New law coming to compel vehicle recalls in Canada

WATCH: If passed, the new legislation will give the transportation minister the power to recall vehicles.

OTTAWA – Car manufacturers can’t be trusted to recall vehicles voluntarily when they pose a safety concern, so the federal government is giving itself the power to force their hands, says Canada’s transport minister.

Lisa Raitt said the government plans to introduce legislation that would, if passed, also give the government the power to impose limitless fines on companies that don’t comply with a recall order.

READ MORE: 1.2 million vehicles in Canada affected by Takata airbag recall

“Leaving this decision making capability entirely to manufacturers and importers alone does not serve the best interest of the public,” Raitt told a news conference Monday outside the House of Commons.

“We’re not going to be putting a limit on what the fine could possibly be. We think that’s an important enforcement tool.”

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The law would also give the government the power to make car importers or vehicle manufacturers pay for repairs to recalled cars, and fix new model vehicles before they are sold in Canada.

The announcement comes on the heels of a major recall of 1.5 million cars in Canada over safety concerns from malfunctioning air bags.

About 53 million vehicles around the world have been recalled amid safety concerns posed by Takata air bag inflators. The air bags can inflate too fast, sending sharp metal pieces at anyone in the vehicle.

READ MORE: Ford recalls nearly 423K cars, SUVs; power steering can fail while they’re being driven

Transport Canada says there are no reports of the airbags injuring or killing a Canadian.

The government currently can’t force an automaker to recall vehicles, unlike in the United States. Instead, car manufacturers must tell Transport Canada of defects when they find them.

Opposition critics questioned the timing of the announcement, noting only three weeks remain before Parliament rises for the summer. With an election slated for October, any unpassed legislation will die on the order paper.

“It’s the dying days of a government and the government is petrified,” said Liberal transport critic David McGuinty.

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“They are petrified of being caught not on top of the car safety issue. That’s their real motivation here.”

Raitt said she hopes to have all-party support to fast-track the legislation, which she said would be introduced later this week.

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