The Department of Transport was created in 1935 by the government of William Lyon Mackenzie King in recognition of the changing transportation environment in Canada at the time. It merged three departments: the former Department of Railways and Canals, the Department of Marine and Fisheries, and the Civil Aviation Branch of the Department of National Defence (c. 1927 when it replaced the Air Board) under C. D. Howe, who would use the portfolio to rationalize the governance and provision of all forms of transportation (air, water and land). He created a National Harbours Board and Trans-Canada Air Lines. The Department of Transport Act came into force November 2, 1936.
Prior to a 1994 federal government reorganization, Transport Canada had a wide range of operational responsibilities including the Canadian Coast Guard, the Saint Lawrence Seaway, airports and seaports, as well as Via Rail and CN Rail. Significant cuts to Transport Canada at that time resulted in CN Rail being privatized, the coast guard being transferred to Fisheries and Oceans, and the seaway and various ports and airports being transferred to local operating authorities. Transport Canada emerged from this process as a department focused on policy and regulation rather than transportation operation.
In 2004, Transport Canada introduced non-passenger screening to enhance both airport and civil aviation security.
Transport Canada's headquarters are located in Ottawa, at Place de Ville, Tower C. Transport Canada also has regional headquarters in:
Transport Canada is responsible for enforcing several Canadian legislation, including the Aeronautics Act, Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, Motor Vehicle Safety Act, Canada Transportation Act, Railway Safety Act, Canada Shipping Act, 2001, Marine Transportation Security Act amongst others. Each inspector with delegated power from the Minister of Transport receives official credentials to exercise their power, as shown on the right. These inspectors are public officers identified within the Criminal Code of Canada.