Grassroots Efforts Matter

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Alana Baker is Vice President, Government Relations and Research, for AIA Canada. You can reach her at [email protected]. Photo AIA Canada

Awareness and action at the local level are essential for achieving fair legislative outcomes on Right to Repair.

While there has been significant traction on Right to Repair, maintaining that momentum is essential for achieving a fair and level playing field when it comes to accessing vehicle service information. While the passing of Bill 29 in Quebec was a major milestone in helping ensure the independent auto care sector can properly diagnose and fix vehicles in the same capacity as authorized OEM dealers, the fight is far from over.

Consistent action is needed since it takes time to change laws and the legislative landscape is always shifting. It is important to remember that all politics is local and politicians, whether they represent provincial or national parties, are very receptive to those people within their own ridings. This is where individual business and service centre owners [including AIA Canada members] can make a big difference.

Changing requirements

In today’s world, we are seeing rapid advancements in vehicle technology which is changing the nature of service and maintenance requirements. And while some of us may not directly see those impacts today, they will affect us tomorrow. This is why it is essential to act right now at the grassroots level and focus on long-term sustainability to ensure that we have fair public policies in place for the auto care sector.

While AIA Canada continues to prioritize government advocacy and represent the interests of the auto care sector, the challenges facing our industry need to be front and centre at that local level. Political decision-makers need to hear from community members in their ridings about concerns that, without the right policies in place, consumers, businesses, employees, jobs and communities will suffer the consequences. This means that when these decision-makers return to the House of Commons and the Senate from their breaks, they will know that there is a problem to be solved and they need to do something about it.

It is also important to note that effective Ministers are very attentive to their caucus. Members of Parliament play a very important role, and some are very influential as sources of political intelligence and feedback. Every one of them matters. And every one of them has the potential to influence a decision.

Making a difference

We have consistently seen that our members are our greatest ally and by mobilizing them, we will achieve advocacy success. But again, it requires grassroots support to apply the kind of pressure needed. We have seen how effective this can be in countries like Australia. Back in 2022, Right to Repair legislation was signed into law, after more than a decade spent campaigning for fair service information access. A significant reason for this success was the mobilization of the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) and its members through grassroots efforts.

The AAAA highlighted that the new law was a result of unprecedented industry cooperation, with repair and service shops hosting visits from their local Members of Parliament to provide a hands-on experience, including collateral in their facilities, as well as sending direct emails and making phone calls—all of which included core strategy elements such as human interaction, telling the shop’s story, demonstrating the problem, dispelling myths and bolstering the reality of the situation with concrete, tangible examples.

Resources and support

If it can work in Australia, it can certainly work here, and auto care centres can use AIA Canada as a resource. Recently, we launched a new issue-specific website, righttorepair.ca, that houses all the information, updates and tools our members can utilize to help get our Right to Repair message across. We are here to help–whether it is providing QR codes for meetings or presentations, supplying collateral to shops, providing advocacy training webinars, sending emails or letters, or arranging for shop visits in the riding.

It is important to remember that for the greater good of the industry, it is our job to come together to educate and influence policy, since often, politicians do not always have a full grasp of how their choices or their inaction will impact you. Decision-makers cannot fix problems they do not know about, which is why they need to be engaged directly by those affected. More often than not, authentic conversations and real-life examples are the most effective ways to achieve equitable and fair legislative outcomes.



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