Auditor General highlights Transport Canada failings: No expert consultations and reliance on United States for guidance

Published: November 29, 2016

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



The latest Auditor General of Canada’s report reveals that Transport Canada (TC) does not consult with stakeholders like insurance companies when developing motor vehicle safety standards. Equally, TC is not responding to emerging traffic threats and issues quickly enough.

Michael Ferguson, the Auditor General of Canada, released seven fall reports. The report highlighting the failing of Transport Canada was titled Oversight of Passenger Vehicle Safety – Transport Canada. The paper is likely to be a surprise to many and potentially shows that TC is failing in its role as overseer of Canada’s road and transport network.

Indeed, in a damning assessment, the report says TC “generally waited for the United States to change its motor vehicle safety standards before modifying Canadian standards.”

This rather suggests that Canada’s transport and safety policy is dependent on developments south of the border and not independently functioning as it should. In the report, Ferguson added that TC limits consultations to the automotive industry. The worrying assessment continued by saying an up-to-date framework for passenger safety regulations is non-existent and because of this new standards can take up to 10 years to be implemented.

“We found that Transport Canada had discussions with manufacturers prior to announcing its intention to implement or modify a particular regulation in the Canada Gazette, Part I,” the report said. “These consultations often went beyond technical feasibility issues, which contributed to these delays. Finally, we found that Transport Canada did not systematically consult with other important stakeholders, such as vehicle parts and equipment suppliers, insurance companies, medical associations, and police.”

Ferguson points out that TC does not keep complete records for Canadian collision and injury data and how it gets evidence for amending safety standards is unclear. It is a similar story with engagement with insurance providers, with TC not maintaining industry statistics.

“This is important because Transport Canada needs to integrate emerging safety risks and new technologies into the regulatory framework in a timely way so that Canadians are safe on our roads,” the report said. “Our regulatory framework should not prevent Canadians from accessing new safety features that will keep them safer on our roadways. Also, it should ensure that specific Canadian safety needs are properly addressed. These needs include climate, more variable hours of daylight, road infrastructure, and differences in the vehicle fleet.”

The Auditor General offered seven recommendations to Transport Canada, including that it should “actively seek” advise and consultation with expert stakeholders like medical groups and the insurance industry.