policy

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Below is and excerpt from a blogpost on the Programmable City website.  I work there now, and post quite a bit of open data, big data, data infrastructure posts there.  Most do not include any CanCon so I do not always put them here.  The Open Government Partnership is big for the Federal Government in Canada, and the OGP Independant Reporting Mechanism report by the Independant Reviewer Dr. Mary Francoli, was not particularly kind to our Action Plan, and rightly so.  The OGP is however not that big a deal on the ground or with civil society in Canada.  It is however really important elsewhere, in Ireland for example, the EU and the OGP are leveraged as a way to bring and promote progressive practices, regulation, laws, and so on.  In developing countries, it is a way for civil society organizations to have a voice and meet officials they would otherwise not get to interact with at home, and again have a transnational organization promote change.

I will try and post here more often!  Took me time to adjust to my new home.  Rest assured though, that I have not forgotten you nor do I not pay attention to the data shenanigans ongoing in Canada!

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I attended the European Regional Meeting of the Open Government Partnership at the Dublin Castle Conference Centre in May of this year.  The meeting was a place for performance and evaluation wonks to show their wares, especially at the following sessions: Open Government Standards and Indicators for Measuring Progress, The EU’s Role in Promoting Transparency and Accountability and Engagement with the OGP, and Open Contracting: Towards a New Global Norm.  I did not attend the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) sessions, but having read the IRM report for Canada, I know that it too is an emerging performance evaluation indicator space, which is affirmed by a cursory examination of the IRMs two major databases.  The most promising, yet the most disappointing session was the Economic Impact of Open Data session.  This is unfortunate as there are now a number of models by which the values of sharing, disseminating and curating data have been measured.  It would have been great to have heard either a critical analysis or a review of the newly released Ordinance Survey of Ireland report, Assessment of the Economic Value of the Geospatial Information Industry in Ireland, the many economic impact models listed here in the World Bank Toolkit, or the often cited McKinsey Global Institute Open data: Unlocking innovation and performance with liquid information report.  Oh Well!

While there I was struck by the number of times maps were displayed.  The mapping of public policy issues related to openness seems to have become a normalized communication method to show how countries fare according to a number of indicators that aim to measure how transparent, prone to corruption, engagemed civil society is, or how open in terms of data, open in terms of information, and open in terms of government nation states are.

What the maps show is how jurisdictionally bound up policy, law and regulatory matters concerning data are.  The maps reveal how techno-political processes are sociospatial practices and how these sociospatial matters are delineated by territorial boundaries.  What is less obvious, are the narratives about how the particularities of the spatial relations within these territories shape how the same policies, laws and regulation are differentially enacted.

Below are 10 world maps which depict a wide range of indicators and sub-indicators, indices, scorecards, and standards.  Some simply show if a country is a member of an institution or is a signatory to an international agreement.  Most are interactive except for one, they all provide links to reports and methodologies, some more extensive than others.  Some of the maps are a call to action; others are created to solicit input from the crowd, while most are created to demonstrate how countries fare against each other according to their schemes.  One map is a discovery map to a large number of indicators found in an indicator portal while another shows the breadth of civil society participation.  These maps are created in a variety of customized systems while three rely on third party platforms such as Google Maps or Open Street Maps.  They are published by a variety of organizations such as transnational institutions, well resourced think tanks or civil society organizations.

We do not know the impact these maps have on the minds of the decision makers for whom they are aimed, but I do know that these are often shown as backdrops to discussions at international meetings such as the OGP to make a point about who is and is not in an open and transparent club.  They are therefore political tools, used to do discursive work.  They do not simply represent the open data landscape, but actively help (re)produce it.  As such, they demand further scrutiny as to the data assemblage surrounding them (amalgams of systems of thought, forms of knowledge, finance, political economies, governmentalities and legalities, materialities and infrastructures, practices, organisations and institutions, subjectivities and communities, places, and marketplaces), the instrumental rationality underpinning them, and the power/knowledge exercised through them.

This is work that we are presently conducting on the Programmable City project, which will  complement a critical study concerning city data, indicators, benchmarking and dashboards, and we’ll return to them in future blog posts.

1.       The Transparency International Corruption by Country / Territory Map

Users land on a blank blue world map of countries delineated by a thick white line, from which they select a country of interest.  Once selected a series of indicators and indices such as the ‘Corruption measurement tools’, ‘Measuring transparency’ and ‘Other governance and development indicators’ appear.  These are measured according rankings to a given n, scored as a percentage and whether or not the country is a signatory to a convention and if it is enforced.  The numbers are derived from national statistics and surveys.  The indicators are:

  • Corruption Perceptions Index (2013), Transparency International
  • Control of Corruption (2010), World Bank dimension of Worldwide Governance Indicators
  • The Bribe Payer’s Index (2011), Transparency International
  • Global Corruption Barometer (2013), Transparency International
  • OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (2011)
  • Financial Secrecy Index (2011), Tax Justice Network
  • Open Budget Index (2010), International Budget Partnership
  • Global Competitiveness Index (2012-2013), World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index
  • Judicial Independence (2011-2012), World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index
  • Human Development Index (2011), United Nations
  • Rule of Law (2010), World Bank dimension of Worldwide Governance Indicators
  • Press Freedom Index (2011-2012) Reporters Without Borders
  • Voice & Accountability (2010), World Bank dimension of Worldwide Governance Indicators

By clicking on the question mark beside the indicators, a pop up window with some basic metadata appears. The window describes what is being measured and points to its source.

The page includes links to related reports, and a comments section where numerous and colourful opinions are provided!

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View the rest at Programmable City.

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.

Mercer Rant and the Long-Form Census

Wonderful!

Census Media Round-up

I will link the content later on!  Til then, you can enjoy digging for the info!  It has been a great couple of weeks where we have heard many discussions on Right To Know, Data Access and Open Data, and that is where I have been busy and thus a bit of a backlog on these round-ups.

Enjoy

  • Angus Reid Public Opinion Poll: Majority of Canadians Support Move to Reinstate Long Form Census http://www.visioncritical.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/2010.10.06_Census_CAN.pdf
  • The Hamilton Spectator: Census Lie Exposed http://www.thespec.com/opinion/editorial/article/262888–census-lie-exposed
  • CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/09/30/liberals-census-motion.html?ref=rss
  • CBC: Francophone challenge to census rejected http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/10/06/census-francophone-courts.html?ref=rss
  • Global News: Court rejects francophone census challenge http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/10/06/census-francophone-courts.html?ref=rss
  • Macleans: Census appeal hits dead end in Federal Court http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/10/06/census-suit-meets-dead-end-in-federal-court/
  • Toronto Sun: Group’s request to overturn census decision denied http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2010/10/06/15603441.html
  • Winnipeg Free Press: Canadians give PM an earful on decision http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/canadians-give-pm-an-earful-on-decision-104555779.html
  • Telegraph Journal: Federal court nixes challenge to Ottawa’s census changes http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/front/article/1252362
  • The Vancouver Sun: Bernier praised long-form census in 2006 letter http://www.vancouversun.com/news/canada/Bernier+praised+long+form+census+2006+letter/3637990/story.html
  • Ottawa Citizen: Census war still on http://www.ottawacitizen.com/technology/Census+still/3641182/story.html
  • Global Toronto: Bernier blunders http://www.globaltoronto.com/Bernier+blunders/3638971/story.html
  • Inside Halton: Halton MP’s town hall meeting draws out census debate http://www.insidehalton.com/news/article/883482–great-to-see-bonnie-of-bonnie-clyde
  • The Toronto Sun: Tories Reject Census Defeat http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2010/09/29/15523871.html
  • vancouver Sun: Minister praised long-form census in letter http://www.vancouversun.com/Minister+praised+long+form+census+letter/3642006/story.html
  • Macleans: Make your own Commons http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/09/28/make-your-own-commons/
  • The Globe and Mail: Opposition, provinces fail to stir Tories from census positionhttp://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/industry-minister-shoots-down-ontario-and-quebecs-last-ditch-census-complaint/article1731919/?cmpid=rss1
  • National Post: Tories ignore opposition motion to bring back long-form census http://www.nationalpost.com/Tories+ignore+opposition+motion+bring+back+long+form+census/3599603/story.html
  • International Statistical Institute: ISI President Jef Teugels sent a letter to the Canadian
  • Minister of Industry, and the Minister of Industry replied http://isi-web.org/news/long-form-in-the-canadian-census
  • The Toronto Star: Long and Short of the Census Debate: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/869260–long-and-short-of-the-census-debate
  • The North Bay Nugget: Agencies defend censushttp://nugget.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2781578
  • The whig Standard: Government’s census policy against the law: group http://thewhig.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?
  • Vernon Morning Star: Trustees fight for census http://www.bclocalnews.com/okanagan_similkameen/vernonmorningstar/news/103757984.html
  • The Montreal Gazette: Bernier backs off on census claims http://www.montrealgazette.com/Bernier+backs+census+claims/3628705/story.html
  • the Globe and Mail: Language groups hit snag in census battle http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/language-groups-hit-snag-in-census-battle/article1743946/
  • Vancouver Sun: Census saga continues with Liberal MP’s bill http://www.vancouversun.com/news/canada/Census+saga+continues+with+Liberal+bill/3603580/story.html
  • the CBC news: Industry Canada queried Bernier census claims http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/10/04/census-bernier-complaints-documents.html?ref=rss
  • The Vancouver Sun: Judge throws out census-decision challenge http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Judge+throws+census+decision+challenge/3632646/story.html
  • The Mark: http://www.iassistdata.org/blog/iassist-letter-canadian-government-loss-2011-census-long-form  http://www.themarknews.com/articles/2671
  • The Concordian: Voluntary census will cut federal costs http://www.theconcordian.com/opinions/voluntary-census-will-cut-federal-costs-1.1662988
  • CBC News: Francophone challenge to census rejected http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/10/06/census-francophone-courts.html
  • The Mark News: The long-form census controversy holds important lessons for both federal public servants and their political masters. http://www.themarknews.com/articles/2655
  • The Mark: Former industry minister Maxime Bernier said earlier this year that he received 1,000 complaints a day about the long-form census. http://www.themarknews.com/articles/2677-conservatives-exaggerated-census-complaints-data-suggests
  • The Chronicle Herald: http://thechronicleherald.ca/Editorials/1204970.htmlhttp://thechronicleherald.ca/Editorials/1204970.html
  • CBC Inside Politics: Orders of the Day – Let’s All Take A Trip Down Census Crisis Memory Lane! http://www.cbc.ca/politics/insidepolitics/2010/09/orders-of-the-day—lets-all-take-a-trip-down-census-crisis-memory-lane.html
  • Le Devoir:Recensement – Bernier veut aller encore plus loin http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/canada/297718/recensement-bernier-veut-aller-encore-plus-loin?utm_source=infolettre-2010-10-08&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=infolettre-quotidienne
  • Global News: Harper government faces court challenge on census http://www.globalnews.ca/entertainment/Harper+government+faces+court+challenge+census/3587334/story.html
  • Le Devoir: Recensement – La Cour donne raison à Ottawa http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/canada/297621/recensement-la-cour-donne-raison-a-ottawa?utm_source=infolettre-2010-10-07&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=infolettre-quotidienne
  • The Globe and Mail: The census is for Parliament to decide http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/editorials/the-census-is-for-parliament-to-decide/article1729166/
  • National Post: Tories will stick with census plan: Harper http://www.nationalpost.com/news/tories+will+stick+with+census+plan/3592632/story.html
  • Edmonton Journal: Paying both sides on census http://www.edmontonjournal.com/life/Paying+both+sides+census/3589380/story.html
  • Toronto Star: Government knew costs of axing census, documents show http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/census/article/866944–not-too-late-to-save-census-goodale
  • CBC News: Liberals move to reinstate long-form census http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/09/28/pol-long-form-census-liberals.html?ref=rss
  • Toronto Sun: Census….the debate never endshttp://www.torontosun.com/blogs/thehill/2010/09/28/15509581.html
  • The Ottawa Citizen: Court challenge, opposition both blast government over scrapped census http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Court+challenge+opposition+both+blast+government+over+scrapped+census/3586122/story.html
  • The Toronto Star: Government knew costs of axing census, documents show Liberals, critics still hope census decision can be reversed http://www.thestar.com/article/866944–not-too-late-to-save-census-goodale
  • The Montreal Gazette: Census compromise falls short, court told http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Census+compromise+falls+short+court+told/3588179/story.html
  • The Whig Standard: Census Controversy in Court http://www.thewhig.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2774901
  • Ottawa Sun: Opposition attacks government’s census policy http://www.ottawasun.com/news/canada/2010/09/26/15482996.html
  • The Telegram: Shorter forms lead to census information shortage http://www.thetelegram.com/Opinion/Columns/2010-09-25/article-1793117/Shorter-forms-lead-to-census-information-shortage/1
  • CTV News; Liberals introduce bill to reinstate long-form census http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Politics/20100930/bill-census-100930/
  • Northumberland Review: Liberals Introduce Motion To Reinstate Mandatory Long-Form Census http://www.northumberlandview.ca/index.php?module=news&func=display&sid=4461
  • Canadian Press: Layton loses bid for emergency census debate http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/100920/national/census_scrubbed_2
  • The Toronto Star: StatsCan credibility, independence feared damaged in census scrap http://themes.thestar.com/article/06NW8R08RT4WP/articles?q=
  • The Montreal Gazette: NDP bid for census debate thwarted http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/census+debate+thwarted/3553691/story.html
  • The Record: Census set to take centre stage on Parliament Hill http://news.therecord.com/News/CanadaWorld/article/782584
  • Winnipeg Sun: Opposition attacks government’s census policy http://www.winnipegsun.com/news/canada/2010/09/26/15482801.html
  • North Bay Nugget: Agencies defend censushttp://www.nugget.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2781578
  • Times and Transcript: Dieppe protests federal census changes http://timestranscript.canadaeast.com/news/article/1243621
  • toronto Sun: Anger over Conservatives’ census decision heads to court and House of Commons votehttp://www.torontosun.com/blogs/thehill/2010/09/28/15508596.html
  • The Toronto Star: Census debate: It just won’t go away http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/867582–census-debate-it-just-won-t-go-away
  • The Montreal Gazette: Conservatives to stick with census planhttp://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Conservatives+stick+with+census+plan/3595019/story.html
  • The Vancouver Sun: Court challenge, opposition both blast government over scrapped census http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Census+controversy+boils+over+Parliament/3586122/story.html#ixzz11no7H4cW
  • Canadian Press: Conservative Snub Parliament, Ontario, Quebec on Census Reversal http://news.sympatico.ca/canada/conservatives_snub_parliament_ontario_quebec_on_census_reversal/ae00f43e
  • The Mark: A bill will be tabled on Oct. 1 that would make it illegal to get rid of the long form census. http://www.themarknews.com/articles/2541-opposition-takes-census-fight-to-parliament
  • The Winnipeg Sun: Tories reject census defeathttp://www.winnipegsun.com/news/canada/2010/09/29/15523896.html
  • The Toronto Star: PM ‘confusing stubbornness with leadership’ over census, Ignatieff says http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/census/article/868232–pm-confusing-stubbornness-with-leadership-over-census-ignatieff-says
  • Toronto Sun: Ontario and Quebec Ministers urge the Conservative government to reverse census decision http://www.torontosun.com/blogs/thehill/2010/09/29/15522631.html
  • CBC News: MP launches bill to restore census http://www.cbc.ca/canada/ottawa/story/2010/09/30/liberals-census-motion.html
  • The Sault Star: City and local agency defend censushttp://www.saultstar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2779937
  • The Winnipeg Free Press: Conservatives snub Parliament, Ontario, Quebec on census reversal http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/mobile/ontario-quebec-want-long-form-census-reinstated-as-soon-as-possible-103991754.html
  • AOL News: Liberals Move To Reinstate Long-Form Census http://news.aol.ca/canada/article/liberals-move-to-reinstate-long-form/1299370
  • The Globe and Mail: Tories haul out ‘coalition’ label in census spat with oppositionhttp://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/tories-haul-out-coalition-label-in-census-spat-with-opposition/article1731436/
  • The Toronto Star: Speaker rejects NDP call for emergency census debate http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/census/article/863807–speaker-rejects-ndp-call-for-emergency-census-debate
  • PostMedia News: Liberals tout bill to re-introduce long-form census http://www.canada.com/news/Liberals+tout+bill+introduce+long+form+census/3570495/story.html
  • The Ottawa Citizen: Census change concerns brushed off by Clement http://www.ottawacitizen.com/technology/Census+change+concerns+brushed+Clement/3565872/story.html
  • North Bay Today: NDP keeps heat on census issue http://www.sootoday.com/content/news/full_story.asp?StoryNumber=48607
  • The Toronto Star: Olive: Carney is a game-changing central banker http://www.thestar.com/article/865817–olive-carney-is-a-game-changing-central-banker
  • CBC News: Census change challenge heads to Federal Court http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/09/26/census-court-challenge.html
  • Post Media News: Court challenge, opposition both blast government over scrapped census http://www.canada.com/news/Census+controversy+boils+over+Parliament/3586122/story.html
  • The Mark: A Francophone group is seeking an injunction against the voluntary survey that replaced the mandatory long-form census. http://www.themarknews.com/articles/2554-census-faces-court-challenge-today
  • Canadian Press: Axing census costs data, feds admitted http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/100927/national/census_challenge
  • Ottawa Sun: Long-form census asks too much http://www.ottawasun.com/comment/editorial/2010/09/27/15493306.html
  • CTV news: Feds knew they’d lose data in census switchhttp://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100927/census-court-100927/20100927/?hub=TorontoNewHome
  • CFRA 580 News: Census Debate Continues http://www.cfra.com/?cat=3&nid=75934
  • Winnipeg Free Press: Conservatives snub Parliament, Ontario, Quebec on census reversal http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/breakingnews/ontario-quebec-want-long-form-census-reinstated-as-soon-as-possible-103991754.html

Contest Apps4Ottawa / concours AppsPourOttawa

La Ville d’Ottawa lance son premier concours public visant le développement d’applications à partir de données ouvertes et invite tous les résidents à participer à la fois à la création de nouvelles applications et au vote de leur favorite.

La Ville cherche à encourager les citoyens à élaborer de nouvelles applications novatrices qui font appel aux données de la Ville, en accès libre depuis peu grâce à l’initiative Données ouvertes, et ce, afin d’améliorer la vie communautaire, de stimuler la croissance économique et d’intégrer les citoyens à l’administration municipale.

The City of Ottawa is running its first public contest to develop apps from open data and is inviting residents from all over to participate both in creating new apps or voting on their favourites.

The goal of the contest is to encourage entrepreneurs, agencies, students, IT professionals and others to create innovative new apps that use open data to improve community experience, stimulate economic growth and engage residents in municipal government.

Ottawa Citizen Article: City launches $50,000 app contest

Tony and the Census in 2.5 D

Its pretty funny!

Here is my response to a letter sent to me by Mr. Tony Clément, Minister of Industry of the “New Government” of Canada, aka the Conservative Party, regarding my letter expressing my concerns about the cancellation of the Long-Form Census.

I admit, that it is a passionate response!

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Mr. Clément;

Thank you for this response;

I have provided my comments inline, please forgive the lack of brevity, and if you like you can also read this on datalibre.ca.

On Tue, Sep 14, 2010 at 11:37 AM, <Minister.Industry@ic.gc.ca> wrote:

Thank you for your letter regarding the 2011 Census of Population.  This government recognizes the importance of this issue for Canadians and appreciates the time you have taken to share your views on this matter.

Your welcome Mr. Clement, but I assure you, I would have preferred to be focusing my limited time to doing my version of citizenship by conducting research on and using the Census to inform public policy rather than doing citizenship by trying to save it.  I thank you for providing me with the opportunity to dis-place my civic energies.

As you are aware, the Government of Canada has made the decision to conduct the census as the short form only, which will be sent to all Canadian households in May 2011.  We believe that these recent changes to the Census, along with the introduction of the voluntary National Household Survey (NHS), strike a better balance between the need to collect information on households to inform public policy and protecting the privacy rights of Canadians.

Yes, I am acutely aware of the decision this “New Government” has made.  First in its announcement, then the media fanfare, and also, in how your office wiped deliberations on the topic in your Digital Economy Consultation (1) (2).  The balance you are alluding to is however tipping toward inaccuracy, lack of continuity,  removing the ability to do reliable time series analysis, ability to do micro scale analysis and is introducing sample bias, as was made clear by the numerous experts that appeared at the INDU Committee special sessions on the Census, former chief statisticians, academics, statisticians and by the National Statistics Council.  Further, local analyzes is only possible with a mandatory Census.  There are no other data sources that provide data at the micro scale on all of the items that could be and were collected in the long form Census.  The Census helps us understand who we are as Canadians, it is an inventory of the population and its composition.  Just like an auditor does not ask a business to do a partial voluntary inventory of their products for taxation purposes, we should not be doing a partial non mandatory count of who we are as a people.  It is just not good policy.

In addition, as the Privacy Commissioner rightly pointed out, there have never been Census privacy breaches.  Knowing Statistics Canada quite well, the thing I can say for sure, it is an institution extremely well attuned and organized to prevent privacy breaches.   Privacy is how they have built trust and it is why it was lauded as the best in the world along with their methodological rigour and its former distance from political meddling.

The 2011 Census of Population will consist of 10 questions: the same 8 questions that appeared on the 2006 Census short-form questionnaire plus 2 questions regarding the ability to speak in one of Canada’s two Official Languages and the language spoken at home.  I assure you that the addition of these questions will support the implementation of the Official Languages Act and its regulations.  The Government of Canada remains committed to official languages and to supporting the vitality of official language communities.

I am glad the government cares about French Language groups, as do I, but does the government not care about people with disabilities, women and their contribution to the economy even if unpaid, aboriginal people, ethno-visible cultural minorities, education, housing and employment?  Surely, these too are critically important to Canada and Canadians.

Census information previously collected by the long-form census questionnaire will be collected as part of a new voluntary NHS. The NHS will be distributed to 1 in 3 households, which represents approximately 4.5 million households, an increase from 2.9 million households surveyed in 2006. Statistics Canada has extensive experience in conducting voluntary surveys and will apply its same rigorous methods and standards to conduct and release survey data.  The Chief Statistician has indicated that this new approach will provide useful and usable data that can meet the needs of many users.

Yes, Canada does have experience conducting surveys.  And the outcome of that experience has demonstrated that you require a census that is mandatory to validate, weigh and adjust what has been collected voluntarily.  In addition, as we have seen with PALS, and many other voluntary surveys, they disappear because there is no strong legislated mandate to fund them. In addition, the sample sizes of voluntary surveys preclude community based local analysis which disables place based planning.  Not one of the voluntary surveys allow for sub city scale analysis, cross-neighbourhood comparisons let alone inner city health districts, city wards and most certainly provide little knowledge for rural communities.  Just like the telecoms did not fulfill the promise of connecting all Canadians, no private data collecting company will dare take the risk of studying anything but big cities leaving rural Canadians in the dark.  That is the role of the government, that is why we have government, civil society and the private sector with separate roles and functions.  National Statistics is a core function of government, that is why, like survey mapping, it is one of Canada’s oldest formal public functions.  Furthermore, many of these voluntary surveys are aggregated only at the level of the CMA.  As you are aware, CMAs are a statistical construct and not reflective of city or municipal administrations, making the data derived from these not helpful to city and community planners on the ground.  Finally, Statistics Canada has provided you with reports and analyzes on the problems of voluntary surveys.  I trust that those public servants had done their job at providing you with the good information you need to re-consider your position, that is what good governing is about – hire the best to give you the best.  Unless of course you have a team of highly specialized and qualified statisticians on staff who can provide me with grounded research to support your position and counter theirs.

Also, which Chief Statistician are you referring to and can you point me to the record where he has said that?  Which users?  Certainly not to anyone or any organization doing trend analysis, Mr. Carney or the 350+ organizations, associations, universities, medical practitioners, demographers, statisticians, planners, cities, rural municipalities, provinces, banks, students, sociologist, nurses, and business people, to name a few, that have explicitly stated that they want the long-form census reinstated (3).  Furthermore, I am not sure of the business case for the NHS, since you have indicated that it will cost more to Canadians yet be less reliable and accurate.  Furthermore, StatCan clients, experts and citizens alike, the same who have stated they want the long-form Census reinstated, those same clients, who normally purchase census data, have clearly stated that they do not trust that the NHS results will be as good as the Census and that it will not meet their needs.  Thus – while not in any way being an advocate on the selling of our public data - would you not also loose revenue by trying to sell a more expensive and inferior product to clients who no longer want or trust what you are selling?  Bref, it will cost more to create something of poorer quality that you may not be able to resell.  Perhaps you can enlighten me on that particular business model?  Are you suggesting that StatCan become a suburban big box warehouse shopping centre that sells low quality cheap products made in, well, less than suitable factories?  That is the only successful business model I know of that resembles this new NHS business model.

Beyond the provision of limited and essential information, we do not believe it is appropriate to demand extensive private and personal information from Canadians under threat of imprisonment.  That is why our government announced its intention to introduce legislation this fall to remove threats of jail time for persons refusing to fill out the Census and all mandatory surveys administered by Statistics Canada. An additional legislative amendment will also be made to require respondents’ consent on whether personal information from the NHS questionnaire can be released after 92 years.

I am glad you removed jail time.  However, as you know, no one has ever gone to jail for not filling out the Census.  Just like some towns still have laws on hitching posts, those and the jail term for the census are old remnants of our past, certainly you could have removed the jail time,  included a fine and kept the long-form census.  Regarding consent, that was already in the census.  It was a tick box were respondents allowed or disallowed the sharing of their responses after 92 years, so I am uncertain as to why you considered this as a valid reason for new legislation and the cancellation of the long-form.  Informed consent is something Statistics Canada is very good at.  Also, you may want to review the Canadian Tri-Council Statements on research with human subjects, since they have put into place excellent ethical research practices on the topic of consent in research for quite some time.  I do not recall them advocating for the reduction of research standards in order to meet ethical guidelines as you are advocating for the NHS.  Regarding private information.  Why is it that farmers must fill out the Agricultural Census?  It is a more extensive Census which also includes many private questions.  Also, CRA asks quite a few private questions, should we also stop the practice of collecting taxes? Personally, I do not collect AirMiles because I consider that a serious invasion of my privacy, more-so than any Census.  I also do not support RFID tags, nor do I disclose personal information in social media spaces like facebook.  Those are far more invasive than the Census yet Canadians willfully give out their personal data, lots of it, for some sort of economic, consumer friendly and social return all the while the “New Government” is manufacturing malcontent on the Census? I’m confused.  The Census is a collective civic duty, our national navigation system, it helps us understand ourselves, directs how we manage and helps us become a better more just country in all of our splendid diversity.

Okay, perhaps, this is where StatCan has failed a little, it did not make friends with its cost recovery policies, nor its regressive and restrictive data licensing practices, to no fault of their own since it is the Treasury Board that decides and allocates resources, and it was the “New Government” that turned down StatCan’s offer at giving back to Canadians what was already theirs, their Census data.  In addition, StatCan decreased its education and outreach functions.  StatCan used to reach out and explain what the questions were about, why they were asked, how they came to be and how important each and everyone was.  Like many great Canadian institution, reduced budgets and downsizing has led them to cut back on effectively communicating to Canadians how important they are as an institution, their function and most importantly, reminding us why they do what they do.  You can find that information, but really, beyond people like me, who goes digging in the deep lurkium spaces of the StatCan website for those reports? This lack of good communication and openness has led to the creation of the fertile territory within which the “New Government” has richly sewed its seeds of mis- and dis-information about the Census.  As a colleague said to me yesterday, never in her best dystopian dreams, had she conjured the idea of doing away with the census.  That says a lot, as she has been working on anti-poverty, social justice and homelessness issues for decades.

I encourage all Canadians who receive the 2011 Census form to complete it and participate in the National Household Survey if their household is selected.

Thank you for the words of Encouragement.  However, I would rather fill out the Census, as at least I know I am contributing and investing time into a solid, renown, well established and world recognized statistical institution.  A National Household Survey, well, it falls way way short of a mandatory Census, and for community based analysis, well it just does not cut it.  I would rather give my time to a Census than waste my time on an inaccurate and more expensive process.  But, I am hoping our governments will come to its senses and re-instate the long-form census, as that is what good governance is.

Yours sincerely,

Sincèrement à vous

Tony Clement

Tracey Lauriault

PS – Please forgive my grumpiness Minister Clement, it is just that I feel that  a key part of the democratic process has been usurped and dismantled, and well, like many Canadians, I loose sleep when, well, when I see ideology and ill informed opinions replace evidence based decision making.  Normally, that kind of doing, thinking or practice, happens, well, in un-democratic countries, and it worries the heck out of me when it is so overtly apparent here.

Postpone the whole census to September 2011

“former chief statistician Ivan Fellegi said Ottawa could postpone the whole census to September 2011 from May, gaining a few extra months to re-establish the long census.”

Globe and Mail – Sept 20

for tweeters -

Ivan Fellegi postpone #census to September 2011 from May, gaining time to re-establish the long census  http://tinyurl.com/386crt9

Bref – It ain’t over yet!

Census Media Round-up

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