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Canada's Data Deficit


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Found this discussion on Canada's data deficit very informative and relevant to Canadian analysts / decision makers.

 

 

For those that don't have the time to watch, here are some interesting quotes:

 

“On the business side, we have a serious problem in Canada. The restrictions of confidentiality under the Statistics Act make it very difficult to publish detailed economic data, and that’s a serious concern… In some cases, we can’t publish data by industry for a province because there are only two or three businesses in that province of that type. So therefore, if you want to do an analysis by industry in smaller provinces, you’re seriously hampered. And issues like the environment are inherently local. If you can’t obtain information about the scale and activities of businesses in the city, you can’t make the connections as well as you ought to be able to between economic activity and the environment / climate change. The data doesn’t exist or it’s in the hands of people who choose not to make it public, and that’s another issue entirely.”

- Wayne Smith, Former Chief Statistician of Canada

 

“Deloitte was doing a piece of work with the government looking at how we could harness AI and machine learning to basically increase the efficiency of government, and we had a great brainstorming session about what was possible. But almost immediately, we ran into an issue that the departments internal to the provincial government couldn’t share the data between themselves to actually unlock the use. One of the ironies we have is that computational power – our ability to use data to identify trends and develop analysis – has gone up enormously, and the data isn’t available to actually unlock the potential.”

- Craig Alexander, Chief Economist at Deloitte Canada

 

“One of our big areas of focus is intergovernmental relations, so “is Ontario getting a fair deal from the federal government in terms of expenditures?” The provincial economic accounts, which are generated by Statistics Canada, were updated in 2011/2012 [and] hey were also just updated a year or two ago. There’s about a six- or seven-year gap there, where we didn’t know how much money the federal government was spending or collecting in each province across the country. It makes it really hard to analyse “are certain provinces perhaps being treated unfairly?” “Are they not getting their fair share of federal spending?””

- Sunil Johal, Policy Director at The Mowat Centre

 

“The United States statistical system is an interesting creature. It’s huge. It’s very decentralized. There’s a vast amount of statistical activity going on in the United States, some of it directly through government departments, other pieces through major university-based research organizations. Their efficiency is terrible, but their scope is huge. The U.S. system is data rich. There are just so many organizations producing this stuff. There’s no other country comparable in the world… They’re very restrictive. They don’t allow government departments from trying to monopolize the data or charge for it. They really run a very open and free system in the United States.”

- Wayne Smith, Former Chief Statistician of Canada

 

“Our system suffers tremendously from “what’s the issue of the day?” Since the end of the 1990’s, the funding coming to Statistics Canada has generally been tied to “this is the current policy issue, and so we’re going to have cannabis statistics and we’re going to look at foreign ownership of residential property.” Money is given to Statistics Canada for that. That’s applied research. The kind of data for generalized scientific research - where you can actually discover new issues that haven’t been identified yet - is what’s not being produced, it’s what was cut out of the budget in the 2000’s, and it’s what needs to be restored and protected…”

- Wayne Smith, Former Chief Statistician of Canada

 

“When we were determining that there was a massive labour shortage in Canada, which was at odds with Statistics Canada data, it turned out that the source that the federal government was using was Kijiji. Those ads were not a reliable source. The whole premise of a labour shortage was faulty, but it was the justification to bring in many, many foreign workers.”

- Tavia Grant, Reporter at The Globe and Mail

 

“It isn’t clear to me that the public actually is demanding evidence-based policymaking, and that increasingly, there’s a sense of distrust around what analysts and policy wonks have been saying for years because the outcomes people have been getting haven’t matched what they were promised. I think it’s undermining the confidence and support. This is a very fundamental issue.”

- Craig Alexander, Chief Economist at Deloitte Canada

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