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CAA Comments in Support of Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act

Appearance before the House Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities

September 28, 2017

Good afternoon. Merci pour votre invitation. Je suis heureux devant vous aujourd’hui a fin de discuter le projet de loi S-2.

Although many of you are familiar with CAA, let me begin by providing a little bit of background on our organization’s role in road safety.

CAA was founded in 1913 as a consumer advocacy group and today we have 6.2 million members from coast-to-coast, and the services we offer them extend well beyond emergency roadside assistance. From inception, our organization began advocating for critical pieces of the traffic safety framework in place today. From the earliest days pushing for stop signs, to seat belts and air bags, to campaigns against impaired and distracted driving, CAA has been at the forefront of traveller advocacy for more than a century. Today, CAA represents roughly one in four adult drivers and is recognized as one of the most trusted brands in the country.

In terms of S-2, consumer protection in Canada has lagged that in other developed countries, and we are pleased to see that S-2 addresses several of these shortcomings.

In the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the authority to require manufacturers to recall vehicles that have safety-related defects or do not meet Federal safety standards. Since enacted in 1966, more than 390 million cars, trucks, buses, recreational vehicles, motorcycles, and mopeds, as well as 46 million tires, 66 million pieces of motor vehicle equipment, and 42 million child safety seats have been recalled to correct safety defects.

Here in Canada, CAA believes that, for the owners of the roughly 23 million light vehicles on the road today, Bill S-2 is a positive step that strengthens the enforcement and compliance regime to further protect the safety of Canadians. As drafted, we are pleased to see the Minister of Transport would be provided with the authority to order companies to correct a defect or non-compliance and be given the ability to penalize companies for offences committed under the Act.

While most manufacturers live up to the high standards we have set for Canadian vehicles in order to make our roads among the safest in the world, the fact remains that even as we speak, Transport Canada has 16 active defect investigations under way. Of these active investigations, 13 date from before 2017. It must be said that there are instances where government intervention may not only be useful but could be necessary.

For example, on November 10, 2016, Transport Canada announced that it had made “a preliminary determination that there is a safety defect” involving brakes on 2011 and 2012 F-150 trucks equipped with a 3.5L EcoBoost engine. The department has received over 100 complaints on the issue. In testimony before the Senate last fall, Transport Minister Garneau said the government contacted Ford and was disappointed that the automaker disagreed with its assessment. He further pointed out that under existing legislation, the effective result at the time was a stalemate. Ultimately, there was a long delay of nearly 6 months of public pressure that finally resulted in the automaker issuing a notice of defect on May 5 of this year. S-2 will increase the tools available to the Minister to limit delays like this.

Today, the strongest measure Transport Canada can take when dealing with vehicles it believes are a hazard to Canadians is to force the issuance of a notice of defect, which requires a manufacturer to notify owners that their cars are unsafe. That is it. The government does not have the power to force a manufacturer to order a recall and to effect repairs. This makes the current Canadian system a veritable – if not literal – paper tiger.

Bill S-2 shifts the focus to remedies. It gives the minister the authority to order a company to issue a recall, make companies repair a recalled vehicle at no cost to the consumer, and prevent new vehicles from being sold in Canada until they are repaired. This matches similar legislation that exists in the U.S., finally leveling the playing field in these important areas for Canadian consumers.

Today, Transport Canada’s website hosts information about vehicle recalls and encourages consumers to address their vehicle recall as soon as possible. However, we know that is not always in the control of the consumer. Bill S-2 is a necessary tool for enforcement when handling vehicle recall cases where the Minister deems that intervention is necessary, and provides positive, added protection for consumers.

For too long, Canadian consumer protection has taken a back seat to the U.S. In our view, S-2 goes a long way towards rebalancing the situation, and is a solid advance for Canadian consumers.

– END –



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