Madam Speaker, it is nice to be able to rise today and speak to Bill S-2.
I want to thank my colleague from Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek for her work on this file as our critic in the area. I join her in supporting the bill going to committee for further study.
Vehicle safety is an important issue. It is an important issue for all of us in the House and for all Canadians. Over 22 million motor vehicles are registered in Canada, which is equal to one vehicle for every 1.6 Canadians. That is a pretty staggering number. With such a high number of cars and trucks on the road, we as parliamentarians need to ensure that automakers are being responsible to consumers.
As a former firefighter, I had the unfortunate opportunity to see first-hand the aftermath of many car accidents. I am pleased to know that over the years vehicle safety has dramatically improved. As technology continues to improve and increase, consumers become more aware of the need to have a safe car. Nowadays, many of the advertisements for new cars begin with safety ratings or listing the number of airbags or other new technologically advanced safety features, which tells consumers where they are at with these things, and it is good to see.
It is up to us as parliamentarians to ensure that safety continues to be at the forefront of the agenda by doing what we can to ensure that vehicles that have defects get recalled promptly and that consumers are notified. The strengthening motor vehicle safety for Canadians act would certainly provide the power to the minister of transport to order a recall of vehicles and order companies to address deficiencies at no cost to consumers. This would be a way to ensure that Canadians are protected if there is a defect in their vehicle that would be as a result of the error of the manufacturer.
This legislation would also give the minister the ability to have manufacturers conduct specific tests on their products in order to be able to verify compliance with the act.
The minister of transport would have the ability to grant exemptions for regulations if the exemption promotes the development of new safety features or new technologies. That would be possible under this legislation as well.
Under Bill S-2, a manufacturer would have to increase the number of notices that it sends to consumers once a recall is issued, to ensure that the notice has reached consumers.
Transport Canada would also be granted additional powers to visit facilities and to obtain documents and testimony from employees.
This legislation would bring the powers of the minister of transport in line with those of our counterparts in the United States.
One of the reasons to support sending the bill to committee for further study is because these are all points that should have further discussion and debate.
Consumer advocacy groups have spoken out in support of this legislation and from their perspective it is necessary legislation. Our previous Conservative government introduced similar legislation in 2015.
These changes certainly may be needed but we need to ensure that all groups are heard from and given an opportunity to have their say. We have to take into consideration the point of view of auto and parts manufacturers who also represent a large part of the Canadian economy. Canada has a large auto and parts manufacturing sector that creates thousands of good-paying jobs nationwide. The last thing we would want to do as parliamentarians would be to create legislation that would drive them away from our country.
These new powers being proposed may be too sweeping. They may provide Transport Canada with the ability to order tests and unreasonable acts such as providing regular updates on the status of a recall and the availability of parts. What will happen when there is a difference of opinion between Transport Canada and auto and parts manufacturers?
Recalls have been increasing over the past six years. Safety-related recalls have increased by 74%. That shows that the current legislation we have is working and that auto and parts manufacturers are being responsible by initiating safety recalls without any prompting from the government.
My understanding is that auto and parts manufacturers are not necessarily opposed to this legislation, but they have raised some valid concerns and that is why it is important to look at sending this bill to committee.
I certainly would agree as well that Canada should attempt wherever possible to be in line with our American friends when it comes to certain legislation. The American government has the power now, for example, to induce a manufacturer to provide compensation to consumers for vehicles that need recall. In 2015, an auto manufacturer there was forced by the U.S. government to pay U.S. $105 million to buy back 500,000 trucks and SUVs and to offer incentives for consumers to participate in the recall. Canadian owners of those same vehicles did not receive those offers. That is a reason why it may make sense for our legislation to be in line with the U.S. government legislation, so that consumers are provided with the same levels and types of protections.
The biggest reason that I support sending this bill to committee is to ensure that proper consultations will actually happen with this bill. Proper consultations are extremely important, and the committee gives an opportunity for experts and witnesses to be heard and to provide their opinions on the matter. It is in contrast with what the Liberal government is currently doing with the small business tax changes that would damage our economy, small business owners, and those who work for small businesses. It would have a very detrimental effect on small business owners and employees and also on communities right across the country. In the communities I represent like Airdrie, Crossfield, Cochrane, Canmore, Banff, and many other communities like them all across the country, when there is a need to support a local sports team, when there is a charitable initiative, when someone is seeking to raise money for a family who is suffering through difficult times—and we have certainly seen some of those with some of the policies we have seen from the current government and its provincial counterparts in Alberta, that there is a lot of need for these things—it is small business owners who step forward. The current government, by not seeking to help them properly, is not giving them an opportunity that we would see under this bill with getting an opportunity in committee. When I think about those types of consultations, that is not what I want to see here.
I know, when speaking to people in the tourism industry, an industry that is important in my riding and important right across this country—about $90 billion to the economy—they tell me that the government has brought forward consultations on the small business tax changes. They are huge, massive changes that would have very detrimental effects. It is right in the middle of their busiest season, the tourism season in the middle of the summer. They have not even had a chance to look at these and figure out what kind of impact it would have on them, so how could they possibly be a part of consultations on it? They are certainly asking for more ability to be consulted on that. That is the kind of thing that we need to see occurring on all things like that. Certainly this change we are talking about here would be studied by a committee. That would give people an opportunity to be heard. That is what the government should be doing in the case of things like that.
When we talk about ensuring that people are being heard in this regard, we are talking about auto and parts manufacturers. They certainly need to be listened to. I hope that by sending this bill to committee, we will see them get the opportunity to speak and to give their recommendations on this legislation. I am pleased to see that the manufacturers support the premise of the legislation, but it is now up to us in this chamber to see what we can do to make the legislation work for all Canadians. That means sending the bill to committee for further evaluation and study.
Another aspect that the committee could seriously consider is that this bill would go beyond simply protecting consumers. It is a bill that would mandate that auto manufacturers need to provide financial compensation to auto dealers when a recall occurs. This changes the bill from a consumer protection perspective to a commercial relationship. By sending this bill to committee, the members would be able to discuss further whether additional ministerial or government powers are needed to build increased consumer protection.
We can address other concerns such as whether there are any unintended consequences that the bill might have on consumers. Obviously if the manufacturers are forced in the bill to comply with these regulations regardless of whether they are necessary, we can expect the prices of vehicles to increase to pay for the compliance with those things. These are things we need to be considering, and making sure that when this is being looked at, it is considered from a balanced perspective of manufacturers and the interests of consumers.
Achieving that balance is certainly where the challenge would be for this legislation. That is why it is important for the committee to have an opportunity to study it. That is why I support its going there.
Certainly, consumers need to be protected, especially when it comes to something as serious as motor vehicle safety. There is no question that studying the bill at committee would be an opportunity for us to see that done.