Paying for data to study poverty!

There is an excellent article in the Toronto Star about why we have little understanding about the social demographic situation in Canada! Bref! No one can afford the research! In the article Truth carries a painful user fee; Carol Goar tells it like it is right now in Canada when it comes to access to our public data:

The United Way of Greater Toronto had to pay the agency $28,000 for government data showing that family poverty deepened in Toronto between 2000 and 2005, while low-income households made modest gains everywhere else.

It had to spend its donors’ money to prove that Toronto has the lowest median income of any major urban centre in the country.

It had to dip into its charitable givings to marshal evidence – already collected at taxpayers’ expense – that a one-size-fits-all poverty strategy won’t work for Toronto.

Finally an article that is so pointed on why the cost recovery practices of Statistics Canada are impeding citizens and civil sector organizations from doing their work. This type of analysis is critical in a democratic society, we cannot leave this type of research only to governments, particularly when the results may be pointing to some of its failures. An well, it is also not on the private sector’s radar!

Thanks Ted for posting this on the SPNO-Data List.

5 comments

This is a perfect example of why we need more data: it is a question of accountability.

Why wasn’t Statistics Canada studying this?

StatsCan *WAS* studying the issue … United Way had to pay *StatsCan* the 28k!!!

So, in fact:
This is a perfect example of why we need more FREE data.

Let me rephrase that: why didn’t StatsCan find what United Way did?

They were supposed to be studying poverty, and they did so at a national scale. Even after people argued the situation was different for one city, they either did not tabulate the city data, or chose not to publish it.

So, what is going on at StatsCan? Did someone higher up tell them to not publish results?

Until more data opens up, I have to assume there’s potential for cover-up and corruption. And plain mistakes too, but we can’t know.

StatCan is a federal organization, and with the div. of power in Canada, provinces conduct city level analysis. Or cities or NGOs do it themselves.

What is important however, is that 3rd party arms length from government organizations have the right to study these issues with public data in order to keep the government accountable. We cannot always rely on gov. to do the analysis we want, but we can expect them to give us accurate, reliable and authentic data to do so.