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Evaluation of the Services to Marine Transportation Sub-activity

Conclusions

Relevance

Multiple sources indicated that there is a continued need for ice and marine weather information activities and products, as these activities help Canadians reduce risks posed by changing weather conditions.

Findings from multiple sources indicated that the SMT SA is aligned with the legislated mandates of the involved departments, and with responsibilities assigned through agreements and other mechanisms for collaboration. Furthermore, the evidence indicates that the MSC is obligated by various acts and agreements to deliver SMT SA services, including in the context of ongoing northern development.

For the most part, evidence found that EC’s SMT SA services complement services in other government departments. However, concerns were expressed by EC and collaborating department representatives regarding the extent to which some areas of shared responsibility are clearly articulated. There is additional concern that the Department’s ability to deliver on its responsibilities is vulnerable, as these services are reliant on key partners or collaborators.

In addition, the SMT SA is aligned with and supports federal government priorities related to health and safety, the economy, infrastructure and sovereignty, as well as departmental strategic outcomes and priorities related to ensuring that Canadians are equipped to make informed decisions on changing weather, water and climate conditions.

Key informants noted that one area of expanding interest for the federal government, and an area in which the MSC will likely provide increased marine weather and ice services, is northern development. The MSC has been resourced to undertake new approaches to providing services to Arctic communities and industries under a newly established METAREAs Initiative that is funded under this SA. However, as this initiative had only begun at the outset of the evaluation, it was not included in the analysis and will be evaluated by EC at a later date.

Performance

The evaluation found evidence of a strong commitment to performance measurement, supported by the MSC’s ISO 9001 Quality Management System. Considerable data collection is occurring, and program management appears to recognize the value of performance measurement.

Although the activities that comprise the SMT have existed within the MSC since its origins 140 years ago, the grouping of the provision of marine weather information and ice information as one PAA element, known as the SMT, was just recently introduced with the 2010-11 PAA. As such, the existence of a Performance Measurement Strategy that presents a logic model for the PAA element and a cohesive PMF for the entire element does not yet exist, although efforts are being made in this area.

Nevertheless, the evaluation found that the SMT SA was able to provide data and targets on key outputs that were identified for the purpose of the evaluation, such as the delivery of marine weather warnings and ice forecasts and charts, and that, furthermore, it is performing at or near the vast majority of these targets. With regards to the availability of performance measurement related to outcomes, data were also available for the outcomes identified for the purpose of the evaluation, although baseline data that would support an understanding of how performance has changed over time was limited.

The evaluation found evidence of strong performance regarding outcomes related to usefulness and ease of understanding of weather and ice information products. There is a very high incidence of mariners accessing and making use of the marine weather and ice information provided by EC, and overall satisfaction with the products and services was high. Marine and ice information is disseminated to mariners with a broad range of methodologies. Although the EC Weatheroffice website was identified as the most frequently used source of marine weather information, evidence found that most mariners relied on more than one source or technology for their information needs, and further, that users of marine information are a diverse group who include both those who rely on receiving information in the same manner in which it has been provided for many years, as well as those who would like to see further enhancements that leverage advanced technological capabilities. This presents a challenge for EC from an efficiency perspective, as it makes it very difficult to find cost savings to fund new advancements from the removal of historic products.

The SMT SA operates on a budget of approximately $18.5 million per year, and spending on these activities has been relatively stable over the four years of the study period. EC’s SMT is not, however, a self-contained function, but rather is able to deliver on its outcomes by relying both on the broader underlying capacity of the MSC for weather and environmental services as well as its important relationships with its key partner, the CCG, and many other collaborators and stakeholders, including TC, the CSA, the WMO and the U.S. National Ice Center, among others. These relationships and the cooperative, collaborative manner in which the Department operates in this area, supports EC’s ability to deliver marine transportation services in a cost-effective manner. The relationship with the CCG appears strong, for the most part, although there are areas where roles and responsibilities could be clarified. In particular, clarifying roles related to servicing weather buoys and providing storm surge warnings were identified as areas lacking clarity. Addressing areas of ambiguity will have the added advantage of ensuring that the inherent risk associated with reliance on another party is minimized.

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