Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his grand finale and his great response to the question from my other colleague regarding the consultation process. I also thank him for his speech, which was based on his personal experience.
I want to come back to a comment made by one of our colleagues regarding the idea of moving quickly. If we had moved too quickly, I would not have had the opportunity to talk about what I wanted to share today, that is, comments from some of my constituents on Bill S-2. I really wanted to share these comments with the House, because it is quite rare for Canadians to reach out to us regarding changes to a bill, much less a Senate bill.
I think it is important that all members be aware of what my constituents think. The people who wrote to me are from the small business community, and I will have an opportunity to come back to this a little later in my speech.
My colleague touched on the issue, but I will give a brief overview of the bill. The bill seeks to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and provide the Minister of Transport with the authority to order companies to correct defects without any cost to the consumer. That is key. It should be noted that the current legislation limits Transport Canada's authority to issue safety deficiency notices and to take legal action against the offending manufacturers. The bill also gives the Minister of Transport the authority to fine companies up to $200,000 a day depending on the offence.
However, Transport Canada will also have the authority to impose non-monetary penalties. The bill also gives the Minister of Transport the authority to order a manufacturer to conduct tests on its products. It gives the minister the authority to grant an exemption if the exemption would promote the development of new safety features or new technologies. I think we can all agree that self-driving cars fall into that category. This is the type of thing that we should see coming and I think it is important that the legislation provide for this eventuality. The bill increases the number of notices that companies must issue to consumers when a recall process is initiated. It increases the authority of Transport Canada inspectors to visit plants and request documents and employee testimonies. It gives the Minister of Transport powers that are similar to those of his U.S. counterparts.
This is a major bill that will give a minister a lot of power. Why are we, on this side of the House, going to support a bill that will give so much power to a minister? The answer is simple: it is a matter of safety. The government and MPs have a major role to play in situations like this. Sometimes, we have to give ministers certain powers that go above and beyond what we would normally give them, powers that go beyond the power a minister would usually have, to keep all Canadians, all motorists, and everyone travelling on our roads safe. If something goes wrong with a car when it is travelling at 50 km/h, accidents can happen. Pedestrians or cyclists could be injured. In short, I think it is important that we do something to prevent that.
As I mentioned in my question, we could have moved forward even more quickly if we had dealt with this bill in the spring. The opposition agreed to expedite the process and ensure that the bill was sent to committee more quickly. Just looking at the statistics, there does not seem to be any great sense of urgency. Transport Canada has not taken any legal action against an auto manufacturer because of safety defects since 1993, and the industry seems to have self-regulated fairly well. However, in light of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, sometimes it is necessary to look a bit further ahead and prevent this type of accident. I think that is the main takeaway. This bill will help prevent catastrophes, whether big or small. When opportunities arise to help ensure the safety of Canadians, we must not hesitate to take any action required.
The Senate introduced an amendment to protect dealers. Since the beginning of this debate, members of the government have been telling us that we need to stay out of contractual negotiations between dealers and manufacturers, because that is not our role. They do not seem very supportive of this amendment. However, we need to remember that when this act is passed, if it is passed, it will transform the natural market rules. It will cause changes that may not have been covered in the contracts between dealers and manufacturers. We need to make sure dealers have some protections. That is what I want to talk about.
I have received many letters on this subject from dealers in my riding. One letter, written by Julie Boulanger of Disraeli, Serge Routhier of Thetford Mines, Martin Bizier of East Broughton, and André Ste-Marie of Thetford Mines, urged the House of Commons and the Senate to support these amendments. I will read briefly from the letter these dealers sent me:
Car dealers in your riding and across Canada hope you will support our amendment throughout the entire parliamentary process. Our request is fair and reasonable. Your support for the amended act is vital to Canada's 3,200 car dealers.
Those 3,200 dealers, which are Canadian small businesses, expect us to do the right thing here. They want us to study this in committee so we can get a sense of what they want. Here is another excerpt from the letter:
The Government of Canada and the Canadian auto industry have been working to harmonize auto policies with the United States for many years. Our industry is integrated on a continental level, and regulatory and legislative harmony between Canada and the U.S. should be a primary objective in the sector. With this new government power over the recall process, our amendment will ensure that auto dealers who are caught in the middle of a complex, expensive and time-consuming process are treated fairly as the small business customers of the manufacturers.
When government interferes in the private sector, there are going to be consequences. Preventing problems in the first place is better than seeing dealers fail to do the recall work they are supposed to do because they do not have the means and cannot absorb the cost themselves. This is not about protecting the market or protecting dealers. This is about safety. This is about protecting drivers whose vehicles have been recalled and making sure repairs are done properly.
If we look at it that way, it is not a question of interfering in negotiations between a manufacturer and dealerships. It is about protecting drivers whose vehicles have been recalled, and ensuring that replacement parts are of the best quality, and not substituted parts, because dealerships might not be able to afford them if they have to pay the full cost themselves. It is important to listen to what the dealerships in our regions have told us.
One of the passages from the letter I received that struck me reads as follows:
The relationship between a manufacturer and a small dealership is not a partnership of equals. Adopting the amendment that we are proposing will enshrine in statutes the equity and fairness we seek for all dealerships across Canada, not just those that happen to partner with a manufacturer who decides to pay compensation to dealers for the burden of recalls.
I think that says it all. I want to thank Julie, Serge, Martin and André for sharing those comments regarding the amendment. I really think it is important to address this in committee.
One of the words that really struck me in the letter from the dealerships was the word “equity”. The real danger facing motorists is the tax reform this government wants to bring in. Indeed, most car dealerships are small businesses. They have worked very hard and could be in danger today. If each of those dealerships has to lay off one, two, or three employees, it might be one of the employees dedicated to vehicle safety. They could be laid off because of this government's unacceptable and ridiculous proposals on tax reforms. It is important to keep that in mind. If we want to keep our vehicles and roads safe, we must not forget that safety comes in part from the financial health of dealerships and acceptable standards, as well as increased powers for the minister, which are sometimes necessary and acceptable, as we have heard.