Evidence of meeting #33 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was inspection.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Laureen Kinney  Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security, Department of Transport
Martin Eley  Director General, Civil Aviation, Department of Transport
Luc Bourdon  Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

That's great.

Continuing on with inspections, there have been some questions here already this morning regarding them. There seems to be a certain amount of questioning or confusion on the surveillance aspect of TC because there are so many different activities. We hear about inspections, audits, assessments, process inspections, program validation inspections, and traditional inspections, just to name a few of the different terms we hear out there.

I'm wondering if you could briefly explain to the committee the terminologies used by civil aviation and differentiate between them. I think that also comes back to the no notice inspections being part of the plan, or not necessarily shown in the plan, but they are occurring. There seems to be a lot of confusion, and I think some terminology changes have also occurred. People are saying these types of inspections aren't happening anymore, but are they still happening, just with a terminology difference? I think it would be very helpful for us to have an understanding of that.

9:45 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security, Department of Transport

Laureen Kinney

Thank you very much for the question. I know that it is a bit difficult, because terminology has evolved and there are definitely lexicon issues.

To give you a very brief history of the evolution, before 2005 Transport Canada conducted inspections and audits. There was a national safety audit program that brought together specialists from each of the silos to carry out a bit of an overview of the company systems. It was a precursor to what we do now. That was seen as a very valuable and useful type of inspection and has provided better information.

After our risk assessments and further work done in 2005, the system was changed to implement what is our primary tool for scheduled and planned inspections, which is program validation inspections. Those are the cyclical major inspections where, again, a team goes in with a team leader and looks at a number of areas of the company. Because companies are large, they still don't necessarily look at every part of the company on every visit, but they go in and look at the serious and most critical areas of that particular organization, based on a whole suite of risk information.

Those are the big inspections. They are cyclical and they're scheduled. They're planned fairly well in advance, because you need to make sure the...[Technical Difficulty—Editor]

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Has the timing of those changed since the introduction of SMS, or is this still ongoing, as it was before SMS?

9:50 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security, Department of Transport

Laureen Kinney

The two things occurred in parallel, if you will. One is the inspection changes. We took what was the national audit program and made it a key part of our program validation inspection approach. It morphed into that. That is our scheduled inspection.

We have SMS assessments that also go on for our industry on a cyclical basis. Those that are subject to regulatory SMS have a cyclical requirement for SMS audits. In addition to that, there's a whole series of other kinds of inspection activities. Those are the process inspections, which previously were more what people tend to refer to in the old type of inspection. They're very similar in a lot of cases now, but they have a little more rigour in terms of how they're carried out and in terms of the reporting requirements in response to audit recommendations.

In that suite of other types of inspections, there are areas including things like manual revisions, pilot proficiency checks, and changes in the status of some of the key personnel at a company that would trigger another inspection on those issues. Those are also classified and gathered in our database as inspections, so there is quite a wide variety of types of inspections.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Larry Miller

I'm sorry. Your time has expired, Mr. Toet.

Mr. Mai, you have five minutes.

9:50 a.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank the Transport Canada officials for being with us today.

We heard from employees and others about protection for whistleblowers. The safety management system depends on employees. They told the committee, however, about a frequent problem that occurred whenever an employee would make a recommendation or point out a security breach: the employee would either lose their job or encounter problems as a result.

Does Transport Canada do anything to protect whistleblowers?

9:50 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security, Department of Transport

Laureen Kinney

Are you looking at the rail industry or generally?

9:50 a.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Both.

It's generally. It could be rail or aviation.

9:50 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security, Department of Transport

Laureen Kinney

Just to step back a slight bit in terms of the approach we have, most of the modes have systems whereby the individuals who are working in a company certainly can and do call an inspector and let them know of any concerns they have. We have a formalized system for this in the CADORS database system that we have in civil aviation, whereby many people, including employees, can make those kinds of reports.

In the amendments to the Railway Safety Act that were made in 2013, there are provisions for this issue to be addressed in the safety management systems regulations that may come out in the fall. There would be a provision in there looking at the ability for employees to report through a company process, but again, it would be like other parts of safety management systems. You would require the company to set up a process to do that.

At the end of the day, it isn't the type of system that Transport Canada would want to take over relations issues, Labour Board issues, and areas like that, so I don't want to give the impression that this is something that would be completely contained within a Transport Canada requirement.

9:50 a.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

We spoke a lot about the inspectors. You also explained how things are changing. How many inspectors does Transport Canada have now? What we saw is a trend going down in terms of the number of inspectors. It went from close to 500 licensed pilot inspectors to 382 who work for Transport Canada and the investigators at the TSB. What's the trend that you have within Transport Canada?

9:50 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security, Department of Transport

Laureen Kinney

The trend is extremely stable. I'd have to look at all the different elements, but generally speaking, there has been no significant change in the different components as a total of oversight and inspector-type positions. A variety of individuals in each program has inspection authorities. Martin, correct me if I'm wrong,

For example, there are bridge inspectors and other types of inspectors in rail. There are engineers, technical inspectors, and pilots who have inspection authorities.

Over time there has been a certain rebalancing of the number of people you use for certain tasks to some degree, but at the same time I think it would be fair to say.... Martin, do you want to expand?

9:50 a.m.

Director General, Civil Aviation, Department of Transport

Martin Eley

Perhaps with a little clarification from the aviation point of view.... In the past our inspectors were defined purely by classification, even if they were a manager. That picture has changed somewhat. We're focused more on the people who are delivering the work, so the way the numbers come together is somewhat different because we've changed our whole organization,.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Perfect.

The Auditor General was pretty direct and a bit scathing in his report regarding the time it takes for Transport Canada to rectify some problems. We're talking about a delay of 10 years, not necessarily with rail, but with aviation. Can you tell us the problem, and how we can deal with it?

9:55 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security, Department of Transport

Laureen Kinney

In general, there's a whole variety of recommendations, some of which required some engineering work, some research to look at the right solution, what's technologically available, the implications of putting that into the industry and a significant amount of discussion on what this idea would look like translated into impact.

Transport Canada has accepted the recommendations and the advice of the Auditor General, and certainly the Transportation Safety Board's raising of these issues. At the same time we have put in place a number of areas where we can improve our speed of consultation process, so we can address an issue more quickly and also look at how our regulatory processes can be improved.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

I don't have much time, so perhaps we could come back to rail and how Transport Canada gave an exemption to MMA so they had one conductor. What was the process?

9:55 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security, Department of Transport

Laureen Kinney

An investigation is under way, both from our current terms in a regulatory sense and from the Transportation Safety Board's review. The degree to which I'd be able to comment on that is fairly limited.

A system is in place for all changes with regard to single person train operation or other major changes in operation, and the company is required to do risk assessments before any major change. They are required to look at the mitigation methods and then they are required, in this case and in other cases, to consult with affected municipalities, etc., in some cases with labour and then the information is provided to Transport Canada.

If we have a concern about what the process proposal is, what the mitigations are, we have various tools to deal with those. That's the general process.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Larry Miller

Your time has expired.

Mr. Leung, you have five minutes.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

It's a pleasure to be here. This is the first time I've attended this committee.

You're right; the whole question of safety and systems management is very new. I first approached the subject when I was doing my engineering studies in 1982, so compared to the entire transportation history, it is new.

I'd like to take a more technical approach to how we address this issue. Where do we keep statistics for mean time between failure? How is that integrated into our safety management system? How do we look at material and metal fatigue? How do we inspect it? Also, do we train our inspectors at the point of manufacturing to ensure that the manufacturers do those fatigue tests and to provide us with that percentage of reliability?

For example, technology over time, especially in rail, has gone from wooden sleepers to concrete sleepers to Pandrol fasteners. How does Transport Canada instruct the carriers and the manufacturers to bring them up to 21st century safety standards?

9:55 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security, Department of Transport

Laureen Kinney

I'll give a very quick overview, first of all, and then turn to Mr. Bourdon for rail.

We have a very robust program with national aircraft certification processes whereby those types of activities are carried on, and we have very robust arrangements in place to look at how the aircraft are certified and the aircraft producers' time periods recommended for maintenance, time periods for the kind of checks to address those issues.

We have similar types of situation and means of containment approvals and regulations in the transportation of dangerous goods, but not quite to the same scale.

Luc, do you want to add something for rail safety?

9:55 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

Yes.

We have our track safety rules that are updated from time to time. The last major revision was in May of last year, coming into force on May 25, to recognize some new technology and bring the railway to a higher standard by requiring rail flaw detections and track geometry testing as part of the rule. They also make reference to North American standards from AREMA, so when they're updated from time to time, our track safety rules will be kept up to date.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

You know the dynamic envelope of a railcar moving through its normal track changes with the standard of your railbed. How often is that upgraded?

10 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

Actually, when we updated our track safety rules, this is why we made track geometry testing as well as rail flaw detection mandatory, to measure exactly what you're talking about. Depending on the tonnage being used on a track, there are different levels of inspection they have to carry out. That gives us the level to know that the track is up to date. If it's not, they have to fix it.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Is this constantly audited and inspected to provide that safety measurement?

June 12th, 2014 / 10 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

Absolutely. On top of this, TC also purchased six light track-geometry inspection vehicles to monitor track geometry on all Canadian railways.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Thanks.

I have no more questions.