2020-21 Corporate Information

Raison d'être, mandate and role: who we are and what we do

Raison d'être

The Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board, commonly referred to as the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) in its day-to-day activities, is an independent agency created in 1990 by an Act of Parliament. It operates at arm's length from other government departments and agencies to ensure that there are no real or perceived conflicts of interest. The TSB's sole objective is to advance air, marine, rail and pipeline transportation safety.

The President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada is the designated minister for the purposes of tabling the TSB's administrative reports in Parliament, such as the Departmental Plan and the Departmental Results Report. The TSB is part of the Privy Council portfolio of departments and agencies.

Mandate and role

The TSB's mandate—as described in the Act that governs its work—is to advance safety in air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation by

  • conducting independent investigations, including public inquiries when necessary, into selected transportation occurrences, in order to make findings regarding their causes and contributing factors;
  • identifying safety deficiencies, as evidenced by transportation occurrences;
  • making recommendations designed to eliminate or reduce such safety deficiencies; and
  • reporting publicly on our investigations and findings in relation thereto.

While it is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability, the Board reports fully on the causes and contributing factors of an occurrence, even in cases where fault or liability might be inferred from the Board's findings. Findings of the Board are not binding on the parties to any legal, disciplinary, or other proceedings.

To instill public confidence in the TSB, it is essential that the agency be free of any conflict of interest when investigating accidents, identifying safety deficiencies, and making recommendations. That is why the TSB is independent and separate from other government departments. It currently reports to Parliament through the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada.

Operating context: conditions affecting our work

Operating context

The TSB operates within the context of a very large and complex Canadian and international transportation system. Many Canadian and foreign organizations are responsible for, and involved in, improving transportation safety. The TSB does not have any power or authority to direct others to implement its recommendations or to make changes. The Board must therefore present its findings and recommendations in such a manner that compels others to act. This implies ongoing dialogue, information sharing and strategic coordination with many organizations such as Transport Canada, the National Energy Board and the Canadian Coast Guard. The TSB must also engage industry and foreign regulatory organizations in a similar fashion. Through various means, the TSB must present compelling arguments that will convince these “agents of change” to allocate resources and take action in response to identified safety deficiencies despite their many other competing priorities.

Furthermore, with the increasing globalization of the transportation industry, governments and industry are seeking greater harmonization of policies and practices between countries in order to facilitate cross-border trade, as well as the movement of people and goods. For example, rules that apply to trains that cross the Canada / U.S. border on a daily basis must be harmonized in order to avoid slowing or stopping their movements or creating administrative issues for the companies. This in turn makes the TSB's work more difficult.  In order to achieve results (i.e. get safety actions implemented), the TSB can no longer simply engage and convince Canadian stakeholders to act on their own. The TSB must convince both Canadian and foreign stakeholders to take actions in a coordinated and consistent manner.

The TSB's volume of activities is influenced by the number, severity and complexity of transportation occurrences, none of which can be effectively predicted. This uncertainty poses certain challenges with respect to the planning and management of TSB resources. Additionally, over the past few years the TSB's visibility has increased significantly because of high-profile occurrence investigations, the TSB's Outreach Program, and the increased use of social media to share safety information. The TSB's enhanced visibility has generated higher stakeholder and public expectations than ever before.

In 2020-21, the TSB will continue its projects aimed at reviewing and modernizing its core business processes and its products so that the TSB can further optimize the use of its resources and adapt to changing public expectations. However, the management team will ensure that a proper balance is maintained between the achievement of the short and long-term objectives.

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