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MPs will be debating Bill C-626 which proposes amending the Statistics Act this Friday November 7 to:

Reinstate the long-form census and expand the authority of the Chief Statistician of Canada.

The first reading of the text of An Act to Amend the Statistics Act / Projet de Loi C-626 Prèmiere Lecture was done on Sept. 22, 2014.

It was tabled by Ted Hsu, Liberal Member of Parliament for Kingston.

Here are some resources:

  1. Fortunately, Evidence for Democracy has taken this on as a campaign, and the
  2. Save The Census folks are also keeping us up to date on this issue with their Facebook page.
  3. Ted Hsu also has some excellent information resources in the Bill C-626 Blog
  4. the Datalibre.ca blog has a number of resources, which you can search
  5. The Civicaccess.ca list also keeps an archives of all of its posts, and you can search find excellent resources there as well.
  6. OpenParliament.ca has the essentials about the Bill
  7. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) – All the latest on the census long-form debacle

Some recent articles:

ACTIONS:

As discussed here, and here, the folks on the CivicAccess.ca list are doing some digging into the numbers behind this Canada post announcement to cancel home delivery of the mail.  In addition, Armine Yalnizyan’s Globe and Mail Article Canada Post’s vow to ‘protect taxpayers’ needs a reality check which questions the validy of reported losses in financial reports.  As part of that digging some of the following links are being made.  And of course the following National Post Article Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra is a board member of the think-tank that urged mail changes revealed that:

Chopra is also paid the highest salary range among so-called governor-in-council cabinet appointments, with potential earnings of more than half a million dollars a year as Canada Post CEO. Chopra is paid at the CEO 8 level, meaning he receives between $440,900 and $518,600 a year in salary to head an organization that has nearly two dozen presidents and vice-presidents.

Here are some findings about the CEO, his relationship with the Conference Board of Canada and also with Pitney and Bowes which runs a private sector mail service:

reorganized the postal business into two distinct business units: a Physical Delivery Network, which offers highly competitive mail and parcel delivery to every household; and a Digital Delivery Network, which is responsible for the epost electronic delivery solutions, online properties and consumer experience while supporting the Direct Marketing industry with location data analytics.

The report, L’Avenir du service postal au Canada / The Future of the Postal Service included some numbers and references to some interesting data shops as follows:

  • The econometric analysis discussed in chapter 1 of this report was done by ZenithOptiMedia is also a media agency with shops in Toronto and Montreal. The algorithms were not provided nor the data sources. It is a big data analytical shop
  • Dunn and Bradsheet supplied some corporate data.  According to them, they are “the world’s leading source of commercial information and insight on businesses”.  They also do credit scores.
  • Genesis Public Opinion Research Inc did the public opinion research. Not much is available about this company, they do however have a standing offer with the Government of Canada to do this this type of research.  And if this link to them is correct they are a shop based in Chelsea, QC with one employee? s http://www.salespider.com/b-143469756/genesis-public-opinion-research-inc, one employee?

The data from which it was decided that Canada Post should change its direction was not provided in the report, the following was:

  • “The target sample included approximately 500 customers who get mail delivered to their door (DTD), 300 who use group mailboxes (CMB), 250 who receive mail in their lobby or common area (LBA), 100 who have mail delivered to the end of their driveways (RMB), and 60 who have postal boxes in Canada Post or private buildings (DFLB). This roughly mirrors the current distribution of customers by delivery category, with an oversample of rural driveway customers”.
  • “A total of 1,212 residential customers, 18 years of age or older, were surveyed by telephone from September 26 to October 10, 2012. The results are considered accurate to within +/- 2.8 per cent, 19 times in 20.”
  • “Genesis explored the views of small businesses through a two-stage process. The first stage was a series of five focus groups, held in Moncton, Montréal, Mississauga, Brandon, and Calgary. The second stage involved a telephone survey of individuals in small businesses who make decisions on postal products and services within their company.”
  • “The interviews were conducted with 800 businesses selected randomly from among a nationwide pool of businesses with more than 1 but fewer than 100 employees. The sample was generated using data from Dunn and  Bradstreet. The source data for the sample were stratified by employee size, region, and Standard Industrial Classification (SIC). Only businesses with 2 to 100 fulltime employees were eligible for inclusion in the final sample. The sample was then randomly drawn from businesses across the full range of over 1,000 SIC codes, but it excluded Canada Post, print and electronic media, hospitals, educational institutions, and all three levels of government”.

To summarize, this unbiased report was produced by an organization, who has as its board member, the proponent of the research who also happens to be the CEO of the Crown Corporation which is proposing the radical changes, furthermore, this CEO was also the president and CEO of a company that has a private sector mail service that may benefit from these changes, and he is paid close to 520K per year by the Crown / governor in council who appointed him, of an organization that is fasely reporting losses.  In addition the data sources and algorithms behind the reports are not made available, while the sampling of the population is small and primarily urban and even these small numbers were also misreported.

Maybe it is just me, but it would seem that something is a little off here. And, there seems to be a pattern, the cancelation of the census in 2010 was announced just before the summer holidays, the cancelation of home delivery of the post was announced just before the Xmas holidays of 2013, and we have a Prime Minister who seems to have an aversion to evidence based decision making.

It would be good to know who stands to gain with this Canada Post decision, a quick glance tells me that the Canada Post Digital Delivery Network, Direct Marketing industry with location data analytics gain, and that would include companies like Pitney and Bowes, while the Physical Delivery Network which is the one that serves the public, loses.

Jean-Noe Landry and Tracey P. Lauriault have an article entitled:

Les données ouvertes : la matière première du nouvel engagement citoyen

in this fantastic almanac type of publication produced yearly by L’institut du nouveau monde. The article features the unique type of open data movement in Quebec, which is a rich combination of  community development, grass roots engagement, technological activism and public policy making.  It is one of the few Canadian open data initiatives that really make data work to change public policy by embedding the work into a political process, while concurrently working within the political process to ensure evidence informed democratic deliberation and keeping government accountable.

etatduquebec

L’État du Québec est publié une fois l’an depuis 1995. Destiné au grand public, il fournit aux lecteurs l’ensemble des données factuelles utiles sur le Québec dans tous les domaines. On y trouve également le bilan politique, économique, culturel et social du Québec pour l’année écoulée ainsi que des textes d’analyse, produits par des spécialistes, sur tous les grands enjeux auxquels le Québec est confronté.
UN GRAND DOSSIER : LE POUVOIR CITOYEN
• Historique de la participation publique au Québec
• L’éducation civique à l’école
• Les formes innovantes de la démocratie participative à travers le monde
• Le mouvement des données ouvertes
• Participation et corruption coexistent : comment l’expliquer ?

 

The article was co-authored by both of us, however, it is important to mention that Jean-Noe, in his true collaborative, consultative and democratic style, consulted a number of actors in the Montreal and Quebec open data space to ground the content in its local context.

On a seperate note, it is serendipitous that Jean-Noe read philosophie at Trinity in Dublin, I now live in Ireland, we both travelled in Japan and his mom was my French prof.  Life is very interseting sometimes!

An open data story

Greetings folks!  Below is a presentation about the genealogy of open access to data and open data in Canada.  It was great to finally have the space to demonstrate the earlier work done in this space and to showcase the different open data open access communities.  The open data movement has a long history in Canada, and I believe we can thank research librarians and geomaticians for getting the ball rolling, at least if we tentatively assume that it began in the 80s and the use of the Internet.  The history of sharing data in science and geomatics does however go way back.

The other presentations which were part of the Programmable City Seminar discussed the Irish context at a County Council called Fingal level and the Irish Environmental Protection Agency.  They were great as they featured what it means for a public servant, citizen and a researcher to do this work.  Folks who follow open data in Canada would have been most impressed by their frank talks and their oratorial styles.  A video will be released in the coming weeks.

Author: Liam Currie

Title: The Role of Canadian Municipal Open Data Initiatives: A Multi-City Evaluation (2013) (Available here)

Abstract:

In this thesis I undertake a study of Canadian municipal open data initiatives in order to assess the current state of the programs and to gauge the role(s) that these initiatives may play in regards to improving public engagement in local government issues. After an initial literature review, I adopt two separate approaches. The first approach involves the creation of an inventory and evaluation of the contents of all twenty three (23) Canadian municipal open data catalogues in existence during the summer of 2012. The second approach involves asking questions of key informants in the field through the execution of nineteen (19) semi-structured interviews with open data experts from both government and civic realms in ten (10) case study cities across the country.

The results of the research illustrate the major differences and similarities between the structure, output, and roles of open data initiatives in various Canadian cities. The data provided by these programs mostly consists of politically neutral geographic data, though there are a few exceptions. I find two major program structures in Canadian cities: (1) The first type of open data program is created and operates within a specific municipal department and the (2) second type of program operates across a number of departments. Each approach has its own benefits and challenges. The open data initiatives across Canadian cities also appear to have different approaches to public engagement. Several cities have developed strong collaborative relationships with local open data advocates which are explored in some detail. Larger themes about the current state of open data, its current and future role, and the challenges faced by operators and users, are also described in this thesis. I conclude with some recommendations for improving municipal open data initiatives in the future.

M.A Thesis, August 2013
Department of Geography,
Queen’s University, Kingston, ON

Acknowledgements:

  • SSHRC – Funding
    Dr. Betsy Donald – MA Supervisor
  • Harvey Low, John Jones, Reham Gorgis-Youssef, Gina Porcarelli, Matthew Dance, Mack Male, Robert Giggey, Mary Beth Baker, Edward Ocampo-Gooding, Diane Mercier, Michael Lenczner, Andrew Durnin, Alyssa Daku, Andrew Dyck, Steve Czajka, Robert Lunn, Blair Labelle, Joey Coleman – Interview participants
  • Dr. Tracey Lauriault (Datalibre.ca, Civicaccess.ca), David Eaves (Eaves.ca), Dr. Michael Gurstein (Gurstein.wordpress.com), James Mckinney (Opennorth.ca), Keith Macdonald (City of Toronto), Cyrille Vincey (qunb.com), David Robinson (robinsonyu.com) – Additional input and support
  • The discussions and links hosted at the following blogs and listservs were also invaluable: eaves.ca, crookedtimber.org, gurstein.wordpress.com, datalibre.ca, civicaccess-discuss@civicaccess.ca, open-government@lists.okfn.org, open-data-census@lists.okfn.org

The first real open data project in Canada, is arguably, GeoGratis, launched in 1997. It disseminates geomatics legacy data, archived data or data used for independent research.  Like the DLI it used FTP in the early days of the Internet as a way to transfer data in the formats within which datasets were created and data transformation services were pointed to.  Today it disseminates data via a portal and other web services.  Geogratis is a Natural Resources Canada program, under the aegis of the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI) which is being devlivered by GeoConnections.  Shortly thereafter, as part of the CGDI, GeoBase was launched to disseminate free national scale framework data.  Both projects, unbeknownst to their creators, were revolutionary, Geogratis for launching the first free open data project at the Federal level, and Geobase as it was data being created as part of a provincial and territorial accord.  These innovations became even more significanr once a decision was made to share the data under an Unrestricted User Licence, a first for Canada. It was a way to work around Crown Copyright.  GeoConnections continues to be innovative in its data dissemination, open specifications, interoperability and standards based approach to data.  See their Operational Policies and other related documents to read more about their work. It is the gold standard in Canada, and most of the data found in the OpenData portal run by the Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada, are from Natural Resources Canada.

GeoGratis: A Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure Component that Visualises and Delivers Free Geospatial Data Sets (1999)

Abstract:

Many countries are in the process of setting up geospatial data infrastructures. The United States Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) has assumed leadership in the evolution of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). Similarly, the National Geospatial Data Framework (NGDF) of the United Kingdom facilitates collaboration, standards and access to geospatial data. The Canadian Geospatial Data Initiative (CGDI) has five objectives to facilitate access, partnerships, framework data sets, supportive polices, and standards. GeoConnections is the program to build the CGDI. GeoGratis is an operational and fundamental component of Geo-Connections. The GeoGratis objective is to provide a wide range of free vector and raster geospatial data sets of the Canadian land and water mass to the public. During the early stages of GeoGratis, previously archived geospatial data sets were distributed using an Internet based File Transfer Protocol (ftp). Data sets include the Canada Land Inventory and a sample of panchromatic, multi-spectral and hyperspectral imagery. Recently implemented delivery methods are based upon the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that permits the development of a friendlier user interface and a screen to capture a client’s profile. The client is prompted to download the file in the original format and projection or the user can change these parameters according to individual preference. GeoGratis supports the distribution of framework data sets that meet national and international standards. Free and open distribution ensures that these frameworks will be widely accepted. The National Atlas of Canada base maps are the essential framework data sets in GeoGratis. In Canada, GeoGratis reflects the philosophy that the widespread distribution of free or low cost geospatial data stimulates research and development, and promotes a more diversified user base. GeoGratis develops partnerships across government departments. Many departments are protected from the vagaries of the Internet by strong firewalls. The GeoGratis project provides a simple operational tool for these departments. Recognising the needs of a diverse and new user base, GeoGratis plans to use a variety of technologies that offer a range of interfaces to view and access the data sets. Levels of complexity range from simple bitmaps to a more complex on-line GIS with file conversion facilities. The GeoGratis project is developing database design, visualisation software and access methodologies, which may be applied to any country’s geospatial data infrastructure.

Authors:
Cameron Wilson, Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0E9 Canada
Robert. A. O’Neil, Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0E9 Canada

The DLI, is arguably, one of the first attempts by the research and university library communty to make census data accessible to Canadians.  The DLI cannot be considered an Open Data project since data are behind a paywall, irrespective, it was one of the first real lobby efforts to make data available, to work around StatCan’s (back in the day when we had a census) regressive cost recovery and data pricing policies.  The paper provides an excellent review of the history of data advocacy in this community of practice, introduces the associations and also discusses early Internet FTP data transfer, standards, and the data consortium or group purchase model.  Today the DLI serves thousands of faculty and students in research libraries, and its boot camps continue to provide ongoing education and builds capacity in Canadian Research Libraries.  Many of the organizations mentioned remain actively involved in Research Data Canada, the creation of trusted digital repositories and work on the preservation of research data.

The Canadian Data Liberation Initiative: An Idea worth Considering? an International Household Survey Network Paper

Abstract

The Data Liberation Initiative (DLI) is a Canadian program aimed at providing Canadian post secondary institutions affordable access to Statistics Canada data resources. It is a partnership between Statistics Canada and the academic sector. While it initially focused on the dissemination of public use microdata files it now encompasses all publically-available data. This paper describes the background of this project and some of the key success factors so that other agencies may be able to determine its applicability for their own situations. It was written in the hopes that other agencies may find the Data Liberation project as a useful model to consider. It was also written for a Canadian audience that is interested in the history of this project which has now been in operation for over 16 years.

Authors:

Ernie Boyko is a former staff member of Statistics Canada where he held a number of Directorships, including Agriculture, Corporate Planning, Electronic Publishing, and Operations for the 1991 Census. It was during his time at Statistics Canada that Wendy Watkins and he co-founded the Canadian Data Liberation Initiative. He is an active member of the Canadian Association of Public Data Users and the International Association for Social Science Information Services and Technology. He is currently an Adjunct Data Librarian at the Carleton University Data Centre and occasionally works on projects with the International Household Survey Network. .

Wendy Watkins is the Manager of the Carleton University Library Data Centre. Her inspiration for Data Liberation came while working at Statistics Canada for a two year period. She is a founding member of the Canadian Association of Public Data Users and active in the International Association for Social Science Information Services and Technology. iphone repairs | www.socialsecurityeasy.com/social-security-office-locator | Ryan Poelman

Steve Reitano conducted a survey and shared the results of his organizational management research project on the benefits of Open Data which he did as part of his Master’s Degree in Executive Management at Royal Roads University.

The Benefits of Open Data (Canada)

Abstract:

The purpose of this research project is to examine the benefits and the challenges of publishing Open Data for government organizations. It is presumed that open and accessible data offers multiple benefits, including improved openness and accountability, as well as an increase in innovation and economic growth. This paper aims to help public organizations make sound and informed decisions for extending their Open Data initiatives by determining the social, economic and environmental benefits of publishing Open Data, thereby creating a more cost-effective, transparent, efficient and responsive government.

I am posting these here, as open data is maturing in Canada, and we are begining to see studies outside of government and done in Universities.  There are a few others and there are some older ones which are about the topic but a little older.  Open data is not new in Canada, it goes back to the 1980′s, and I will endeavour to post what I find here so that we may have a new and an historical perspective on the issue.  There are a few timelines floating around as well, and will point to these once I consolidate them.

geo Hackathons in Montreal

2 geo Hackathons are taking place in Montreal very soon!
  1. Défi GeoHack: (le 2 octobre)
  2. EcoHack:  (séance de travail le 21 aout - https://www.eventbrite.ca/event/7881011317 , événement principal mi-octobre, date exacte à préciser)

Montrealers are taking open data, apps development and hackathons to new heights and a more focussed level than anywhere else in Canada right now.  There has been Hacking Health in a few cities, and Apps for Climate Change in BC, and Random Hack of Kindness, which have brought great people together.  The folks in Quebec, however, really ground their efforts into the development socio-political-technologies for social good and tie their work into the political process.  For instance:

  • Logement Insalubre an open data movement which brings together apps developers, open data advocates and housing and homelessness activists and organizations to address the dearth of data on these topics,
  • Montreal Accessible which matched people with disabilities, apps developers and volunteers to conduct accessibility surveys and map results, à la participatory geography,
  • Hackons la corruption, where more than 100 developers and hacktivists came together to mine contract data
  • ZoneCone, which is an open source, interoperable, standards based à la GeoConnections app to navigate Canada’s construction season by integrating transportation road network data and road constructions zones
  • OpenNorth, while a national organization, was created by a groups of anglo, international and franco Montrealers,  is the first open data non profit developing tools for a better democracy
  • and Ajah.ca one of the first companies in Canada to merge open data, web aggregation data/content algorithms and data about the charitable sector in Canada and then create products to improve and aid the sector in becoming more evidence-based while also pushing for national scale research.

Montreal Ouvert also created a Table De Concertation to advise the city on its open data strategy.  They have taken great pains to ensure that it has broad  representation.  They also have pic nic‘s,  how great is that!

This is great stuff!
Geomatics, Cartography and geography students can contribute to and learn from these activities, and class projects can be hackathon like prototypes dedicated to resolving real world issues in an interactive, collaborative and multidisciplinary way.  Data specialist can help by improving the social science of these works in some instances, study these effort, and info specialists can contribute their semantic ontology, portal design, keyword searches, data management and preservation as well as cataloguing skills to the processes which are normalizing across the country.  There are open data initiatives across the country at city, provincial and federal scales  and they all need a multiplicity of skills.
I love this stuff, and hope you do too!

Moving to Ireland!

That is right! I am leaving the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre (GCRC) in Ottawa for a postdoctoral research position at the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA) in Maynooth Ireland

I leave the GCRC  on Aug. 23rd, my academic home of 11 years, at Carleton University in Ottawa under the directorship of D. R. Fraser Taylor to work with Rob Kitchin on the Programmable City Project  at NIRSA, National University of Ireland at Maynooth, funded by the European Research Council (ERC). I officially start September 1st and leave Canada on the 25th.

My primary focus will on the following research question:

  • How are digital data generated and processed about cities and their citizens? with some crossover on
  • How are discourses and practices of city governance translated into code? 

The particulars will be worked out once the international team gathers for the first time in Maynooth in September. Research activities, reflections and results will be shared on a website or blog once the project gets started. They will of course be disseminated in the usual academic fora.

I will continue to be involved with the GCRC as a member and do watch for the Developments in the Theory and Practice of Cybercartography: Applications and Indigenous Mapping book ed. by Prof. Taylor and myself as associate editor.  In addition I will continue to be:

  • a member of the Canadian Geomatics Round Table – Legal and Policy Dimension Task Team,
  • the Chair of the Canadian Cartographic Association (CCA)Mapping Technology & Spatial Data Special Interest Group,
  • and a member of the Research Data Alliance -CODATA legal interoperability of research data working group.

Also, I will continue to monitor issues related to open data and open government in Canada but at a much reduced capacity as I begin to shift my focus on Dublin and Boston, Ireland, the EU and global scales. The Datalibre.ca blog will continue to be co-authored by Hugh McGuire and I and the focus may become more global. Of course, I will continue to post on the CivicAccess list I co-founded with Michael Lenczner, Hugh McGuire, Daniel Haran, Stéphane Guidon, Gabe Sawhney and others.  Open data has come a long way in Canada since we founded this first national list in 2005 and I urge you  to register, keep up to date and to take it to the next level.  It has been a great ride!

I have worked with many community based organizations in Canada on the topic of bringing data &mapping and evidence-based decision making to the social sector. I will not be able to help as much as I did, but will continue to keep my eyes open and share information on issues pertaining to civil society and open data as much as possible.  I will of course continue to respond to information requests.  My final talk in Canada will be done remotely for the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) Sector Snapshots: NFP Trends & Tactics for a Changing Ontario on September 19.

The work on the SSHRC Partnership Development Grant at the GCRC with Teresa Scassa at the Centre for Law, Technology and Society (CLTS) and the Canadian Internet Public Policy Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) will be coming to a close and final reporting for that is underway, and as discussed work on the book is nearly complete.

I will not be in Canada, but will keep linkages open.  I will sorely miss my colleagues at the GCRC (Esp. Peter Pulsifer, Glenn Brauen, Amos Hayes and JP Fiset, and others) as we really grew and flourished together, and I am incredibly thankful to Fraser for being such a great academic advisor and for providing us all with incredible research project experience.  I am also sad to say goodbye to the great folks at the Carleton University MADGIC, and the Dept. of Geography, but will not be abandoning the ongoing work on the preservation of data as NIRSA has two data archives!  Also, keep your eyes open for the GeoConnections Geospatial Data Preservation Primer that will soon be released in September of 2013 on the GeoConnections operational policies website.

I am looking forward to the move to Dublin, working with Prof. Kitchin and a fantastic new group of colleagues and starting the next leg of this academic career and bid you all aurevoir, and not adieu, as I expect we will all keep in touch, you might visit and we may even conjure some interesting International research collaborations and projects.

I will share new coordinates once I have them, but you can also follow me here:

@traceylauriault (twitter)
tlauriau at gmail dot com

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