Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. Minister of State of Foreign Affairs for the Americas for bringing this to the attention of the House and to Canadians. On the same lines, I rise today to speak about Bill S-5, Ensuring Safe Vehicles Imported from Mexico for Canadians Act.
I will admit that this is one of the more mundane issues that I and my fellow members are asked to speak on as part of our daily debates in the House, but the utility in the bill is very clear both in terms of our country's international trade obligations and the safety of our citizens.
In fact, even though Bill S-5 is described as updating laws to comply with NAFTA, I would argue that Bill S-5 is about putting the interests of Canadians first.
When it comes to the safety standards that Canada places on cars we are a more strict country than most others in the world. This has meant that many used cars that are being sold at the retail level in other countries do not always meet Canada's safety requirements. However, the United States also has very tough safety standards as the hon. minister mentioned earlier.
In the case of American cars, Canada requires a declaration from the importer that the car will be brought up to regulation before hitting the road. Mexico has been held to a different standard however. It is finally time for Mexican automobiles to be given the same opportunity as American vehicles to be imported into Canada.
Bill S-5 is about treating our free trade partners equally and creating a level playing field within the context of NAFTA. It is also about fulfilling the obligations that we agreed to in this treaty.
Bill S-5 amends the Motor Vehicle Safety Act to allow for Mexico to be brought up to that same treatment. But in doing this, it is important that Canada does not compromise its own standards, particularly when it comes to the safety of our citizens. This is how we arrive at Bill S-5 today.
NAFTA has created jobs, growth and a sense of internationalism between our three countries and it is important that we continue to show respect for the parameters we signed onto in 1993. This is the evolution of this trade agreement and it also demonstrates that Canada has the ability to maintain control of the priorities that we hold as important.
The first aspect of the bill is ensuring that vehicles are ready for the road and that they present no undue risk to Canadians. The second aspect of the bill has to do with ensuring these vehicles present no undue risk to the environment. I come from the riding of Newton—North Delta. In the backyard of my riding we have the Burns Bog. The citizens of my riding bring questions on the environment to me. On this particular issue there are the same questions that will be asked. I can assure them that if we are going to be allowing Mexican vehicles into this country based on a mere declaration, the act must be amended to allow for such a privilege, where we make sure that those safety standards and the environmental standards are up to speed and meet Canadian requirements.
The mechanics of the bill are far from exciting. These are the technical details that allow Canada to live up to our international obligations to ensure that NAFTA continues to propel the three partners forward.
Ultimately, as members of Parliament we have a more important obligation to our constituents. We have an obligation, as I mentioned earlier, to ensure that our roads are safe and that vehicles do not present a risk to drivers on the road. We also have an obligation to ensure that our environment be considered for our own health and for the health of future generations.
I would like to conclude with how an elementary issue such as this has been handled by the government. After taking two full years, and five full years into government, the Conservative government is finally realizing that we should fulfill our obligations.
Canada has had a commitment under NAFTA to our partner in Mexico since 1993 to change our laws and allow used Mexican cars. We were supposed to do it in 2009, as the hon. minister mentioned earlier, but here we are at the end of 2010 and it is still not done. Once again, this is a bill that was pushed aside because of prorogation and the government playing political games with the nation's agenda.
Canadians are tired of a government that looks at every issue as a means to achieve a political advantage. With the government, it is all the same, regardless of whether the issue is a major plank in its policy platform or a technical yet necessary bill like Bill S-5.
If Canadians wonder why the House seems so prone to dysfunction, they only need to look across at the tactics of the government to understand why.
It is time we put the priorities of the country first above all other considerations. I am glad that Bill S-5 was brought forward and that we will meet our international obligations. At the same time, we will ensure that Canadian drivers and occupants of vehicles are safe. Also, we want to ensure we protect the environmental standard for generations to come as they should be able to enjoy a better and cleaner environment.
I recommend that Bill S-5 be passed for second reading for due diligence. I look forward to ensuring that we as a country live up to our international obligations.