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Regulators, exporters talk harmonizing standards in Canada, U.S.

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WASHINGTON — Life-changing technology breakthroughs could be strangled by red tape at the Canada-U.S. border unless the two countries give innovators one shared set of rules to follow, Treasury Board President Scott Brison said in Washington Tuesday.

Brison joined Mick Mulvaney, director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, to kick off a two-day meeting of the Regulatory Co-operation Council, charged with figuring out new ways to cut through the reams of regulations that pose an ever-present risk to Canada-U.S. trade.

For a business with a clever new product, having to follow two sets of rules in two different markets can be extremely challenging, especially if the business is small.

“It makes a lot of sense for us to work together, multilaterally, in developing regulatory approaches that are consistent between our countries, whether you’re talking drones, or AI, or robotics. It is in the interest of the health and safety of our citizens, and the job-creation capacity of our businesses, to work together,” Brison said in an interview.

One novel idea stakeholders were discussing Tuesday: keep red tape from sprouting in the first place.

By working together on standards that are very similar, the risk of regulatory differences could be minimized almost to the point that the need for the council — founded in 2011 to cut the countless regulatory roadblocks between the two countries — would one day cease to exist.  

“If we do a really good job of deepening the regulatory co-operation between U.S. agencies and Canadian agencies, in time the RCC is not really going to be needed,” Brison said. “The objective will be that the level of co-operation between our two agencies is so deep and so instinctive that you won’t need to have another body.”

The oncoming AI revolution is poised to turn the auto industry on its head, with dramatic changes in how vehicles are built and used sure to be coming fast and furious, said Mark Nantais, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association.

A seamless integration of standards between Canada and the U.S. would help ensure that both countries realize the benefits not only of new technology itself, but the economic prospects it brings, Nantais said.

“There’s just so much interest in terms of automated vehicles, electric vehicles — everybody wants a piece of that action,” including not only in the building of vehicles, but cutting-edge areas like software, cybersecurity and AI, Nantais told the forum during Tuesday’s panel discussion.

“But if we really want to be effective in how we bring forward those technologies, we have to make sure we don’t put in place impediments to those technologies.”

That means ensuring co-operation between agencies, sharing research and knowing when to resist the temptation to do what often comes naturally to big bureaucracies, he said. “In many instances that may not mean regulation at all — that might mean the co-ordination of best practices or non-regulatory approaches.”

Michael Fitzpatrick, the head of regulatory advocacy, global law and policy for General Electric, told the panel that emerging technologies would be a good area for regulators on either side of the border to work on aligning their rules, since the development of the technology is global in scope.

But it’s important not to lose sight of the “transactional” nature of business, he added.

“At the end of the day, businesses are bottom-line, they do cost-benefit every day, and we’re not going to be interested in participating in a three-year process of culture change at the agencies. If you succeed, terrific,” Fitzpatrick said. “The bottom line for businesses are, are there actual regulatory wins that will benefit the economy, consumers and business, and can we see the victories at some regular pace.”

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

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Automotive

A heartwarming Christmas story from Kipp Scott GMC Cadillac Buick

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When Covid regulations took away this local automotive dealership’s ability to host their annual kids Christmas party, they decided to bring Christmas to the kids. Enjoy!

Read more on Todayville.

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Alberta

Insurance rate increases absolutely unacceptable: NDP Critic for Service Alberta

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This post was submitted by Jon Carson, NDP MLA for Edmonton-West Henday, Opposition Critic for Service Alberta

Thirty per cent.

That’s how much auto insurance rates skyrocketed by for some Albertans at the end of this year, after Premier Jason Kenney and the UCP removed the five per cent cap on rate increases that our NDP government brought in, taking a “no limit” approach to how much insurance companies could actually raise rates.

The jump was immediate.

Albertans saw a wave of premium increases bordering on price gouging. Over 90% of car insurance companies filed for rate increases as soon as the cap was lifted, and rushed to bill drivers as soon as they could. Of the companies that received approved rate changes, the increases ranged from 4.9 per cent to an eye-popping 29.8 per cent.

It was a nice gift from Jason Kenney, who already slammed families for hundreds of dollars of new costs in his fall budget, including hikes to income tax, property tax, as well as more in school fees, prescription drugs and college tuition.

As usual, Finance Minister Travis Toews trotted out the UCP’s one-trick pony and blamed the NDP, claiming that insurance companies were set to pack their bags and flee the province if he didn’t let them jack up premiums beyond five per cent.

The lobbying effort came out in full force. The brokers, the insurance companies, and the Insurance Bureau of Canada are working overtime to sell quite the sob story: a massive spike in claims costs, not enough options for drivers, etc, etc. It’s tough times for the poor, little ol’ car insurance company.

What a load. These are some of the biggest and most profitable companies in Canada, and they simply want back the power they had to jack up premiums hand over fist.

The truth is that claims costs over the past few years are level, a fact that’s supported by the Insurance Bureau of Canada‘s own data. In fact, an actuarial analysis by Fair Alberta Injury Regulators, an organization made up of concerned Albertans, doctors and legal experts, found that injury payouts have stabilized in the last few years, and even started to dip in 2019. Their actuary specifically found evidence that claims are “not skyrocketing.”

This is further supported by the Alberta Superintendent of Insurance, responsible for all regulatory oversight of insurers operating in Alberta with a specific duty to ensure that insurance companies treat Albertans fairly. In his annual report for 2018, he found on average that the claims ratio for car insurance was 80 per cent across all companies in Alberta. Not the 120 per cent figure the insurance companies trot out on TV.

And while the UCP Government continues to claim they have documents to prove the cap made the car insurance industry unsustainable, they haven’t provided a single piece of paper showing any of these companies would bail if they could–GASP–only raise premiums five per cent every year.

So why remove the cap? Well, in politics, it’s who you know. And Jason Kenney knows an awful lot of people in the insurance industry. Namely, his former chief of staff and campaign director Nick Koolsbergen, who was hired to lobby the Premier on behalf of the car insurance industry just last year. He has Kenney’s cell phone number.

Sounds like a good guy to have on your side… if you’re a car insurance company.

The fact is, these companies turn a profit of tens of millions of dollars each year. They’re used to having carte blanche in Alberta, and they want it back.

Under the thinly-veiled guise of “red tape reduction”, the UCP has struck a panel looking at more regulatory changes that the insurance lobby itself has said “could also change the rate regulation framework that governs how insurers set premiums.”

If costs are going to go up even more, who will Jason Kenney look out for? His friends and interests in big insurance? Or everyday Albertans driving to work?

Knowing Jason Kenney, Albertans should brace for impact.

Jon Carson is the MLA for Edmonton-West Henday and the Alberta NDP Opposition Critic for Service Alberta.

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