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2018-19 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. TSB 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, pipeline and rail 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 Planand theDepartmental Results Report. The TSB is part of the Privy Council portfolio of departments and agencies.

Mandate and role

The TSB performs a key role within the Canadian transportation system. We provide Canadians with an organization entrusted to advance transportation safety by:

The TSB may also represent Canadian interests in foreign investigations of transportation accidents involving Canadian citizens or Canadian registered, licensed or manufactured aircraft, ships or railway rolling stock. In addition, the TSB carries out some of Canada's obligations related to transportation safety at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

As one of the world leaders in its field, the TSB regularly shares its investigation techniques, methodologies and tools with foreign safety organizations by inviting them to participate in in-house training programs in the areas of investigation methodology, and human and organizational factors. Under the terms of international agreements, the TSB also provides investigation assistance to foreign safety organizations, such as downloading and analyzing flight recorder data or overseeing engine teardowns. The TSB also shares data and reports with sister organizations, in addition to participating in international working groups and studies to advance transportation safety.

Operating context and key risks

Operating context: conditions affecting our work

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 Canada Energy Regulator 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 number of 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 2019-20, 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.  

Key risks: things that could affect our ability to achieve our plans and results

The TSB faces key strategic risks that represent a potential threat to the achievement of its mandate. These risks warrant particular vigilance from all levels of the organization.

Over the past few years, the TSB has faced a number of growing funding pressures that made it increasingly difficult for the organization to deliver on its mandate. The TSB had not received any new permanent funding since 2003. The TSB also faced increasing costs that added-up year after year. Meanwhile, public expectations and the complexity of the TSB's work have changed significantly. The TSB had reached the point where the integrity of its program was at-risk due to insufficient resources. The TSB therefore sought and received additional short-term funding for 2017-18. Finally, in 2018-19, the TSB obtained long-term permanent funding to ensure financial stability for 2018-19 and future years.

Another significant risk is managing workload and expectations. The TSB cannot accurately predict the volume of activities since these are influenced by the number, severity and complexity of transportation occurrences. The public's expectation is that the TSB will deploy and investigate all serious occurrences, will deliver timely answers on each investigation, and will make a difference in preventing future occurrences. With the advent of social media, the public/media want factual information on what happened within minutes/hours, and they expect regular progress reports throughout the investigations. This has resulted in higher expectations relating to the timeliness of the TSB's safety products, the quality of its work, and the number of safety products completed.

Another risk faced by the TSB is challenges to its business processes and its legislation. As Canadian society becomes more litigious, people and organizations seek compensation for losses or damages. Litigants want timely information to file early lawsuits and seek resolution of their claims. This results in an increasing number of demands for TSB information not only after reports are published but also during on-going investigations. Litigants also want access to wreckage and physical evidence. Furthermore, organizations and individuals are more frequently challenging the TSB policies and procedures, as well as the application of the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board (CTAISB) Act. If the TSB does not ensure the review and modernization of its enabling legislation, core investigation processes, quality assurance/control processes, and its use of modern technologies, there is a risk that the Courts could issue rulings that negatively impact on the way that the TSB conducts its work.  

The success of the TSB depends upon the expertise, professionalism and competence of its employees, so maintaining a qualified and healthy workforce remains a key risk. Challenges include recruiting and retaining experienced and qualified personnel in certain operational areas due to higher private sector salaries, a shortage of skilled workers for certain positions, and the on-going retirement of the baby-boomer cohort of employees. Another challenge is the need to be vigilant with respect to employee wellbeing. Due to the nature of the work performed by the TSB, employees may be exposed to significant workplace stress. Occupational health and safety is also important, in particular because of the risks associated with deployments to occurrence sites involving exposure to many hazards. Without a skilled and healthy workforce, the TSB would not be able to deliver its mandate and achieve its key strategic objectives.  

Key risks

Risks Risk response strategy and effectiveness Link to the TSB's Core Responsibility Link to the TSB's Strategic Plan 2016-17 to 2020-21

Financial constraints affecting ability to deliver on mandate

The TSB's ability to continue to effectively deliver its mandate and meet its obligations is at risk due to limited financial resources.

The TSB will:

  • Continue to look for efficiencies.
  • Continue to seek a permanent increase in its budget.
  • Adjust plans and priorities according to the resources available.

The TSB Executive Committee (EC) will regularly monitor resources and perform monthly reallocations. After obtaining short- term funding for 2017-18, in 2018-19, the TSB finally obtained long-term permanent funding to ensure financial stability for 2018-19 and future years.

Independent safety investigations and communication of risks in the transportation system

  • Serving Canadians

Managing Workload and Expectations in a Changing Environment

The TSB's ability to continue to effectively deliver its mandate and meet its obligations is at risk due to high public expectations, changing government priorities, and other external changes beyond the TSB's control.

The TSB will:

  • Review and adjust key organizational performance targets in light of available resources and ensure the revised targets are broadly communicated to stakeholders and easily accessible to the public.
  • Implement rigorous project management practices to ensure that investigations and key projects are completed in an effective, efficient and timely manner.
  • Implement effective employee performance management to ensure a balanced distribution of workload.

The TSB Executive Committee will monitor progress against the performance targets and the overall workload on a quarterly basis.

Independent safety investigations and communication of risks in the transportation system

  • Serving Canadians


Challenges to the TSB's business processes and legislation

There is a risk that the TSB's operational effectiveness could be impacted if it fails to adapt to a changing environment in which people and organizations are increasingly seeking access to TSB information for litigation purposes.

The TSB will:

  • Review and update its investigation methodology, key business processes, the Manual of Investigations, as well as core investigator training.
  • Review and adjust the TSB's regulations and explore the feasibility of modifying the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act.
  • Make more information and data available to the public through its website and the Open Data portal. 

The TSB Executive Committee will monitor this risk through progress reports on a semi-annual basis.

Independent safety investigations and communication of risks in the transportation system

  • Improving core business process and products
  • Updating legislative and regulatory frameworks


Maintaining a Qualified and Healthy Workforce

The TSB faces risks in recruiting and retaining a fully knowledgeable, experienced, and healthy workforce to ensure the delivery of its mandate.

Subject to the availability of resources, the TSB will:

  • Continue succession planning for key positions and anticipatory staffing in advance of vacancies.
  • Continue to improve all key elements of the Occupational Health and Safety Program;
  • Ensure the availability of appropriate training and Employee Assistance Services;
  • Implement the actions identified in its Public Service Employee Survey action plan.
  • Develop and implement a Mental Health action plan.

The TSB Executive Committee will monitor staff turnover, training, sick leave and other relevant human resources indicators through semi-annual updates provided by Human Resources and the National OHS Policy Committee. Corrective actions will be prioritized and actioned.

Independent safety investigations and communication of risks in the transportation system


  • Serving Canadians