October 2010

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OpenData & Public Research

Researchers use OpenData to inform their work, and are also producers of data and software that can be re-shared with the public.  In Canada, much university research is supported by public funds and an argument can be made that the results of that research should be accessible to the public.  The research at the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre will be featured as will community based social policy research in Ottawa.  In Canada some data are accessible, but mostly data are not, and if they are, cost recovery policies and regressive licensing impede their use.  The talk will feature examples where data are open and where opportunities for evidence based decision making are restricted.

Abstract: Canada’s Information Commissioners have adopted a resolution toward Open Government and part of the open government process is open access to public administrative, census, map and research data.  A number of Canadian Cities,  innovative government programs such as GeoConnections, forward thinking research funding such as International Polar Year have become OpenData cities, implemented data sharing infrastructures and fund data sharing science.  Access to data are one part of the open government conversation, and it is argued that opendata bring us closer to more informed democratic deliberations on public policy.

Event: Open Access Week 2010, Carleton University, October 21, Noon to 1PM.

Abstract:

Ms. Tracey P. Lauriault discusses neighbourhood scale research using Census data.  She introduces the The Cybercartographic Pilot Atlas of the Risk of Homelessness created at the Geomatics and Cartographic Research and will feature community based research used to inform public policy as part of the Canadian Social Data Strategy (CSDS) .  She features maps and data about social issues in Canadian cities & metropolitan areas (e.g. Calgary, Toronto, Halton, Sault Ste. Marie, hamilton, Ottawa, Montreal, & others) and focuses on the importance of local analysis and what the loss of the Long-Form Census could mean to evidence based decision making to communities in Canada’s.

I had the good fortune yesterday to hear Ivan Fellegi, Canada’s former Chief Statistician, speak at the Statistical Society of Ottawa 8th Annual Seminar yesterday.  He is a gracious intellectual who would like to restore his faith in Canada’s statistical agency.  He was one of the Drafters of the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics and would like to see these embedded into Canada’s Statistics Act.  In addition, he stated that the powers given to the Chief Statistician under this change in the act would be great, and should be tempered by the creation of a selection panel of non-partisan experts to select the Chief Statistician.

In relation to this, on October 21, 2010 Brian Masse, NDP MP Windsor West, tabled a bill  entitled – An Act to Amend the Statistics Act (Chief Statistician) which

An Act to Amend the Statistics Act (Chief Statistician), is a forward-thinking proposal that focuses on the selection, autonomy and mandate of Canada’s Chief Statistician. The bill would create an improved process for selecting the Chief Statistician and prohibits political appointments. It would also ensure the Chief Statistician has a clearer mandate for establishing the guidelines for data collection, analysis and processing.

On September 30, 2010 Carolyn Bennett tabled a Private Member’s Bill in the House of Commons that would amend the Statistics Act and enshrine the long-form census into the act.

On September 24, 2010, the Liberals presented the following motion in the House of Commons.  The Motion was passed in the House by a majority of MPs on September 29, 2010:

That the House calls on the Government of Canada to re-instate immediately the Long-form Census; and given that no person has ever been imprisoned for not completing the census, the House further calls on the government to introduce legislative amendments to the Statistics Act to remove completely the provision of imprisonment from Section 31 of the Act in relation to the Long-form Census, the Census of Population, and the Census of Agriculture.

Add to this 3 court challenges to reinstate the long form census ( I am looking for the complete links to these):

  1. Canadian Council for Social Development: The Right to be Counted (articles 1,2)
  2. Native Council of Nova Scotia, Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council, New Brunswick Aboriginal People’s Council, the Native Council of Prince Edward Island, and some individual chiefs.
  3. Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada (FCFA)

The initial request to change the Act was formally made in a September 9, 2010 letter written to the Prime Minister signed by: Mel Cappe. President, Institute for Research on Public Policy, and former Clerk of the Privy Council, David Dodge. Senior Advisor, Bennett Jones LLP, former Governor of the Bank of Canada, and former Deputy Minister of Finance, Ivan Fellegi. Chief Statistician of Canada (Emeritus) and Alex Himelfarb. Director, Glendon School of Public and International Affairs, and former Clerk of the Privy Council on September 9, 2010 requested that the Act incorporate the UN principles might by adding the following sections:

4 (2.1) The Chief Statistician shall:

(i) within the financial parameters provided by the government determine according to strictly professional considerations, including scientific principles and professional ethics, the methods and procedures for the collection, processing, storage and presentation of statistical data;

(ii) present information according to scientific standards on the sources, methods and procedures of the statistics;

(iii) provide such public information that in his opinion are necessary to facilitate appropriate statistical interpretation of data (…).

In the letter they explain:

Principles two, three and four, in particular, call for the Chief Statistician to be able to maintain public support for, as well as trust and confidence in the methodological basis for Statistics Canada’s products. Those principles would suggest that the Chief Statistician be given the statutory responsibility for methodological competence now implicit in the office. Moreover, it follows that the Chief Statistician have the statutory authority to provide information to the public on methodological matters and issues relating to the reliability of the data.

The UN Principles are as follows:

Principle 1. Official statistics provide an indispensable element in the information system of a democratic society, serving the Government, the economy and the public with data about the economic, demographic, social and environmental situation. To this end, official statistics that meet the test of practical utility are to be compiled and made available on an impartial basis by official statistical agencies to honor citizens’ entitlement to public information.

Principle 2. To retain trust in official statistics, the statistical agencies need to decide according to strictly professional considerations, including scientific principles and professional ethics, on the methods and procedures for the collection, processing, storage and presentation of statistical data.

Principle 3. To facilitate a correct interpretation of the data, the statistical agencies are to present information according to scientific standards on the sources, methods and procedures of the statistics.

Principle 4. The statistical agencies are entitled to comment on erroneous interpretation and misuse of statistics.

Principle 5. Data for statistical purposes may be drawn from all types of sources, be they statistical surveys or administrative records. Statistical agencies are to choose the source with regard to quality, timeliness, costs and the burden on respondents.

Principle 6. Individual data collected by statistical agencies for statistical compilation, whether they refer to natural or legal persons, are to be strictly confidential and used exclusively for statistical purposes.

Principle 7. The laws, regulations and measures under which the statistical systems operate are to be made public.

Principle 8. Coordination among statistical agencies within countries is essential to achieve consistency and efficiency in the statistical system.

Principle 9. The use by statistical agencies in each country of international concepts, classifications and methods promotes the consistency and efficiency of statistical systems at all official levels.

Principle 10. Bilateral and multilateral cooperation in statistics contributes to the improvement of systems of official statistics in all countries.

Other references:

Fighting for the Equal Right to be Counted…

Just over 100 days have passed since the Harper Government launched its assault on Canada’s fundamental data source with a sneak attack on the long form census. The most reliable, comprehensive source of information, relied on as a tool to respond to the needs and priorities of every Canadian — wiped out, against the advice of experts across the country and abroad, on a political whim.

Canada’s response to this decision has been unequivocal: Why would the government shut down Canada’s navigation system? CCSD, Canada’s authority on evidence based social policy, has mobilized an unprecedented campaign to fight for the Long Form’s reinstatement, alongside hundreds of partners across the country. To date:

  • Over 370 organizations, representing every aspect of Canadian life, have voiced their opposition to this change
  • More than 16,000 Canadians have petitioned for reversal of this decision
  • Over 10,000 individuals have joined the ‘Long Form Census’ Facebook page dedicated to opposing this change.
  • Canada’s Chief Statistician has resigned in protest
  • All opposition parties have been unanimous and vocal in their condemnation of this move
  • Challenges have been launched in the Federal Court
  • Tens of thousands of ‘ordinary Canadians’ have written, called or visited their Members of Parliament to voice their concerns

While the decision remains unchanged, this battle is far from over. Despite the continued campaign of misinformation from the Conservative government, we know that this decision can be changed well into 2011. It’s not over until the surveys hit our mail boxes.

Responding to the overwhelming and very real concerns about the consequences of this catastrophic decision, the Canadian Council on Social Development has launched a legal challenge in the Federal Court defending the equal right of all Canadians to be counted. Partners in the Challenge include:

“Experts across the country and abroad have made it clear; a voluntary survey will under-represent significant communities such as Aboriginal Canadians, Canadians living with disabilities and visible minorities.” said Steve Lurie, of CMHA Toronto

“A voluntary survey will under-represent the numbers, and minimize the service needs, of marginalized communities.” said Avvy Go, Director of Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic

“This undercounting will be more evident at the local neighborhood level, rendering this data unusable for local service planning – depriving the undercounted of services to which they are entitled.” said Charles Hill, Aboriginal Housing Association.

“By excluding some groups from the 2011 census, the federal government is saying some Canadians simply don’t count as much as others.  The Charter protects the right to be treated equally, and that includes the equal right to be counted.” Paul Champ, Legal Counsel, Champ & Associates

“This is about all of us. The last 100 days have dramatically demonstrated that as Canadians we understand the benefits and obligations of citizenship, and we stand together and are willing to speak up for what is best for our country said Peggy Taillon, President & CEO, CCSD.

“The next hundred days provide an opportunity for the government to reconsider their position and for Canadians to continue to come together and take action to ensure they do.” said John Campey, Executive Director, Social PlanningToronto.

For more information on CCSD’s legal challenge, or on the Campaign to Reinstate the Long Form Census, contact Peggy Taillon at CCSD, 613-236-8977 x 1, 613-769-5499 or via email: taillon@ccsd.ca

Also Contact: John Campey, at Social Planning Toronto: 1-416-351-0095, 1-647-283-9657, jcampey@socialplanningtoronto.org

About the Canadian Council on Social Development For more than 90 years, the Canadian Council on Social Development (CCSD) has been a key proponent of “unconventional” policies and programs that Canadians now consider essential. In the 1920s we helped shape the first Old Age Pension program. In the 1950s, we were champions of Unemployment Insurance. In this decade, we demonstrated why the National Child Benefit and tax credits for the working poor are wise investments. Through our research and partnerships with organizations across the country, we continue to act as a catalyst for innovative, evidence-based approaches to reducing poverty and building resilient, hopeful thriving Canadian communities. For more information, visit www.ccsd.ca.

Open Governnment West BC

Open Governnment West BC
Nov. 10, Victoria, BC

British Columbia is beginning to buzz with innovative technology and civic engagement programmes, and a number of governments throughout the province have already launched open government policies or projects.

Open Gov West British Columbia (OGWBC) is a one-day conference designed to catalyze this growth of open government work, showcase the exciting and challenging work going on across the province, Canada and elsewhere, and bring members of government, technology, and citizen groups together to help create the future of open government work in the province.

Held in Victoria at the University of Victoria, Open Gov West BC brings leaders at all levels together to facilitate collaboration and share best practices across open government initiatives.

We are still looking for a few speakers to give “lightning” (5 minutes, 20 slides) talks.

Pssst! Are you a small business with five or fewer employees? There’s a discount for you running through 11:55 pm PST on Wednesday, October 20th, 2010! Get $55 off your registration of the business/corporate/consultant rate with promo code “smallisthenewbig”

Information, agenda and registration.

OpenAccess Week Speaking Engagements

1. Event: Open Access Week 2010, Carleton University, October 21, Noon to 1PM.

2. Event: Open Access Week, Université d’Ottawa, Apps4Ottawa Showcase, October 21, 5-7PM.

  • Title: OpenData & Public Research
  • Abstract: Researchers use OpenData to inform their work, and are also producers of data and software that can be re-shared to the public.  In Canada, much of university research is supported by public funds and an argument can be made that the results of that research should be accessible to the public.  The research at the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre will be featured as will community based social policy research in Ottawa.  In Canada some data are accessible, but mostly data are not, and if they are, cost recovery policies and regressive licensing impede their use.  The talk will feature examples where data are open and where opportunities for evidence based decision making are restricted.

3. Event: Statistical Society of Ottawa 8th annual seminar – Our Statistics Community on Monday the 25th of October.

  • Title: The Real Census informs Neighbourhood Research in Canada
  • Abstract: Ms. Tracey P. Lauriault will discuss neighbourhood scale research using Census data.  She will introduce the The Cybercartographic Pilot Atlas of the Risk of Homelessness created at the Geomatics and Cartographic Research and will feature community based research used to inform public policy as part of the Canadian Social Data Strategy (CSDS).  She will feature maps and data about social issues in Canadian cities & metropolitan areas (e.g. Calgary, Toronto, Halton, Sault Ste. Marie, Ottawa, Montreal, & others) and will focus on the importance of local analysis and what the loss of the Long-Form Census could mean to evidence based decision making to communities in Canada’s.

PublicScience.ca

Evidence based planning has taken a hit in Canada and public scientists have been replaced by “media relations” officers as the purvayers of truth, compelling the union that represents public scientists to take action.

“If the science isn’t supported … then you’re going to find that decisions are going to be made more at the political level,” Gary Corbett, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said Monday as the union launched a website called publicscience.ca. (CBC)

PublicScience.ca is a new initiative sponsored by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

The site aims to highlight science done for the public good – much of it taxpayer-funded and carried out by government scientists – and to “mobilize” scientists and the public to pressure politicians to support it. It features interviews with federal scientists about their work, along with interviews with science policy experts. (CBC)

Part of what inspired the creation of PublicScience.ca was the cancellation of the Long-Form Census

The decision to replace the mandatory long-form census with a voluntary questionnaire over the objection of professional statisticians was one more step in what the union calls a worrying trend on the part of the government to discount the importance of the work of its scientists. (Globe and Mail)

This was also echoed in the CBC article

“The recent decision to end the mandatory long-form census is the latest step in a worrying trend away from evidence-based policy-making,” said the union in a news release announcing the campaign. “Restrictive rules are curtailing media and public access to scientists, while cutbacks to research and monitoring limit Canada’s ability to deal with serious threats and potential opportunities.”

Corbett said what happened to the long-form census despite evidence provided by Statistics Canada scientists is also happening in other departments. He worked as a scientist at Natural Resources Canada for more than two decades before taking a leave to do union work.

This initiative combined with Open Government discussions over at the Information Commissioner’s Office and the innovation of some of Canada’s Open Data Cities (Nanaimo, Vancouver, District of North Vancouver, Calgary Edmonton, London, Missassauga, Toronto & Ottawa – see datalibre.ca resources), data sharing mandated by science funding like IPY and the Canadian Institute of Health Research Policy on Open Access might lead us to have real conversations about science, technology and informed social policy in Canada.

Its official!

StatCan expects a 50% response rate from the Voluntary National Household Survey and would have expected a 94% response rate from a mandatory Long-Form Census.

Read: StatCan National Household Survey: data quality

This is a comparison between the 2006 Census and the 2011 Survey.  Most of the questions are the same or only have slightly modified wording.  I have only included major differences in the table below.  If you want the full comparison, drop me a comment with your email and I will gladly send it to you.

  • The Census question on Religion is not in 2006 as it only appears in the decennial censuses, in this case in the 2011 Survey.
  • The 3 part Household Activities Census Question was removed in the 2011 Survey.
  • 3 NEW questions about commuting are added in the 2011 Survey.
  • Paying for childcare or babysitting is NEW to the 2011 Survey.
  • Paying for child or spousal support is NEW to the 2011 Survey.
  • 2 NEW Dwelling question (Condo and Located on Agriculture Land) and 1 NEW portions (Subsidized ) are added to the 2011 Survey.

2006 Mandatory Long-Form Census Compared to the 2011 Voluntary National Household Survey

2006 Mandatory Long-Form Census 2011 Voluntary National Household Survey
Questions 1 - 17 Same
18. Is this person an Aboriginal person, that is, North American Indian, Métis or Inuit (Eskimo)? 18. Is this person an Aboriginal person, that is, First Nations (North American Indian), Métis or Inuk (Inuit)?
19. Is this person: White, Chinese, South Asian (e.g., East Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, etc.), Black, etc. This information is collected to support programs that promote equal opportunity for everyone to share in the social, cultural and economic life of Canada. 19. Is this person: White; South Asian (e.g., East Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, etc.); Chinese; Black; Filipino;Latin American; Arab; Southeast; Japanese ;Other - Specify Asian (e.g., Vietnamese, Cambodian, Malaysian, Laotian, etc.); West Asian (e.g., Iranian, Afghan, etc.); Korean.
20. Is this person a member of an Indian Band / First Nation? 20. Is this person a Status Indian (Registered or Treaty Indian as defined by the Indian Act of Canada)?
21. Same (Order differs)
NOT in 2006 but in 2001 22. What is this person's religion?
Education Qs 26-32 Same Qs 27-33
33. Last week, how many hours did this person spend doing the following activities: (a) doing unpaid housework, yard work or home maintenance for members of this household, or others (b) looking after one or more of this person’s own children, or the children of others, without pay? (c) providing unpaid care or assistance to one or more seniors? Removed
LABOUR MARKET ACTIVITIES (Qs 34-39) Slighgtly Modified Wording (Qs 34-38) Q 39 Same
Employment Qs 41., 42. & 43. Same
Employment Q 44. Slightly Modifed Wording
Employment Q 45. Same
Employment Q 46. Slightly Modifed Wording
Employment Q 47. (a) Same (b) NEW How many people, including this person, usually shared the ride to work in this car, truck or van?
NEW 48. (a) What time did this person usually leave home to go to work? (b) How many minutes did it usually take this person to get from home to work?
Questions 48., 49. & 50. Same (Qs 49., 50. & 51.)
NEW 52. In 2010, did this person pay for child care, such as day care or babysitting, so that this person could work at his or her paid job(s)?
NEW 53. In 2010, did this person pay child or spousal support payments to a former spouse or partner?
INCOME Qs 51. & 52. Slightly Modified Wording and new Government Programs included (54-55)
Dwellings Qs 1. & 2. Same
New - was grouped in another questions Dwellings 3. Is this dwelling part of a condominium development?
Dwellings Qs 3., 4. & 5. Same (Qs 4., 5. & 6.)
NEW Dwellings 7. Is this dwelling located on an agricultural operation that is operated by a member of this household?
Dwellings 6. Same (Q 8.)
Dwellings 7. Same (Q 9.a) NEW (b) Is this dwelling subsidized?
Dwellings 8. Slightly Modified Wording (Q 10)
Q. 53 The Statistics Act guarantees the confidentiality of your census information. Only if you mark “YES” to this question will your personal information be made public, 92 years after the 2006 Census. If you mark “NO” or leave the answer blank, your personal information will never be made publicly available. F1. This question is for all persons including children younger than 15. If you are answering on behalf of other people, please consult each person. This question is for all persons including children younger than 15. Only if you mark "YES" to this question will your National Household Survey responses and family history be part of the historical record of Canada. A "YES" means your responses will be available to family members and historical researchers, 92 years after the 2011 National Household Survey, in 2103. If you mark "NO" or leave the answer blank, your responses will never be made available to future generations.
Source: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/imdb-bmdi/instrument/3901_Q2_V3-eng.pdf Source: http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/NHS-ENM/ref/Questionnaires/2011NHS-ENM-eng.cfm

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