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It is very odd that national health organizations are not reporting COVID-19 cases aggregated into health regions even though provinces and territories are mostly reporting them in that way. And where is the national health framework datasets?

Framework data are a “set of continuous and fully integrated geospatial data that provide context and reference information for the country. Framework data are expected to be widely used and generally applicable, either underpinning or enabling geospatial applications” P.7.

Federal Electoral Districts for example, are the official framework data for Elections Canada and these data are updated for each election.  They are used to administer elections, report the results of exit polls during the elections, and show the results after an election.  Framework data are available in multiple formats as well as in cartographic or mapping products for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) such as ESRI, MapInfo or Tableau (Shapefiles), in KML formats for GoogleMaps, and in standardized online mapping GML Formats which also happens to also be a Treasury Board Secretariat of Standard for Geospatial Data. Election result data are aggregated into these framework data along with other socio-economic data, and once these data are mapped we can compare and can tell a more nuanced local, regional and national story, we can see patterns across the country.  The benefit of framework data are many, what is also great is they are created once by an authoritative source, they are updated and reliable, they are used many times, they are open data and everyone knows where to get them.

Considering that health care spending is one of the largest expenditures we have as a nation state, and it would be expected that in an era of accountability and transparency and where outcomes based management is the norm, it is astonishing that health data including its social determinants data are not disseminated in this way.  Yes, there are privacy issues, but we are capable of addressing those with the Census and Elections, which means we can also do so for health. We need to have an evidence based conversation about population health now more than ever, and we will need these data to tell a socio-economic story as well. Could we have done better? Who is doing great and why and who is not doing so great and why, what can we learn and what is the remedy?

Numerous useful and insightful interactive maps were published after the elections (CBC, CTV, Macleans, ESRI and many others), and these generated much discussion, people could see the results, they could situate themselves, they could see what friends and family in other places were experiencing.  Analysts and policy makers also had what they needed to understand and plan a new context. This is what democratic evidence based data journalism and policy making is all aboutt!

Natural Resources Canada is normally the producer of Canada’s framework data but it does not produce a health region framework dataset for Canada.  Arguably, these data would not only be useful during a pandemic, but also for administering and reporting health associated with natural resources such as allergies in the spring and fall, food insecurity, health and farming, or health after a natural disaster such as flooding and fires.  They data would also be useful to see where money is spent providing Canadians with the evidence they require to advocate for change.

So why no national heath reporting by their administrative boundaries and where is the health region framework dataset?

National Health Reporting Canada:

Virihealth.com and ESRI Canada produced the the first National ge0-COVID-19 reporting:

https://virihealth.com/

https://virihealth.com/

https://resources-covid19canada.hub.arcgis.com/app/eb0ec6ffdb654e71ab3c758726c55b68

https://resources-covid19canada.hub.arcgis.com/app/eb0ec6ffdb654e71ab3c758726c55b68

Federal Government:

Canada as a federation has jurisdictional divisions of power, and one of those jurisdictional  divides is health. We have the Canada Health Care Act (CHA) that

“establishes criteria and conditions related to insured health services and extended health care services that the provinces and territories must fulfill to receive the full federal cash contribution under the Canada Health Transfer (CHT)”.

The Canada Health Transfer (CHT) provides long-term predictable funding for health care, on a per capital basis and

“supports the principles of the Canada Health Act which are: universality; comprehensiveness; portability; accessibility; and, public administration”.

The provinces and territories receive cash transfers to deliver health care to Canadians and health care data reporting is done by the each province and territory separately. This alone justifies the creation of a national health region framework dataset. Which organization should be responsible for it?

There are three main organizations which are part of the Canada Health Portfolio  that currently report official COVID-19 cases. At the moment, they do not publish COVID-19 case data by health regions.

Health Canada ”is the Federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health, while respecting individual choices and circumstances.” Health Canada is an official and authoritative national source of COVID-19 data and it publishes the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update. Reporting includes an interactive map and a line graph of data by Province and Territory.

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html

Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) promotes and protects the health of Canadians through leadership, partnership, innovation and action in public health and it does so by: Promoting health; Preventing and controlling chronic diseases and injuries; Preventing and controlling infectious diseases; Preparing for and responding to public health emergencies; Serving as a central point for sharing Canada’s expertise with the rest of the world; Applying international research and development to Canada’s public health programs; and Strengthening intergovernmental collaboration on public health and facilitate national approaches to public health policy and planning. PHAC now disseminates an excellent interactive dashboard entitled the National Epidemiological Summary of COVID-19 Cases in Canada. Their data sources are: Public Health Agency of Canada, Surveillance and Risk Assessment, Epidemiology update; Natural Resources Canada – Grey basemap with Credit: COVID-19 Situational Awareness tiger team Powered by ESRI-Canada and COVID-19 Canadian Geostatistical Platform, a collaboration between Public Health Agency of Canada, Statistics Canada and Natural Resources Canada.

https://phac-aspc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/e968bf79f4694b5ab290205e05cfcda6

https://phac-aspc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/e968bf79f4694b5ab290205e05cfcda6

Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada’s health research investment agency and its mandate is to “excel, according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence, in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products and a strengthened Canadian health care system.” Although a research funding organization, CIHR could publish a national framework dataset of health units to help researchers in Canada and to also to disseminate the findings of research either about COVID-19 or any other research according to those administrative boundaries. (Update 07/04/2020 CIHR does not have a framework data file)

A national non-governmental organization, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) also disseminates national comparative health data, mostly about the administration of health and it would make sense for them to also publish data by health units and to have such a framework dataset. CIHI is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides essential information on Canada’s health system and the health of Canadians. (Update 07/04/2020 CIHI does not have a framework data file). CIHI’s mandate is

“to deliver comparable and actionable information to accelerate improvements in health care, health system performance and population health across the continuum of care”.

Natural Resources Canada is the producer of most of Canada’s Framework data, and it could with the help of the Canadian Council on Geomatics Provincial and Territorial Accord could create this framework file and this was discussed at the 4th Annual SDI Summit meetings hosted in Quebec City in the Fall of 2019.

Statistics Canada produces Provincial and Territorial Health Geographies and it does seem to have a national GIS Health Regions: Boundaries and Correspondence with Census Geography file for 2018, and if that is the case, why are health geographies not reported by these boundaries? (Update 07/04/2020 StatCan has a 2018 GIS national health geography file).  Here is a PDF version of the 2018 map.

https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-402-x/2018001/maps-cartes/rm-cr14-eng.htm

https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-402-x/2018001/maps-cartes/rm-cr14-eng.htm

Provincial and Territorial Official COVID-19 Case Reports and health geographies:

Below I have compiled a list of official COVID-19 Case reporting by province and territory, and when I could find them, I included a link to health administration geographies. That does not mean that data are reported in maps, but data are generally tabulated according to health administration geographies.

Alberta

British Columbia

Manitoba (Updated RHA and Map info. 07/04/2020)

Newfoundland and Labrador (Updated RHA and Map info. 07/04/2020)

New Brunswick (Updated RHA and Map info. 07/04/2020)

North West Territories

Nova Scotia

Nunavut

Ontario

Prince Edward Island (Updated Health PEI info. 07/04/2020)

Quebec (Updated Map info 08/04/2020)

Saskatchewan

Yukon (Updated Health Region info. 07/04/2020)

I have emailed each of the Provincial and Territorial governments to confirm that I have the latest heath geography framework data.  I have received updates from Yukon, Quebec,  PEI, New Brunswick, and Manitoba, and have updated map data accordingly. I have also received correspondence from Statistics Canada, and CIHI.

For the moment ESRI Canada and some of the Provinces and Territories are reporting Official COVID-19 Cases by health region geographies.  Why aren’t Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada doing so?  And where is the National Health Region Framework Data file?

Canada has signed on to the G8 Open Data Charter. The official UK G8 Presidency site includes the Charter and its associated technical Annex.  This Charter falls under one of this year’s G8 agenda items, which is to promote greater transparency. The main points of the charter are:

  1. Principle 1: Open Data by Default
  2. Principle 2: Quality and Quantity
  3. Principle 3: Usable by All
  4. Principle 4: Releasing Data for Improved Governance
  5. Principle 5: Releasing Data for Innovation

The G8 countries have committed to the following 3 actions:

  • Action 1: G8 National Action Plans
  • Action 2: Release of high value data (List is pasted below)
  • Action 3: Metadata mapping

These are all good things.  The devil will be in the details and implementation in Canada will depend on collaboration and interoperability between provinces, territories, cities and municipalities and the federal governments.  It will be interesting to see how crown corporations such as Canada Post, Canada Housing and Mortgage and Corporation (CMHC), CBC/Radio Canada and others fare.  At the moment, it there is uncertain if these are to follow the same rules.

The list of high value data that should be released somewhat overlap with information collected by the Open Knowledge Foundation Open Data Census.  Note the postal code data requested under geospatial, this is a big ask for Canada especially in light of the Geocoder copryright lawsuit instigated by Canada Post. Digital Copyright Canada has also done some good work on the postal code file.

It will be very interesting to see if greater access to data will mean an increase in evidenced based policy making and greater participatory democracy. The government will need to be more receptive to citizen input, and so far, if the census and issues around science are any indication, this does not look promising.  Releasing data is one thing, acting on the evidence and having the mechanisms in place and willingness to hear from citizens is another.

Data Category (alphabetical order) Example datasets
Companies Company/business register
Crime and Justice Crime statistics, safety
Earth observation Meteorological/weather, agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting
Education List of schools; performance of schools, digital skills
Energy and Environment Pollution levels, energy consumption
Finance and contracts Transaction spend, contracts let, call for tender, future tenders, local budget, national budget (planned and spent)
Geospatial Topography, postcodes, national maps, local maps
Global Development Aid, food security, extractives, land
Government Accountability and Democracy Government contact points, election results, legislation and statutes, salaries (pay scales), hospitality/gifts
Health Prescription data, performance data
Science and Research Genome data, research and educational activity, experiment results
Statistics National Statistics, Census, infrastructure, wealth, skills
Social mobility and welfare Housing, health insurance and unemployment benefits
Transport and Infrastructure Public transport timetables, access points broadband penetration


Study on Open Government: A view from local community and university based research

Members on the Civiaccess.ca list have presented at the House Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics and have made submissions to the Standing Committee of Industry, Science and Technology, and have significantly contributed to Legislative Committee on Bill C32. / Les membres de la liste Civicaccess.ca ont présenté au Comité permanent de l’accès à l’information, de la protection des renseignements personnels et de l’éthique, faitent des soumissions au Comité permanent de l’industrie, des sciences et de la technologie et ont largement contribué au Comité législatif chargé du projet de loi C-32.

House committee on Access to Information, Privacy, and Ethics / Comité permanent de l’accès à l’information, de la protection des renseignements personnels et de l’éthique

studies and reports on matters referred to it by the House of Commons, or on topics the Committee itself chooses to examine. / mène des études et présente des rapports sur les questions qui lui sont renvoyées par la Chambre des communes, ou sur celles qu’il choisit d’étudier de son propre chef.

The Committee studies matters related to reports of the Information Commissioner of Canada, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and the Ethics Commissioner, with respect to the last-mentioned official’s responsibilities under the Parliament of Canada Act relating to public office holders; and reports tabled pursuant to theLobbyists Registration Act. The Committee’s mandate is set out in section 108(3)(h) of the Standing Orders. / Le Comité étudie les questions relatives aux rapports du Commissaire à l’information du Canada, du Commissaire à la protection de la vie privée du Canada et duCommissaire à l’éthique, au titre des responsabilités qui incombent à ce dernier aux termes de la Loi sur le Parlement du Canada, ainsi que les rapports déposés en application de la Loi sur l’enregistrement des lobbyistes. Le mandat du Comité est défini à l’alinéa 108(3)h) du Règlement.

Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (INDU) / Comité permanent de l’industrie, des sciences et de la technologie (INDU)

studies and reports on legislation, the activities and spending of Industry Canadaand the other members of the Industry Portfolio, and other matters related to / est chargé de réaliser des études et de préparer des rapports sur les activités et dépenses d’Industrie Canada et les autres membres duportefeuille de l’Industrie, sur les projets de loi qui relèvent de ce ministère, ainsi que sur d’autres questions touchant :

  • industry and technology capability / le développement industriel et la technologie;
  • scientific research and development / la recherche et le développement scientifiques;
  • telecommunications policy / la politique sur les télécommunications;
  • investment, trade, small business and tourism / l’investissement, le commerce, la petite entreprise et le tourisme;
  • rules and services that support the effective operation of the marketplace / les règles et services soutenant le fonctionnement efficace du marché.

Legislative Committee on Bill C-32 (CC32) / Comité législatif chargé du projet de loi C-32 (CC32)

Standing Committee on Transport and Communication /Comité permanent des transport et des communications

The subject areas for which the Committee is responsible include / Les domaines qui relèvent du Comité sont les suivants :

• Transport and communications by land, air, water, and space, be this by radio, telephone, telegraph, wire, cable, microwave, wireless, television, satellite, broadcasting, post, or any other means, method or form / les transports et les communications par voie de terre, d’air, d’eau et d’espace, que ce soit par radio, téléphone, télégraphe, fil, câble, micro-onde, sans-fil, télévision, satellite, radiodiffusion, communications postales, ou par toute autre forme, méthode ou moyen;
• Tourist traffic / Tourisme
• Common carriers / Transports publiques
• Navigation, shipping and navigable waters / La navigation, le transport maritime et les voies navigables.

See the Plan for a Digital Canada Report / Plan pour in Canada numérique

It looks like a biased toward industry monitoring agency Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP) has left the public in the dark about fish abnormalities in waters in and around the oil sands sites.  It is also a case where the monitoring agency is aggregating the data into annual reports and not providing the raw data for others to scrutinize.

“That is the problem. To get the actual data, you need the raw data,” not just annual reports, said Kevin Timoney, an Alberta ecologist and oil sands researcher. “They release just enough so they can say that they did, but they don’t give you enough to see what’s really going on.”

Pembina Institute: “An essential component of any credible monitoring program is that all the data should be available to the public,

Hundreds of deformed fish found in rivers running through the Alberta oil sands have been collected and documented by an industry-led monitoring body, The Globe and Mail has learned, but the findings were not shared with the public or key decision makers in government.

That body, the Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP), has been criticized in scientific quarters as secretive and is under the scrutiny of three reviews. Former environment minister Jim Prentice ordered one of those reviews after being shown photos this fall of a few malformed fish, and it was delivered Thursday to Environment Canada.

The Monitoring agencie’s Steering Committee is mixed between Oil industry, public health agencies, First Nations and government with very heavy emphasis on big oil industry:

Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (formerly Alberta Energy and Utilities Board Health Canada
Alberta Environment Husky Energy
Alberta Sustainable Resource Development Imperial Oil Resources
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. MEG Energy Corp.
ConocoPhillips Canada Nexen  Inc.
Devon Canada Corporation Northern Lights Health Region
Environment Canada Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo
Fort McMurray First Nation Shell Albian Sands
Fisheries and Oceans Canada Suncor Energy Inc.
Fort McKay First Nation Syncrude Canada Ltd.
Hammerstone Corporation Total E&P Canada Ltd.

I tried to find out who the members of the technical committee are but only found the following org chart which illustrates that the 3 non government stakeholders are First Nations or Metis Groups and these are dwarfed between industry and government. On the Government side you also see an Energy and Utilities Board, while on the industry side, by the largest number representatives,  is the petroleum & energy industry:
The following are the labs RAMP states it subs it’s work to.  I do not know enough the science to assess them.  I do wonder if they would have the raw data in their shops and if they would release these to the public.  A lab that is sub-contracted may or may not be the owners of the data and may or may not have given up the rights to publish them.  This is often the issue with the procurement of data, for instance, survey engineers claim IP on their data and share them with a city only for city assessments, but the city has to send citizens back to the survey engineer to view those data and the city cannot share these with citizens openly.  In this case, it would be more trustworthy to acquire the raw data from the labs directly.  However, it also depends who owns these labs.  They could very well be owned by the industries that need tests done, or they could be biased toward those industries as they would be their major source of revenue.

  • ALS Environmental – most water and sediment quality analyses
  • Alberta Research Council – some ultratrace metal analyses
  • AXYS Laboratories – sediment concentrations of PAHs
  • HydroQual – water and sediment toxicity analyses
  • Flett Research – mercury analysis in non-lethal fish tissue samples
  • Jack Zloty – benthic invertebrate taxonomy

RAMP shares its information only in annual monitoring reports.  There is an interactive web map of their monitoring sites.  The legend indicates fish tissue monitoring site, and I only found 2 fish tissue sampling sites that do not provide much data except that a sample was taken. According the the G&M article:

Much of the raw data collected by RAMP is kept private, deemed proprietary because of the industry funding. But even among its members, it has faced pressure to open up. Syncrude, which did much of the testing before RAMP’s inception, has called for data to be released, spokeswoman Cheryl Robb said.

In RAMP’s news section there is reference to an article indicating that they would make their database available to the public.  I could not find this database on their site and have sent them an email requesting to see it.  The email I recceived regarding this request is as follows:

Good morning Tracey,

Thank you for your e-mail.

As indicated by the media post you pointed out, the database will be available to the public by the end of the year and that is still our intention. Please check back next week.

Best regards,
Hailey
RAMP Communications

This is a classic lack of transparency situation and a seeming stacked deck leaning heavily toward meeting industry interests. It is very reminiscent of the Environment Canada refusal to share Mine Pollutant Data, a government agency supposedly overseeing the public interest not sharing key data.

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.

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

StatCan Cuts – Loss of Surveys & Census

The Canadian Government cuts the Long-Form Census,creates a survey that costs  $ 35 million for less reliable data and then cuts the agency back again by $7 million!

Canadian Press: Troubled StatsCan facing $7M in cuts

Hamilton Spectator:  StatsCan to cut more 5 more surveys

The Article includes the following surveys – I think I have the correct links but I am unsure!:

  1. The Industrial Pollutant Release Survey (I cannot find a link)
  2. The article says The Quarterly Energy Use  (Households and the Environment: Energy Use or Quarterly Industrial Consumption of Energy Survey which one?) and the  Greenhouse Gas Emissions Survey (Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Private Vehicles in Canada, 1990 to 2007 or Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report which one?) both pilot projects;
  3. The National Population Health Survey;
  4. The Survey of the Suppliers of Business Financing; and
  5. The Survey on Financing of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises.

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