Transportation in Canada 2011


Transportation links communities and reduces the impact of distance between people, products and services. It supports the country's social and economic fabrics, and adjusts to changes and transformations within Canada's society and economy.


Canada is defined, among other things, by its geography: a 10-million square-kilometre land mass with the longest land border and most extensive coastline in the world, fronting three different oceans; a diversified landscape with a wealth of resources; and challenging topographical and meteorological conditions.

Canada is also home to nearly 34 million inhabitants, and greets more than 16 million foreign visitors every year. It has an annual economic output of $1.8 trillion—the 14th largest in the world (15th by capita)—as well as one of the most diversified economies.

Transportation in Canada operates against this backdrop by moving people and goods over small and large distances, across towns, regions, provinces, territories and the nation itself as well as to and from other countries around the world. Canada's strategic location between Asia and Europe makes it a gateway to the Americas—a role of particular importance in today's global marketplace.

While the activities of Canada's transportation service industry are highly diversified, several common values prevail among all stakeholders. These include a dedication to efficiency, a commitment to environmental responsibility, adherence to the highest standards of safety, and the determination to provide Canadians with a secure transportation system. These values anchor Canada's strategic transportation objectives and the cornerstone of the country's federal department of transportation, Transport Canada.

About this report

This report on the state of transportation in Canada is tabled by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities of Canada in both Houses of Parliament. It is produced in compliance with Section 52 (2) of the 2007 Canada Transportation Act, which reads:

Every five years, the report referred to in subsection 52 (1) shall be expanded to a comprehensive review of the state of transportation in Canada which shall include:

  • (a) the financial performance of each mode of transportation and its contribution to the Canadian economy;
  • (b) the extent to which carriers and modes of transportation were provided resources, facilities and services at public expense;
  • (c) the extent to which carriers and modes of transportation received compensation, indirectly and directly, for the resources, facilities and services that were required to be provided as an imposed public duty;
  • (c.1) the long-term outlook and trends in transportation in Canada; and
  • (d) any other transportation matters that the Minister considers appropriate.

Transportation in Canada constitutes this mandatory comprehensive review since the Act's amendment in 2007. It begins with a description of relevant economic issues and how they impact the Canadian transportation system, and reviews public transportation expenditures and revenues as well as key developments in the four modes of transportation: air, marine, rail and road. These modal chapters present industry overviews, highlights from the previous year, a recap of significant changes that took place since the last comprehensive report in 2006, and descriptions of key issues related to the four values.

The report concludes with chapters on the transportation of dangerous goods; on gateways and corridors and global value chains; and on foreseeable trends and issues likely to affect Canada's transportation system in coming years.

The report, its Statistical Addendum and its Cartography Addendum are based on extensive factual transportation data. Both addenda are heavily referenced in this report. The various data sources are diverse and encompass a broad range of organizations; proper care and attention was devoted to data quality and reliability. However, the onus for data quality rests with the sources of data reported. To produce this report, the most current data available was used, which was not always from 2011. This results in a slight variation of data periods from one mode to another.

Painting a complete picture of the state of transportation in Canada is a complex task, delimited by access to data. When possible, the scope of the report extended beyond federal transportation responsibilities. Canada's transportation system can be reviewed from local, regional, provincial, national as well as global perspectives. By addressing a mosaic of facts, trends and issues across all modes, this report offers readers a perspective on the state of transportation in Canada.