Edmonton

Alberta NDP to put new brakes on car regulator

Alberta’s NDP government is taking the reins back from yet another arm’s-length regulatory board set up by the Progressive Conservatives.

Previous set-up did not align with other regulators, says Service Alberta minister

A new bill to put more strict government controls on Alberta's car industry regulator passed first reading Wednesday. (CBC)

Alberta's NDP government is taking the reins back from yet another arm's-length regulatory board set up by the Progressive Conservatives.

This time, they're targeting the controversial Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC), which licenses and regulates auto dealers and repair shops, and investigates consumer complaints.

The NDP introduced a bill Wednesday that would increase the power of government over that regulator, a move they hope will give the agency more teeth.

John Bachinski is executive director of AMVIC. (CBC)
The legislation would give the minister of Service Alberta power to issue orders related to reviews of the agency's conduct, to dismiss board members or employees if those orders aren't followed, and appoint a representative to oversee management of the organization of its compensation fund.

"In these tough economic times, Albertans need to be protected," said Stephanie McLean, the minister of Service Alberta. "They need to know that the purchases they make are good, sound deals."

Problem history

AMVIC has faced numerous complaints over the past several years about how the organization is run. Two examples come from a review in 2014, which found evidence of inappropriate interference with consumer investigations, and dysfunction in management ranks.

The review made 16 recommendations for changes, including that "action be taken forthwith" to deal with the high turnover rate among employees. At that time, the attrition rate over eighteen months was 70 per cent.

AMVIC has also been accused of negligence and faces a class-action lawsuit, which is ongoing.

"The previous government, despite being confronted with these issues, did nothing," said McLean.

"These amendments are crucial."

Rising to meet the standard

Denis Ducharme was the PC MLA who introduced the original fair trade act, which created the arm's-length AMVIC in 1999.

Ducharme's family owns a Ford car dealership that has operated in Bonnyville since 1959. After he decided not to seek re-election in 2006, he became president of the Motor Dealers Association of Alberta.

"When the bill was introduced, I do not recall if there was any reason to purposefully omit the government's oversight provisions in the legislation," said Ducharme. "And today's amendments correct that unintended omission.

"It's no different than what occurs in all the other government-delegated organizations."

The changes come shortly after similar power shifts at other government-appointed boards.

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman has taken a stronger role in directing Alberta Health Services. And Environment Minister Shannon Phillips dissolved the independent regulator, Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency, created two years ago by the PCs.  

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