“The Road Ahead” presentations by key AIA Canada staffers kicked off the association’s National Conference in Toronto, Ont., with updates on key issues affecting the automotive aftermarket.
Association President J-F Champagne was joined by Brendan Mullan, Senior Director of Digital Marketing and Communication, Stuart Klein, Senior Director, Collision, and Alana Baker, Senior Director of Government relations.
“I guess the good news is we see a bright future ahead,” offered Champagne, “but we also see one that is increasingly more complex and more digital. We see a bright future that provides a lot of opportunities, but those opportunities require us to adapt and change. And I think this is one of the reasons why AIA Canada as an organization is coming out of the pandemic very strong. Because we have embraced change, we have allowed ourselves to adapt and we stay focused on understanding what the road ahead looks like.”
Champagne offered that the issue of industry labour challenges is front and centre at the association.
“We’ve already engaged in conducting some massive research that really enables us to identify the causes and the solutions for the shortage of qualified trades of the sector. We’ve just conducted the first phase of a three-phase project, which can allow us to identify the challenges, the issues, but more importantly understand how we compare to other licensed trades in the economy, which also face, as we know, similar problems of shortage of labour.”
Presentations were also made on the approach to address member concerns, by Brendan Mullen, and the specific initiatives in the collision sector by Stuart Klein.
Alana Baker provided a valuable update on the Right to Repair.
“Technology is changing the vehicles that we drive and the auto care industry as a result needs to adapt,” said Baker. “So together with government, we need to ensure that we have the right tools and the programs and the policies in place to make sure that we are ready to service the vehicles, not only of today, but of tomorrow. And to do so, we are focused on two key advocacy priorities. The first is addressing our labour and workforce needs, as JF mentioned earlier. The second is the right to repair and ensuring consumer choice.”
She told attendees legislative activities are strong but that this process can take quite some time.
“Yes, we are seeing momentum growing in Canada, but it’s clear enough we still have a truckload of work to do.
“But most importantly is engaging with you, our members, to ensure that we have industry support to help get this through. And why is that important? A campaign is only as strong as its grassroots support. So we need your help. We are not going to be successful if we do not have a rally of support from the industry at the local level.
“There is a certain power of grassroots advocacy and we simply cannot achieve the desired outcome at the association level alone. And if we are collectively not at the table, we are on the menu. And what’s at stake here whether we remain with the status quo or worse. Consumers will no longer have choice. Access to essential vehicle repair and maintenance services will be compromised. Shops will have to shut their doors and jobs will be lost. Those are the consequences.
“So there’s a lot on the line here, and that is the message that we need to get across.”
She urged members to become “Grassroots Champions” and lend their support to the issue
“What that means is you are willing and you’re committed to helping us promote our right to repair message to industry, to government, and to the media. And you’re not going to do it alone. We’re obviously going to be here to help you. We’re going to provide you with the tools that you need.
“We need to hear from you. We need your stories and we need each, every single one of you to meet with your Member of Parliament this summer.”
The AIA Canada National Conference was held April 26, 2023 at the Delta Hotel & Conference Centre in Toronto, Ont.
For more information, VISIT www.aiacanada.com/events/aia-canada-national-conference/