I’m John Schmeiser, CEO for the Western Equipment Dealers Association. Welcome to this edition of Legislative Landscape. For this podcast, I intend to share an update on some initiatives underway in Ottawa.
In earlier podcasts, I had shared that we were working on the connectivity issue – interoperability where there is a data connection between two products that are manufactured by two different companies. We continue to seek language clarity in the Canadian Copyright Act to ensure this decades-old industry practice can continue without any issues. Our lobby approach on this has been a joint effort between WEDA, the Agricultural Manufacturers of Canada, and some significant manufacturers based in western Canada. All sectors of the industry have played a key role in helping us move this important issue forward.
I am pleased to advise that we have all necessary research studies, policy papers, and proposed language before Canada’s Ministry of Industry, Science and Economic Development (ISED). Our next step is to meet with the ministry officials in March where we will discuss the material, and we fully expect them to follow through on the necessary language change needed to update the Copyright Regulations. The language change we need is straightforward…remove any ambiguity that would prohibit “connectivity” of products made by two different manufacturers.
Related to this effort is the federal government is holding a consultation on amendments to the Copyright Act. This being done in two phases. The first one, regarding term extension and any additional measures, is open now to address a commitment under the USMCA agreement that needs to be implemented by December 2022. The second is on the Internet of Things – which will be held this summer. The internet of things refers to networks of devices equipped with software and sensors that connect and exchange data with other devices using the internet. Internet of thing devices in our industry are significant. Many of the new tractors, combines, high-clearance sprayers, and air seeding products have the ability to share data to cloud services and remote diagnostic abilities. WEDA supports this federal initiative, however, we will be monitoring the submissions made by industry partners to ensure that there are no proposals that would have a negative impact on the equipment dealer industry.
The House Finance Committee has tabled its pre-budget consultation report, titled, Investing in Tomorrow: Canadian Priorities for Economic Growth and Recovery. WEDA typically appears before this committee as it is the forum where we have made submissions on depreciation rates and tax measure beneficial to our industry. This year, the committee made 145 recommendations under the themes of People, Communities, Businesses, Fiscal Policy, Regulatory Framework and Trade, and Environment and Climate Change. WEDA reviews this document on a regular basis as it does provide some insights as to what will be in the upcoming federal budget. Although the date for the federal budget has not been set as of yet, we anticipate that the government will look to the Standing Committee’s recommendation for the foundation of their fiscal measures. Here are some recommendations that stand out to us:
Recommendation 48 – Invest in skills training for young Canadians that will enable more of them to gain the skills they need to secure good-paying jobs in posts Covid economy.
Recommendation 49 – Work with the Provinces on a national strategy to upskill and educate Canadian workers to fill in-demand jobs across the Canadian economy. The strategy should support and extend post-secondary education opportunities to traditionally marginalized communities, those most harmed by the pandemic, and to indigenous peoples.
Recommendation 64 – Accelerate the repair of ports and ports of entry and other federal infrastructure to ensure the smooth flow of goods across Canada’s international borders.
Recommendation 77 – Recapitalize the strategic innovation fund to support projects that will bring transformational employers to Canada and create jobs in rural Canadian communities.
Recommendation 93 – Work with industry to develop a labour action plan for Canada’s Agri-Food sector
Recommendation 96 – Create and fund a new Agri-Resilience Program to help farmers transition to lower-carbon agriculture practices, thereby reducing the growing climate risk in the sector. An Agri-Resilience program would reward innovation and the adoption of new, more resilient farming practices, thereby helping reduce climate risk.
Recommendation 110 – Develop industrial strategies to expand critical domestic manufacturing capacity and supply chain infrastructure for Canadian manufacturing.
While committees can make recommendations to the government, they are not binding. This report is one avenue for input on what should be included in the federal budget. The government will take into consideration the Finance committee’s report, in addition to the Finance department’s own consultations, the Finance Ministers’ roundtables with stakeholders, and individual MPs’ constituent concerns, political concerns, and more when finalizing its budget.
Turning to issues through a provincial lens, we are pleased to advise that no province has introduced Right to Repair legislation in Canada to this point. That doesn’t mean the conversation has stopped. Our office continues our outreach to each provincial government and leading farm groups to restate our position that Right to Repair is not in the best interests of the industry. We are supplementing our government lobbying efforts with pro-active media and again this past month we saw several articles in farm newspapers sharing our perspective and opposition. Related to this is the ongoing issue of chipping equipment or installing DEF Delete kits. We have led discussions with our provincial government on the challenges that these two things are having on dealers. Altering or tampering with an emission device is against the law in Canada, though most of our customers are either not aware of this or deliberately disregard the law. We feel it is only a matter of time before the federal government and the provinces work together to impose serious fines to stop this practice. In the U.S., we have seen fines in excess of $300,000 for altering an emission device, and we are sure that the Canadian government has taken note of this. We have been given the assurance by some of our provincial governments that they will explore the issue through a consultative process, and we plan to play a key role in providing information that is in the best interests of our members.
At this time, we do not have any legislative requests before our provincial governments. The most significant dealer legislation to pass in the past 18 months was in the state of North Dakota. This new law provided warranty reimbursement provisions like travel and transportation time and was immediately challenged in court by the manufacturers. The manufacturers were ultimately unsuccessful in this pursuit as the Court upheld the law and remains in place. There are several provisions in this new North Dakota law that are favorable and would be welcome by our equipment dealer members. However, we have decided to take a wait and see approach to see what impact the law has on the industry – and if the manufacturers implement any retribution or policy changes in that state that would be detrimental to dealers.
Additionally, we will start to see our respective provincial governments announce their budgets in the next month or so. Alberta was first off the mark with their budget release at the end of February, and fortunately, we are not seeing any negative impact on our industry at this time. We can expect all provincial governments to have their budget focus on current COVID measures and economic recovery measures.
That is a quick overview of some of the activity in Ottawa and our provinces. As a core part of what we do, WEDA will continue its advocacy efforts to ensure our dealer’s interests are heard.
Should you have any questions on these topics or any other government affairs issues, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Podcast By John Schmeiser
JOHN SCHMEISER is the CEO of the Western Equipment Dealers Association (WEDA). First established in Canada in 1927, WEDA represents over 2200 farm, construction, and outdoor power equipment dealers in both Canada and the U.S.