Parliament Passes Bill C-294, Ensuring Interoperability in the Canadian Equipment Industry

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Canadian equipment dealers should be pleased with a recent victory that took place in Ottawa this spring when Bill C-294 passed 3rd Reading in the House of Commons.

And it’s not a symbolic victory either; it’s one that will not only ensure that our customers have choices when they buy equipment from us, but one that will safeguard thousands of Canadian jobs located mostly on the Prairies.

Most notably, this victory was achieved through the efforts of industry working together with the support of bipartisan, all-party consensus in Ottawa.

Every dealer in Canada compliments their main product line by holding a retail contract for shortlines or specialty pieces of equipment. This is necessary to broaden each dealership’s product offering while acknowledging that our full-line manufacturers do not create farm and construction equipment for every application on the farm or construction site. Additionally, in some cases, products manufactured by shortline manufacturers are more suitable for our local growing conditions or construction projects, may be commodity- specific or may be more innovative or cost effective.

Canadian manufacturers have gained a well-deserved international reputation for expertise, quality, and innovation in making this equipment. The total number of Canadian manufacturers, who have had an im- pact on the world stage, is perhaps one of our best-kept secrets.

In conversations with dealers and manufacturers across North America, I proudly state that “where I grew up, nowhere else in the world is there a higher concentration of agricultural equipment manufacturing than in a 200-mile radius of central Saskatchewan.”

People are surprised to hear that statement. But it is true. We have an industry that is an international champion on the Prairies selling innovation around the globe.

These manufacturers make good products that have high customer satisfaction rates, and our dealers fight for the right to carry them.

But it should be noted that these manufacturers also have created thousands of jobs and make a significant contribution to our economy.

Yet, Canada almost lost this industry along with the jobs and the small rural communities those jobs support because of an oversight in the last USMCA discussions.

For modern farm and construction equipment to work (i.e., implements), it must be able to ‘talk’ to or “interoperate” with the combines and tractors that it is attached to. This interoperability has been threatened and eroded by makers of tractors and combines with digital locks that prevent other parties from accessing software on combines and tractors.

The intention of digital locks is to prevent software theft or altering the software for nefarious purposes. Even more frustrating, the U.S. government has language in its Copyright protections to allow for interoperability. We are in an integrated farm and construction equipment market in North America, and having two sets of rules on interoperability would create confusion, discourage choice and could provide an unfair advantage to a dominant player. Canada was truly out of step on this, and it had to be addressed.

That is why Bill C-294 was necessary. Bill C-294 allows ag and construction equipment manufacturers to legally circumvent “digital locks” on software allowing for legal data transfer and communication between the two pieces of equipment.

We maintain that it is not only in our dealer’s and customers’ best interests to have interoperability in our equipment, but it is also in both the mainline and shortline manufacturers’ best interests as well. Imagine the is- sues we would have if farmers didn’t have their powered unit and implement talking to each other. And that is why we needed to be in- volved – we must ensure this practice continues.

Our first success in our lobbying effort was gaining a sympathetic ear from Jeremy Patzer, a Conservative MP for Cypress Hills – Grasslands in Saskatchewan. On the industry’s behalf, he introduced the private member’s bill (which ultimately became Bill C-294). He championed it through 2nd Reading in the House of Commons and through the testimony and debate before Parliament’s Industry & Technology Committee. When it went to the 3rd Reading in Parliament, it passed unanimously.

So now, with its passage, we have a level playing field and have ensured interoperability harmonization between Canadian and U.S. law.

And for our Canadian manufacturers, Bill C-294 gives the industry the certainty it needs to continue to be a Canadian innovation and export champion. It also safeguards the jobs that go with this.

The work to save the Canadian ag and construction equipment sector was led by one of the companies most affected: Honey Bee Manufacturing Ltd. of Frontier, Saskatchewan, a village of 372. NAEDA Canada was pleased to join the fight and the Agricultural Manufacturers of Canada (AMC) also played an important and critical role. Other entities also assisted us, and these deserve credit for their involvement. The former federal department of Western Economic Diversification undertook an economic impact study of the industry, and the Canada West Foundation provided research, analysis, and advice every step of the way.

The ag equipment, or shortline sector, has become everything federal and provincial governments and economists have said that Canada needs to succeed — innovators, building on the production of commodities to create new value-added products and selling to markets other than the U.S. and China. And it has built this sector without the millions in subsidies now being handed out by governments to the auto and aerospace sector and others.

The victory we gained in Parliament not only ensured customer choice, but secures the future for these companies, and the men and women who make the equipment that farmers need to attach to their combines to harvest crops and to their tractors to seed crops.

Bill C-294 is truly a win for Canada.


Article Written by John Schmeiser, COO, NAEDA President Canada

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