Federal environment commissioner Andrew Hayes speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Federal environment commissioner Andrew Hayes speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Transport Canada’s dangerous-goods registry has outdated, missing data: audit

Companies that transport dangerous goods are not required to register with Transport Canada

Transport Canada isn’t always following up when it finds safety violations in the movement of dangerous goods and still doesn’t have the full picture of the companies and locations it is supposed to be monitoring, Canada’s interim environment commissioner said Tuesday.

Andrew Hayes’s fall environment audits included an update on Transport Canada’s progress to improve safety on dangerous-goods transport, since a 2011 audit identified a number of shortcomings.

“Transport Canada has more work to do to address problems with inspections and emergency plans that were raised almost a decade ago,” he said.

That includes making sure it has fully investigated and approved the emergency-response plans companies that transport dangerous goods must file with the government. About one-fifth of the plans had only been given interim approval in 2018-19, the audit found. Hayes said that is better than 2011, when almost half were in interim status, but is still not good enough.

He noted the recommendation to fully review emergency-response plans was also made in a report on the 2013 rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Que., where a runaway train loaded with oil derailed and exploded, killing 47 people.

Hayes said the plans are critical to ensuring safety, noting two freight derailments in Saskatchewan last winter that leaked more than 3.1 million litres of crude oil and caused massive fires that burned for at least 24 hours near the hamlet of Guernsey.

“When I see the rail accidents that happened earlier this year in Guernsey, Sask., I say to myself it’s important these (emergency response plans) get done by the department and soon,” Hayes said.

Hayes wouldn’t pass judgment on how safe Canada’s transportation system is when it comes to moving dangerous goods around, because he said in many cases we don’t have enough information to make such an assessment.

The department has created a risk-assessment system to prioritize what sites should be inspected, but the database of sites is outdated and incomplete, with hundreds of sites in the database no longer active, and thousands of potential sites that may need inspections not included.

Companies that transport dangerous goods are not required to register with Transport Canada, said Hayes. That’s a gap the department has said it will fix.

He said there have been some improvements since 2011. The number of inspections has gone from 2,000 to more than 5,000 a year, the number of staff from 113 to 290, and the budget for the work from $13.9 million to $36.2 million.

But when the audit looked at a sample of 60 violations uncovered by inspections in 2018, it found almost one-third of the time the department never went back to make sure the companies had made the required fixes.

The volume of dangerous goods being shipped in Canada has gone up. By rail alone, in 2011, 31.8 million tonnes of dangerous goods were shipped. In 2019, that had risen to 54.2 million tonnes.

Hayes said the department did appear to be taking the audit seriously and has accepted the recommendations. Transport Canada, for example, says by next spring it will have updated training and policies for following up on safety violations and by the end of 2021 it will complete the investigations that are needed to finalize approval of emergency response plans that have been in the “interim” stage for more than three years.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Transportation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Volunteers organize items during Central Community Church’s Stuff-a-Truck food drive on Saturday, June 27, 2020. There are several donation drop-offs, toy drives and other fundraisers happening this month to help bring Christmas to many families and individuals in need this year. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
The Christmas list: Where and how to give, receive in Chilliwack

A thorough list from toy drives to food drop-off locations to how to apply for a Christmas hamper

The Stuff the Cruiser event normally sees generous people filling an RCMP vehicle with donations to the local food bank, but this year’s event has been cancelled due to the pandemic. (File Photo)
RCMP’s Stuff the Cruiser food bank fundraiser cancelled by COVID-19

The annual event brings in donations of food and cash for the Salvation Army and local food banks

Chilliwack school district’s Learn at Home program will be extended to March 12, following a parent survey that showed support for the learning option. (Submitted/ Jessica Browne)
Learning from home option continues to March for Chilliwack students

More than 600 students currently connecting to school from home

A horse on Yale Road West peeks out from its shelter at the rainy weather on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
November saw mild and rainy conditions in Chilliwack

Around mid-month there was a rare November thunderstorm rolling through

A few lines on the turf field at Chilliwack secondary school may seem like nothing huge, but it could make a big difference for the Chilliwack Hawks field lacrosse association. (Facebook photo)
Chilliwack Hawks loving new lines on Chilliwack secondary school turf field

The field lacrosse association has been asking for sport-specific markings, and finally has them

Janet Austin, the lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, not seen, swears in Premier John Horgan during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. Horgan says he will look to fill gaps in the federal government’s sick-pay benefits program aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. premier says province prepared to patch holes in new federal sick-pay benefits

Horgan said workers should not be denied pay when they are preventing COVID-19’s spread

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An RCMP cruiser looks on as a military search and rescue helicopter winds down near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
B.C. Mountie, suspect airlifted by Canadian Armed Forces from ravine after foot chase

Military aircraft were dispatched from Comox, B.C., say RCMP

Photo by Dale Klippenstein
Suspect tries to thwart police in Abbotsford with false 911 call about men with guns

Man twice sped away from officers and then tried to throw them off his trail

Most Read