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Transport Canada’s dangerous-goods registry has outdated, missing data: audit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has created a risk-assessment system to prioritize what sites should be inspected, but the database of sites is outdated and incomplete, with hundreds of sites in the database no longer active, and thousands of potential sites that may need inspections not included.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

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Annual spending on debt interest is closing in on $3 billion

Alberta reported an additional 399 cases of COVID-19 Thursday, on 9,217 tests, for a test positivity rate of 4.3 per cent. (Image courtesy CDC)
Red Deer down to 562 active COVID-19 cases

8 new COVID-19 deaths, 399 additional COVID-19 cases

Alberta premier Jason Kenney, right and Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, provide details about Bill 13, the Alberta Senate Election Act., in Edmonton Alta, on Wednesday June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Minister Doug Schweitzer talks on Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit

Provincial government rolling out new benefit this April to better help small businesses.

Bookings for COVID-19 vaccines for people age 75 or older start Wednesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Updated: Delays for seniors booking for vaccine appointments

By 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments

Vandalism is shown on Alberta NDP MLA Janis Irwin’s constituency office in Edmonton in this handout photo on Saturday, February 27, 2021. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney quickly condemned vandalism at an Opposition legislature member Janis Irwin’s Edmonton office after the MLA posted pictures showing her front window spray-painted with the words “Antifa Liar.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Janis Irwin *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

Edmonton MLA Janis Irwin posted pictures showing the front window spray-painted with the words ‘Antifa Liar’

A helicopter flies past a mountain near McBride, B.C., on Saturday January 30, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Avalanche warning for backcountry users in North and South Rockies

Avalanche Canada is urging backcountry users to always check their regional avalanche forecasts

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta’s COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

The court says it will reconvene with lawyers on March 5 for a case management plan by teleconference

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
UPDATE: Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

Sylvan Lake's Winter Village lured many visitors to the town this winter. The town has launched a new contest to attract a new business.
(Black Press file photo)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Most Read