Transport Canada’s Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy (June 2011)

Transport Canada is launching its first Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy under the new federal approach.

Transport Canada's Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy provides information on: 

Sustainable development and transportation

Transportation takes place within a complex web of human and physical interactions and conditions. Trends in the environment, the economy and society affect the nature and scale of transportation activities, the impacts of those activities, and our responses to those impacts. The nature and volume of trade drives the demand for freight transportation. Similarly, the size of the population, its habits, income levels, the cost of energy and land use patterns affect passenger travel.

Transportation is fundamental to Canada's economic prosperity and Canadians' quality of life. To enhance our quality of life, we need to ensure that our system is safe, secure and environmentally responsible. To maintain and enhance our competitiveness, we must ensure our transportation system is efficient and able to adapt to new challenges as they arise.

To preserve and strengthen Canada's transportation system, transportation policy must provide a framework that addresses the three elements of sustainable transportation – social, economic and environmental. It must also give carriers the opportunity to adapt, innovate, compete and serve shippers and travellers, in a way that takes into account each of these elements. The fundamental policy challenge is to find the right balance among these three elements.

Canada's size and dependence on international trade make transportation very important to Canadians. Transportation – by land, water and air – links Canadians to each other and Canada with the world. Transportation has a wide range of impacts on the economy, our society and the environment. While many of these impacts are positive (e.g., supporting economic growth; moving people to their destinations and goods to markets; providing jobs; supporting mobility; enabling human contact), there are negative impacts as well that need to be considered (e.g., emissions; resource use – materials and energy; possibility of spills and leaks; impacts on land use).

What this means for Transport Canada

Transport Canada is responsible for the Government of Canada's transportation policies and programs. While not directly responsible for all aspects or modes of transportation, the department plays a leadership role to ensure that all parts of the transportation system work together effectively.

Our Vision – A transportation system in Canada that is recognized worldwide as safe and secure, efficient and environmentally responsible.

The department's vision of a sustainable transportation system is one that integrates and balances social, economic and environmental objectives. This vision is guided by the following principles:

  • highest possible safety and security of life and property – guided by performance–based standards and regulations when necessary;
  • efficient movement of people and goods to support economic prosperity and a sustainable quality of life – based on competitive markets and targeted use of regulation and government funding; and
  • respect for the environmental legacy of future generations of Canadians – guided by environmental assessment and planning processes in transportation decisions and selective use of regulation and government funding.

Departmental decision–making and sustainable development

Sustainable development planning and reporting is now required to be linked with the federal government's core expenditure planning and reporting system under the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy. This integration will occur through two primary planning and reporting vehicles:

  1. Report on Plans and Priorities – the 2011–2012 Report on Plans and Priorities is the first time to highlight objectives and plans that contribute to the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.
  2. Departmental Performance Report – Beginning with its 2011–2012 Departmental Performance Report, Transport Canada will report progress against its Federal Sustainable Development Strategy implementation strategies.

Following are some other key examples of how Transport Canada is integrating environmental aspects into its decision–making:

Detailed information on Transport Canada's commitments in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy

As required by the Federal Sustainable Development Act, the Government of Canada developed a Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and tabled it in Parliament in October 2010. The Federal Sustainable Development Strategy focuses on the environment as a first step in integrating environmental issues with economic and social considerations. It contains a number of goals, targets and implementation strategies, which are organized under four priority themes:

   Theme I
   Theme II
   Theme III
   Theme IV
Shrinking the environmental footprint – Beginning with government (also known as Greening Government Operations)


The first Federal Sustainable Development Strategy contains 320 implementation strategies for meeting the goals and targets under Themes I to III. Transport Canada is responsible, or jointly responsible for 38 of these implementation strategies (commitments). As a Schedule I department, Transport Canada is also required to meet all targets found under Theme IV. The following sections of this website provide you with more detail on what these commitments mean, how they link to Transport Canada's strategic outcomes, and how the department plans to measure its progress.

It is important to note that the numbering of these implementation strategies comes directly from the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.