Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today, Mr. Chair, and members of the committee.
As you are aware, Transport Canada developed an ambitious and comprehensive action plan to address the recommendations in the Auditor General’s fall 2013 report. Implementing the plan has been a departmental priority. On April 30, 2014, when departmental officials appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts to discuss the OAG’s report, the Auditor General said he was encouraged by the department’s response to the report. Today, a little over one year later, I am pleased to provide this committee with an update on our progress. I hope that you will agree it has been significant in the five areas the OAG examined.
With respect to the regulatory framework, most noteworthy is that Transport Canada accelerated the development of a suite of regulations to respond to the OAG’s recommendations. These also respond to outstanding recommendations made by the 2007 Railway Safety Act review and the 2008 study by this committee. We are now well under way in implementing these significant regulations to further strengthen the railway safety regulatory regime.
To that end, the grade crossings regulations, which came into force on November 27, 2014, establish comprehensive and enforceable safety standards for grade crossings. They clarify the respective roles and responsibilities of railway companies and road authorities, and ensure the sharing of key safety information between railway companies and road authorities. The railway operating certificate regulations, which came into force on January 1, 2015, are fundamental in requiring that baseline safety requirements be met in order for a railway to obtain a railway operating certificate and begin operations.
As of April 1, 2015, the following regulations also came into force. The railway safety administrative monetary penalties regulations, or fines, encourage regulatory compliance and deter safety contraventions of the Railway Safety Act, regulations, rules, and engineering standards made under the act. The transportation information regulations improve data reporting requirements to identify and address safety risks. This will provide the department with comprehensive information on the state of railway safety in Canada, allowing for more focused audits and inspections, and targeted programs that address specific safety issues.
The railway safety management system regulations of 2015 respond to recommendations from the 2007 Railway Safety Act review and the 2008 study by this committee related to improving the implementation and effectiveness of railway safety management systems. These regulations are based on more than 10 years of lessons learned in providing regulatory oversight of safety management systems. Key new regulatory requirements include: identification of an accountable executive responsible for the company's safety management system; a process for employees to report to their railway company, without fear of reprisal, a safety hazard or contravention; and the use of fatigue science principles when scheduling work of certain railway employees.
I should also point out that as of May 2015, of the 56 recommendations made by the Railway Safety Act review, all recommendations have been addressed, with work ongoing for five of these. These remaining recommendations will be complete with the coming into force of either legislative amendments or new regulations that are currently in progress.
All 14 of the recommendations made by the the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities have been addressed, with work under way to address the one remaining recommendation.
To respond to the Auditor General’s recommendations to improve planning for rail safety oversight activities, Transport Canada has reviewed its risk-based planning process to ensure its audit and inspection activities are focused on the areas of highest risk. With the coming into force of the transportation information regulations, as noted, the department has identified the key safety risk and performance indicators and the specific safety performance information that it requires from railway companies, and has developed regulatory requirements outlining the specific safety performance information that is required. By allowing us to analyze and include information from railway companies when preparing annual oversight plans, this will address the OAG’s recommendations.
In terms of conducting oversight activities, Transport Canada’s data system—the rail safety integrated gateway—provides inspectors with the tools they need to document and analyze the results of oversight activities. This system, together with additional tools, processes, guidance documents, and training, ensure that oversight activities are conducted consistently.
These include a management review process for rail safety oversight activities, which defines roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities for both managers and inspectors; performance expectations, which will be included in managers' annual performance agreements; follow-up procedures for audits, inspections, and follow-up activities included in the database system; and updated audit procedures to define clear expectations.
Training and guidance on all new initiatives have been provided to managers and inspectors to ensure a consistent and comprehensive national approach to conducting oversight.
On human resources planning, Transport Canada has a highly dedicated and professional corps of inspectors. To maintain and build on this and to ensure the rail safety program has the required staff with the skills and competencies it needs to plan and implement its oversight activities, a needs assessment was conducted last year. As a result, our comprehensive human resources strategy includes the inventory of skills and competencies required by inspectors in order to perform effectively in a systems-based approach to oversight. This forms the basis for inspector training, recruitment, and retention strategies.
Mandatory training is taken within planned timeframes and is monitored regularly to ensure that compulsory training for inspector credentials is taken in a timely manner. By spring 2014 all inspectors and managers received the appropriate training to become safety management system auditors.
In terms of quality assurance, in a program such as rail safety, work is accomplished through many cross-functional activities—for example inspecting, auditing, and enforcement of rules, regulations, and engineering standards. The challenge is to ensure consistency in the way we deliver our program.
That is why, in 2004, we put in place both a comprehensive quality management system as well as the quality assurance program to verify that the rail safety program's activities are conducted as intended. We have a three-year plan in place to conduct risk-based quality assurance assessments, which involve periodic evaluations of oversight activities, including audits and inspections. For example, in 2014 the rail safety program conducted a quality assurance assessment of its inspection procedure. As a result, the procedure is being further revised. As well, for 2015-16, we have two internal assessments planned that will examine the procedures for issuing notices and orders, and the quality, input, and accessibility of the database system's data.
We continue to improve the rail safety program. As you know, in addition to the above measures, has announced the multiple decisive actions that Transport Canada has taken to address the Transportation Safety Board of Canada's initial and final recommendations into the investigation of the tragic events at Lac-Mégantic, actions that Mrs. Fox, chair of the Transportation Safety Board, has recognized as significant progress.
We are confident that these actions, together with the progress we have made and presented to you today, respond to the OAG's recommendations and demonstrate the department's commitment and action to ensure Transport Canada's strong, risk-based rail safety program continues.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I look forward to your questions.
Thank you, Mr. Vice-Chair.
Welcome to the officials and also welcome to Mr. Dion today at committee.
We have you back to look at the implementation of the recommendations contained in chapter 7 of the 2013 fall report of the Auditor General of Canada. To refresh our memories, the period or the timeline that was under audit by the Office of the Auditor General if I'm correct was April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012. That now represents a period over three years ago from where we are at right now today, so your ability to make progress or not against your action plan is important not just for the interest of the committee but obviously for public safety and the public at large.
We'll begin with recommendation 7.26. The Auditor General had recommended that:
|| Transport Canada should complete the implementation of the recommendations raised in the Railway Safety Act review and relevant recommendations of the rail safety review conducted by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities [and] integrate the changes into the regulatory framework for federal railways to comply with and for the Department to oversee.
Now going back to the period under the audit, there were 32 of 56 recommendations from the RSA review completed and 10 of 14 from the review by the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, which were completed at that time. You've given us an update on that today. Your action plan was released subsequent to November 2013. In terms of your actions, as I understand them now, the coming into force of railway operating certificates and the ability to, as a compliance mechanism if necessary, remove their right to operate was in November of 2014. Am I correct on that timeline?
I think I was at recommendation 7.58, but allow me to back up for just a moment to recommendation 7.42.
I had mentioned the transportation information regulations having come into force and that we were anticipating information from federal railway companies this fall to analyze next year. The commitment to the Auditor General was that by early 2016 the revised regulations would be introduced. That's a substantial step forward, to be at the stage of analysis in the same time period. That information obviously is critical to oversight activities.
Going back to recommendation 7.58 now, Transport Canada had agreed that by mid-2014 it would complete implementation of the rail safety integrated gateway system audit and inspection modules, including training for Transport Canada staff on documentation and communication of oversight activity findings and follow-up requirements.
That was completed in July 2014, so it's a commitment made and a commitment kept on that one.
You also committed that by spring 2014, Transport Canada would develop a follow-up procedure and provide all inspectors with training on the procedure to enhance the consistency of follow-up activity.
The training of inspectors on new follow-up procedures was completed in June 2014. Is that correct?