Federal Authorities and Levers

The Minister of Transport has a number of authorities and levers available to carry out and advance the Government's agenda and priorities, including legislation, regulations, funding, convening power, information and data, and international engagement.

Legislation and Regulations

  • Minister of Transport has authority to propose and enforce laws and regulations to ensure safe, secure, efficient and environmentally responsible transportation.
  • One of the largest federal regulators (50 statutes, 236 sets of regulations).
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In exercising the federal government’s jurisdiction over transportation, the Minister of Transport is responsible for 50 Acts of Parliament, such as the Canada Transportation Act, Aeronautics Act, Canada Marine Act, and Railway Safety Act. Legislative authorities provide the federal government with jurisdiction to regulate safety, security, economic activity, and the environment related to a wide-range of issues pertaining to air, marine, rail, international bridges and tunnels; strategic federal assets such as major airports and ports; and standards for motor vehicles, child seats, and tires.

TC is the second largest federal regulator after Health Canada. With responsibility for the administration of 236 sets of regulations, TC has a significant role in overseeing and modernizing the transportation system to the benefit of Canadians. Oversight and enforcement activities carried out by TC’s inspectors and regulatory experts across the country are central to the Department’s mission of ensuring world-class safety of the transportation system for Canadians.

TC, similar to other federal departments, has legal obligations anchored in Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, that recognizes and affirms existing Indigenous and treaty rights. Negotiated agreements, including modern treaties, and Court decisions interpreting Section 35 inform TC’s legal obligations, notably including the legal duty to consult Indigenous peoples.

Jurisdictional Landscape

Transportation in Canada is a shared jurisdiction with provinces and territories (PTs), and varies by mode. TC develops the legislative and policy framework concerning air (e.g., airlines, airports, air navigation services), significant aspects of marine (e.g., shipping lines, ferries, ports, pilotage, St. Lawrence Seaway), interprovincial and international rail, and international bridges and tunnels, along with some aspects of interprovincial trucking and busing. PTs generally have legislative jurisdiction over intra-provincial transportation undertakings, public transit systems, and local roads and bridges.

TC exercises a key national and international mandate for the components of the transportation system within federal jurisdiction, particularly in air (exclusively federal) and marine (shared but mostly within federal jurisdiction). Transportation assets are owned, maintained and operated by a mix of public (municipal, PT, and federal) and private sector partners and agencies.

Funding

  • Select number of targeted funding programs support economic, safety, security and environmental objectives.
  • For instance, TC administers the National Trade Corridors Fund (NTCF), which creates funding partnerships to build critical infrastructure that improves the overall mobility of people and goods in Canada and build stronger, more efficient transportation corridors to international markets.
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The federal government can achieve key priorities with respect to the transportation program through funding certain activities and agreements, such as securing strategic investments in transportation infrastructure in order to advance national objectives related to economic growth and trade. For instance, the NTCF is a merit-based competitive program to make strategic transportation infrastructure investments that reduce bottlenecks and build more efficient and fluid trade corridors to global markets. The NTCF was initially launched in 2017 with a plan to invest $1.9 billion over 11 years, although an additional $400 million was provided for the North in Budget 2019, along with a further $1.9 billion in Budget 2021. In addition to the NTCF, TC also administers targeted funding programs that support economic, safety, security and environmental objectives, such as the Airports Capital Assistance Program, Rail Safety Improvement Program, and Abandoned Boats Program.  

Convening Power

  • Bringing public and private sector partners, stakeholders and Indigenous groups together in roundtables and other venues to build a better transportation system for Canadians. National leadership in transportation involves a strong partnership with provincial and territorial partners given transportation modes are interconnected and jurisdiction is shared, particularly with respect to surface transportation.
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There are opportunities for TC to carry out its mandate and provide national leadership on key issues by exercising its convening power through engagement and partnerships with governments, Indigenous peoples, experts and stakeholders. For instance, TC chairs a Commodity Supply Chain Table to facilitate collaboration and information sharing amongst supply chain stakeholders (e.g., producers, shippers, railways, ports, etc.) with the objective of improving the efficiency and reliability of transportation corridors in moving Canadian commodities to market. The Minister of Transport is also a permanent co-chair of the Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety, which is the principal intergovernmental forum in Canada for discussion and coordination of multi-jurisdictional transportation issues.

With an increasingly interconnected transportation system and growing stakeholder and public interest in transportation issues, particularly in urban areas, along with expanded federal commitments regarding partnerships with Indigenous groups, collaborative and integrated planning is important to enable economic growth and enhance the efficiency and reliability of Canada’s trade and transportation corridors.

Information Broker

  • TC is a national resource for transportation data, and has legal authorities to collect and disseminate third party data.
  • Data has become a crucial resource in the planning and operation of the transportation system; reliable and efficient transportation services increasingly rely on real-time digital sharing of data among the transportation value chain partners.
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With increasing global competition and the rapid pace of technological change, significant importance and industry interest is being placed on greater and more timely data and information, notably real-time data, to support planning and decision-making, particularly to promote and help facilitate the fluid and reliable mobility of people and goods. While TC has legal authorities to collect and disseminate third party data, it often works in close collaboration with federal partners, other levels of government, and the transportation industry to improve access to authoritative sources of information on multi-modal transportation and performance measures. For instance, TC worked closely with Statistics Canada to create the Canadian Centre on Transportation Data in order to make transportation data and information more accessible to support policy and decision makers, industry players and transportation users.

International Engagement

  • International relationships are key to TC’s ability to deliver on its national mandate.
  • TC is actively engaged as a constructive partner in multi-lateral bodies that establish international standards, such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and International Maritime Organization (IMO); the Department works closely with national transportation regulators and policy authorities in other countries, with a particular emphasis on the United States (U.S.), and achieving regulatory alignment in transportation across the Canada-U.S. border.
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International Engagement

While Global Affairs Canada is the overall lead federal Department for international relations, TC represents Canada’s interests, as primarily related to the safety, security and efficiency of transport elements of trade agreements, and at multilateral transportation institutions such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Maritime Organization (IMO), and International Transport Forum (ITF), among other multilateral organizations.