Keynote: Data Science @ Transport Canada: the Challenge of a Federal Regulator
Date: Friday, May 21, 2021
Time:  9:30 am to 10:15 am 

Transport Canada is the federal safety, security, and economic regulator of international and interprovincial travel – which historically means the air, rail, and marine modes (for commercial/cargo and passenger purposes). Roads are primarily provincially regulated. We also do cross-modal regulation of transportation of dangerous goods for environmental policy. We are coast-to-coast-to-coast, with 5,500 employees – including a huge inspectorate in the field.

Our work is supported by systems for financial management, staffing, business processes, planning, and recording functions that generate over 500 corporate databases, and a myriad of ‘data analyses’ from traditional business intelligence reporting to MS-Excel programmed spreadsheets. Not to mention transportation & supply chain economic performance and activity metrics.

Digital transformation and modernization are improving and uplifting these to the cloud and modern technology architectures. Data Science is one of the ‘new’ functions to treat ‘data as an asset and unlock the value of available data within the department to better meet its mandate. This is being pursued through a ‘democratized’ model of distributed capability – while retaining centralized IT architecture control and priority investments.

Supporting risk-based inspection activities and providing data ingestion and delivery capabilities ‘in the field’ to front-line inspectors is a current preoccupation and challenge.

David manages a staff of 30+ and a budget of CA$2M+, mostly coming from departmental clients as an internal consultancy. Over 30% of the current staff are women. His team undertakes a variety of projects, defined by internal business clients and limited by their level of ‘data literacy, ranging from the mundane (e.g. descriptive statistics, visual dashboards, data discovery) to more advanced work (e.g. forecasting, panel data econometrics), to various forms of artificial intelligence work (e.g. genetic code optimization, OCR, ML). His team has a corporate mandate to measure and improve ‘data literacy’ and ‘democratization’ of data analytics across Transport Canada.

David holds a BA(Hon)-Economics (Manitoba, Gold Medalist), an MA-Economics (Toronto, Queen’s Scholar SSHRC) and MBA-Finance (Ottawa) graduate degrees and recently (2016) completed his studies (all-but-dissertation) at the PhD-Economics (Ottawa) level. His early studies were in Australia.

Transport Canada (federal) is the primary regulator of economic framework, safety, and security for the aviation, marine, and rail modes.  The road mode is generally under provincial jurisdiction. The department has about 5,500 employees across all regions coast (Pacific) to coast (Arctic) to coast (Atlantic) – al bordered to the south by the USA. Since rejoining Transport Canada in 2017, David has worked in Strategic Investment projects involving High-Frequency Rail and devolution of the Aviation Transport Security Service. He also worked on Aviation Safety international benchmarks and how to utilize separate databases in a big data integrated manner.

As Owner/Principal of his own consultancy (2001-16), David conducted 25+ reports for Transport Canada, the Canada Transportation Agency, the Government of Jamaica, and several private-sector transport organizations. David also conducted quantitative program evaluations (Northern Foodmail program), cost-benefit analysis (Medical Marihuana regulations), and regulatory analysis (Consumer Labelling, Measuring Devices regulatory regimes) which involved Monte Carlo analysis of risk and uncertainty within the benefit-cost framework.

David worked at Transport Canada (1995-2000) as Director-Policy Integration and Team Leader-Special (Highway) Infrastructure Project during his 17-year Public Service career.  During that time he conducted the Via Rail Revitalization ($700M rolling stock) review, Marine/Port Commercialization policy development, and was Chair of a Federal-Provincial-Territorial Working Group on Public Private Partnerships for Highway Infrastructure.  In addition, David was Chair of a Federal-Provincial-Industry study on Road Pricing in relation to Climate Change, and also coordinated several Strategic Planning/New Minister exercises with Senior Public Executives.

During an exchange (1999-2000) with the Australian Department of Transport and Regional Services (Canberra), he participated in a Tiger Team developing the Land Transport Policy Framework (Road & Rail) and Departmental Parliamentary responses to several Standing Committee and Industry Reports.

He is functionally bilingual (English / functional French / rudimentary Spanish).