeed, for Canadians and this was done in conjunction with Transport Canada to make sure Canadians stay safe on our roadways.
Our national road safety plan, road safety vision 2010, encompasses a large number of road safety program areas. Specific targets developed by federal, provincial and territorial governments include decreases in the number of road users killed or seriously injured and an increase in the rate of seat belt use and proper use of child restraints. Of course, everyone knows what we are doing as far as child safety goes.
I am pleased to note that we have indeed achieved significant success in reducing death and injuries on Canadian roads. By 2007, the number of deaths from unbelted occupant fatalities was reduced by almost 15% and the number of road users killed in crashes on rural roads by more than 15% when compared with deaths during the 1996-2001 period. The 2008 deaths and serious injuries tolls were 18% and 22% lower, respectively. That is great news and speaks to the hard work that Transport Canada does.
Even as the road safety vision 2010 plan is nearing its conclusion, the government continues to support this initiative and its successor plan, called road safety strategy 2015, and will work with its partners to continue to improve the safety of Canadian roads.
This government is getting it done for Canadians, keeping Canadians and roadways safe and looking to the future in partnership with the specialties of Transport Canada, et cetera. We are getting the job done.