Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill S-5. First of all, I will say that this will likely not be my longest speech in the six years that I have been sitting here in the House of Commons, because the Bloc Québécois believes that the bill is merely a formality and that Canada must fulfill its obligations under NAFTA, which was signed by Canada, the United States and Mexico.
So, as I just mentioned, Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, is just a formality. Under NAFTA, we must accept the importation of used vehicles from Mexico. Of course, we must ensure that these used vehicles comply with our environmental and safety standards. Earlier, the minister of state mentioned regulations that will be adopted soon, or as quickly as possible, I hope, before these vehicles cross the border into Canada.
The government says that it has consulted Quebec, the provinces and the territories, which have to be consulted because Quebec and the provinces are responsible for licensing vehicles. Members of the Bloc Québécois have not heard of any particular concerns on the part of the Government of Quebec about this bill because Quebec agrees with NAFTA and agrees that the government should fulfill its obligations. That is what the Government of Canada has to do with Bill S-5. It should have been done before now. This is not the first time the government has taken more time than expected with certain legislation. No doubt this is because it spends more time thinking about elections or proroguing Parliament. Those are definitely the kinds of things that could have ended up delaying the bill before us today.
The minister of state may have been feeling optimistic, or he may even have been wearing his rose-coloured glasses, when he said that this bill would benefit people. That is a bit of an exaggeration. I do not see what is so beneficial about fulfilling our obligations with respect to a free trade agreement. In a way, it may benefit consumers by opening up the used vehicle market. Cars from Mexico—except those near the sea that get corroded because of the salt—have not gone through the harsh winters we have here in Quebec and Canada, or even in the northern United States. That means that some cars, while they may be older, may be rust-free. However, as I said, cars used near the sea may have body rust from the salt.
I am not an expert, but like many people, I have bought cars. Younger people especially tend to buy used cars. Early in my career, when I was just out of university, I, too, drove cars that might be called clunkers, but they were in decent shape and not a public menace.
The first thing that must be done is a proper inspection of the vehicle's engine and body. Although some vehicles may be of interest, I do not really expect that we will be faced with a huge influx of used cars from Mexico. What we must do is ensure that clear and strict environmental regulations are adopted. The general state of these vehicles and their polluting emissions must be very carefully checked so that people do not find themselves with vehicles that are a hazard to health or to the safety of other road users. When I speak of road users, I am referring not only to the driver and passengers of the vehicle in question, but also to the other people sharing the road with them and, of course, pedestrians.
The government therefore has an obligation to ensure that these vehicles meet all the required standards. We must now face the fact that, under the agreement, used vehicles from Mexico can cross our border, just like vehicles from the United States. A free trade agreement goes both ways. If our vehicles can cross the border to be sold, then American and Mexican vehicles must be allowed to cross into Canada for the same purpose.
The Bloc Québécois thus supports Bill S-5, the main purpose of which is to comply with obligations under NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, regarding the importation of used vehicles from Mexico.
Used vehicles imported from Mexico will have to meet Canadian emissions standards and be in generally good condition in order to be brought into Canada. Accordingly, this does not mean reduced standards in Canada. Individuals who wish to sell vehicles here will have to comply with very strict standards and regulations.
The bill also requires compliance with standards regarding harmful emissions and safety. We realize how dangerous it is to have unsafe vehicles on the road. We are enacting more and more regulations in that regard, such as the regulations on winter tires, for instance. In Quebec, it is now mandatory that all vehicles have winter tires as of December 15. That date is fast approaching, so the public should take notice.
Bills concerning harmful emissions are also being studied. Vehicles on the road can become a little older, especially in times of economic crisis. People think twice before getting a new car. There is no problem with having a car that is a little older, as long as it is well maintained and properly equipped in terms of safety.
Given that Canada could face sanctions for prolonged non-compliance with NAFTA obligations, our domestic legislation should reflect those obligations as soon as possible, since Mexico could indeed impose sanctions on Canada. There is some good news, however: the minister of state said earlier that no sanctions have been imposed so far. As my hon. Liberal colleague just said, I think the members of the House have no choice but to support Bill S-5.
The main objective of this bill is to ensure that we comply with a NAFTA provision that is being phased in. Canada is behind by nearly a year, since we were supposed to comply with it by January 1, 2009. Knowing that we have a bill that is very likely to pass and come into force, Mexico might play nicely and decide not to make any trouble for Canada, but it could still impose sanctions.
Until recently, Appendix 300-A.1 of NAFTA allowed Canada to prohibit imports of used Mexican cars, but there was also a provision whereby Canada would eventually have to accept used vehicles from Mexico. This restriction will be phased out, as the wording in the fourth paragraph of the appendix indicates.
According to the wording, Canada must allow imports of used vehicles from Mexico that are at least 10 years old beginning January 1, 2009. Then Canada has to allow imports of newer vehicles—those that are at least eight years old—beginning January 1, 2011, then those that are at least six years old beginning January 1, 2013, and so on until all used vehicles are allowed to be imported beginning January 1, 2019.
Bill S-5 amends the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which both govern the use and importation of used vehicles from the United States, but not from Mexico. We have to amend these acts, which affected only the market for used vehicles from the United States.
In the amendments, Mexican cars have been added and described as “prescribed vehicles” since the phasing in of the NAFTA appendix allows Canada to regulate this import by restricting the age of the cars imported. In all cases, the used American or Mexican cars will have to comply with the requirements set by Canada on emissions and overall state of repair.
Failure to comply with NAFTA could result in economic retaliation by Mexico and therefore it is preferable that we conform to NAFTA quickly.
I will close by giving some details from paragraph 4 of NAFTA Appendix 300-A.1, which I just mentioned. It is very clear. Concerning used vehicles, it says:
4. Canada may adopt or maintain prohibitions or restrictions on imports of used vehicles from the territory of Mexico, except as follows:
(a) beginning January 1, 2009, Canada may not adopt or maintain a prohibition or restriction on imports from the territory of Mexico of originating used vehicles that are at least 10 years old;
(b) beginning January 1, 2011, Canada may not adopt or maintain a prohibition or restriction on imports from the territory of Mexico of originating used vehicles that are at least eight years old;
(c) beginning January 1, 2013, Canada may not adopt or maintain a prohibition or restriction on imports from the territory of Mexico of originating used vehicles that are at least six years old;
(d) beginning January 1, 2015, Canada may not adopt or maintain a prohibition or restriction on imports from the territory of Mexico of originating used vehicles that are at least four years old;
(e) beginning January 1, 2017, Canada may not adopt or maintain a prohibition or restriction on imports from the territory of Mexico of originating used vehicles that are at least two years old; and
(f) beginning January 1, 2019, Canada may not adopt or maintain a prohibition or restriction on imports from the territory of Mexico of originating used vehicles.
So there will no longer be limits regarding the age of the automobile. This bill will allow us to respect the agreement signed with the United States and Mexico. All of these measures were set out in Appendix 300-A.1 of NAFTA.
We want to ensure—and I am repeating this because it is very important—that we are respecting the regulations, which will be very strict. These regulations will apply to vehicles and how well they work, as well as their overall condition so that we do not end up with dangerous vehicles. They will also apply to the vehicles' emissions because these automobiles will be fairly old to begin with: 10 years or older, then 8 years or older, and then 6 years or older.
Consequently, we must ensure that the standards established in Canada for our automobiles and for vehicles coming from the United States are respected, even if these vehicles are imported from Mexico. We must not end up with vehicles that pollute. That would be unfortunate and damaging to our environment.
I ask everyone in the House to vote in favour of Bill S-5 so that we will be complying with NAFTA. The Bloc Québécois will monitor the regulations to ensure that these vehicles comply as they should.