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Automotive

Manufacturers relieved, dairy farmers angry in wake of NAFTA replacement deal

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Reaction from Canadian business groups to the terms of a renegotiated trade pact between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico range from relief to dismay as the details of the proposed new pact begin to sink in. 

The deal, which U.S. President Donald Trump said he plans to call the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA), was reached late Sunday night amid 11th-hour negotiations ahead of the U.S.-imposed Oct. 1 deadline.

The steel and aluminum industry has expressed concern that the trade deal doesn’t include an end to tariffs, dairy producers claim it will completely undercut their industry, while manufacturers — especially the automotive industry — have welcomed an end to the threat of tariffs and the many months of uncertainty.

“Certainly disappointed because they didn’t agree on a solution on the 232 sanctions regarding aluminum and steel,” said Jean Simard, CEO of the Aluminium Association of Canada.

“We find it very unfortunate, and to us it’s certainly very important in the coming days and weeks leading to the final signing of the agreement that they are able to resolve the situation.”

United Steelworkers Canadian director Ken Neumann said Canada “sold out” steel and aluminum workers by not getting the 25 per cent steel tariffs and 10 per cent aluminum tariffs.

“It appears Canadian steel and aluminum workers are among those being sacrificed in the concessions made by the Liberal government in this deal,” he said in a statement.

The dairy industry was also heavily critical of the deal, which will grant expanded market access to the domestic dairy market and eliminate competitive dairy classes.

Bruno Letendre, head of the association that represents Quebec’s milk producers, said the concessions in the agreement are the equivalent of 13 days fewer production for his members.

“We’ve been sacrificed,” he said in an interview. “There’s no doubt about that. Supply management has been sacrificed.”

The measures will have a “dramatic impact” on dairy farmers and cause the industry to shrink, said Pierre Lampron, president of Dairy Farmers Canada, in a statement.

“This has happened, despite assurances that our government would not sign a bad deal for Canadians,” he said.

The general sentiment among manufacturers is one of relief, said Dennis Darby, president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters.

“It removes that uncertainty that was hanging over the sector, in terms of our access to this North American market, in terms of the rules related to our integrated North American supply chain.”

He said he hopes the aluminum and steel tariffs can be resolved shortly, but that the manufacturing industry didn’t lose on what’s in the new deal.

“At a minimum we haven’t lost any ground. Versus a very unpredictable and protectionist U.S. administration, I think Canada did as well as it could.”

The deal preserved the key dispute-resolution provisions — Chapter 19 — which allow for independent panels to resolve disputes involving companies and governments, as well as Chapter 20, the government-to-government dispute-settlement mechanism.

A side letter published along with the main text of the agreement exempts a percentage of eligible auto exports from the tariffs. A similar agreement between Mexico and the U.S. preserves duty-free access to the U.S. market for vehicles that comply with the agreement’s rules of origin.

 

The Canadian Press


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Alberta

Alberta to change licences in spring, reduce second road tests for new drivers

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By Bill Graveland in Calgary

A graduated driver’s licence program in Alberta that has been in effect for the past 19 years is getting an overhaul.

The Graduated Driver Licensing program was introduced in Alberta in 2003. New drivers are not permitted to drive between midnight and 5 a.m. Their licence can be suspended with an accumulation of eight or more demerit points, and there is zero tolerance in the use of alcohol or drugs while driving.

In addition, after successfully making it through two years probation, drivers are requested to take a second, more advanced road test in order to receive a full licence.

That is to change next spring.

Alberta says it will no longer require the advanced road test for Class 5 (passenger vehicles) and Class 6 (motorcycle) driver’s licences, saving those drivers $150.

“The objective of the changes are meant to reduce red tape and also cut costs for Albertans and businesses without cutting the safety aspects of the program,” said Alberta Transportation Minister Prasad Panda in an interview.

Since the program began, drivers who made it past their two-year probation and didn’t take a second test have been allowed to continue driving with their graduated licences, and many do.

Panda said an estimated 700,000 Albertans are driving with graduated licences. And in the past five years, 65 per cent of those with graduated licences did not take the second advanced road test.

“Some of them are not that young anymore. They are in their 40s, but they are simply not taking the test because they’re already driving with the (Graduated Driver Licence),” he added.

“Many of them probably thought spending that extra $150 for the advanced test is not giving them any extra benefit or comfort other than getting a full licence.”

An additional road test will also no longer be mandatory to obtain a Class 4 driver’s licence, which is required to transport passengers in taxis, ride-share vehicles, limousines, small buses and ambulances.

Eliminating the road test was suggested by many Albertans in a 2019 government survey on red-tape reduction.

Panda said about 500,000 graduated licence holders are likely eligible to move to full Class 5 licences.

“It is common sense. It reduces costs for drivers and also, in a way, for businesses, without compromising safety in any way,” Panda said.

“It’s not reducing safety. They have to be on probation for two years, so those two years should sort out if there are any issues with those drivers, whether it’s traffic violations or drug and alcohol.”

Under the change, drivers who show poor driving behaviour and get demerits or are ticketed for other unsafe driving offences during the last year of their probation would have their probationary period extended for an additional year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2022.

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Automotive

Edmunds: The pros and cons of vehicle touchscreens

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By Ronald Montoya

There’s no denying the impact that smartphones and tablets have had on modern vehicles. Look into just about any new car and you’ll find a touchscreen and maybe even a bank of capacitive touch buttons that seek to approximate the function of mechanical buttons. The appeal is obvious: A cabin with these design elements can look sleek and modern. But there are drawbacks that aren’t always considered.

Those who haven’t been in a new car as of late may not know what to look for when evaluating the technology. With this in mind, Edmunds experts have listed a few pros and cons to touchscreen car interfaces to help you determine if this technology is something of interest or a deal-breaker.

PRO: FEWER BUTTONS EQUAL LARGER SCREENS

Most people prefer a large screen to a smaller one, so when automakers remove buttons from the car, it gives them more room to expand the screen. And much like our TVs and smartphones have ballooned in size over the years, so too have vehicle screens. For example, Lexus introduced its small SUV, the NX, in 2015. That model had a 7-inch center screen. Less than a decade later, the 2022 Lexus NX can be had with an optional 14-inch touchscreen. Some models’ screens are even bigger. The Ford Mustang Mach-E has a 15.5-inch center touchscreen, and the all-electric Mercedes-Benz EQS offers an entire dashboard that is one big Hyperscreen. Bigger screens are more legible, provide larger touch targets to interact with, and make it easier to glance at a map.

CON: HIGHER LIKELIHOOD OF DISTRACTION

With touchscreens, drivers must take their eyes off the road to perform most tasks. A simple task such as pulling up a song on Spotify caused drivers to take their eyes off the road for up to an average of 20 seconds, according to a 2020 study by IAM RoadSmart, an independent UK road safety nonprofit. For perspective, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration guidelines recommend that “devices be designed so that tasks can be completed by the driver while driving with glances away from the roadway of 2 seconds or less.” The study also concluded that the impact on reaction time when using touch control, as opposed to voice control, was worse than texting while driving.

Drive any car long enough and you’ll know where things are just by feel. Think of a physical volume dial, for example. You can locate and turn it without taking your eyes off the road. But that rarely works with a touchscreen because you can’t feel a virtual button.

PRO: MORE FEATURES CAN BE ADDED TO THE VEHICLE

These days a new car’s screen is expected to pull double or triple duty. It needs to not only run the automaker’s software but also display Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration systems. Imagine the number of buttons that would be needed to run all three systems.

From the automaker’s perspective, a touchscreen interface saves designers from having to figure out where to add more buttons and gives the interior a cleaner look. A great example is the Tesla Model S. Nearly every feature on the vehicle is located on the center touchscreen. Even features you might not expect, such as the shifter, windshield wipers and lights, are located on the touchscreen.

The Kia EV6 is another notable example. It has a row of capacitive touch buttons that are used for climate controls but can completely change to stereo controls at the press of a specific button. Trouble is that if you want to adjust your temperature and are on the wrong setting, you’ll end up turning up the volume instead.

CON: CENTRAL POINT OF FAILURE

It is great to have more features in a modern vehicle, but the problem with housing them all in one place is that if the screen goes out, you don’t have access to any of those features. This has happened to Edmunds editors on numerous occasions since sometimes the software on new cars isn’t fully baked.

PRO: MORE CUSTOMIZABLE

Since virtual buttons in a vehicle aren’t physically locked into one place, it opens up the doors for customization. On the Tesla Model 3, for example, drivers can rearrange the location of the main on-screen buttons to match their preferences. Similarly, on the 2022 Lucid Air, drivers can create profiles that contain their steering wheel, seat and stereo presets that can be stored and instantly recalled in the event that another member of the house has different preferences.

EDMUNDS SAYS: Everyone has a different preference for the way they interact with a vehicle’s technology. Get a feel for the car’s tech when you’re in the showroom and if you’re not a fan of touchscreen interfaces, consider brands such BMW, Genesis, Mercedes-Benz or Mazda, as they all have control knob interfaces.

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This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds. Ronald Montoya is a senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds and is on Twitter.

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