TSB Independence is critical for our work
8 January 2015
Posted by: Jean L. Laporte
For some people, there is a misconception that the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) reports to the Minister of Transport. Not only is this incorrect, it would essentially represent a direct conflict of interest since this would involve reporting to a Minister to whom we issue safety recommendations. Under the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act, the TSB can make recommendations to any Minister who has a direct interest in our findings, and the Minister is legally required to provide a written response outlining the actions to be taken by the government to address the safety issues we identified.
Therefore, the TSB reports directly to Parliament through the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. This ensures freedom from any partisan political activity or influence. This also provides us the independence from those who are responsible for the oversight of the transportation system so we can be fully objective in making findings as to causes and contributing factors, and in making transportation safety recommendations. This, in turn, allows the public and the transportation industry to have confidence in the accident investigation process in Canada.
We realize that it is also important for stakeholders to understand the significance of our independence. In fact, industry members collaborate more openly knowing that our mandate is not to impose changes or penalties, but rather to investigate accidents with the sole objective of finding out what happened and why, so that similar accidents can be avoided in the future.
The Lac-Mégantic investigation certainly serves as a perfect example. Our independence enabled us to fully report on all the contributing factors that led to this accident, including the gaps in Transport Canada’s oversight of safety management and this, in our view, is crucial to advancing transportation safety.
Although our independence does not allow us to force implementation of our recommendations, we strive to make a strong and compelling case for change in each of our investigations. In most cases, our recommendations have effectively led to safety improvements. Furthermore, the TSB’s independence and our way of conducting our business are seen as a best practice model which has inspired other countries around the world. The TSB has been approached by a number of European and Asian countries seeking guidance in order to build their own independent national investigative body for transportation safety.
In the end, why is our independence so critical? Because it allows us to openly and objectively call upon the government and industry to do more with respect to ensuring transportation safety for all Canadians.
Jean L. Laporte is the TSB Chief Operating Officer. He has worked at the Safety Board for almost 30 years. He is a Chartered Professional Accountant and a respected leader in public sector management. Jean is married and has 3 children. He loves travelling to discover different places, people and cultures.
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