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TracingCOVIDbanners-08It 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: and ESRI Canada produced the the first National ge0-COVID-19 reporting:

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.

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.

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.

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.


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



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

Quebec (Updated Map info 08/04/2020)


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?

Watching this is a great New Years morning activity, and for Sep Kamvar I fell that data and statistics are the new black!  This is worth the 1 hour of your time!  dam, most online TV shows are 42 minutes and you learn way less…I should know 🙁

Merci Karl!

Data narration in action!

I can’t recall where I found this, but it’s very very cool:

Billon Dollar Gram

From Information Is Beautiful: Infographic on various billions spent, or planned, or earned:

billion dollar gram

This is a great way to make a complex document – a national budget or a Stimulus Package – tangible and accessible.  I think newspapers are starting to compete with each other as we are starting to see some great on-line visualizations, New York Times, USA Today and now the Washington Post.

I think the following viz would be even better if the image was hyperlinked to the actual budget document and each bubble took you to the section it represents.  But alas!  This stuff is hard work and this image is a fine start!

via – Flowing Data

Visualization of the US Stimulation Package

Visualization of the US Stimulus Package

Wi-fi structures and people shapes, from Dan Hill:

One of the ideas I’ve been exploring relates to how urban industry – in the widest sense of the word – in the knowledge economy is often invisible, at least immediately and in situ. Whereas urban industry would once have produced thick plumes of smoke or deafening sheets of sound, today’s information-rich environments – like the State Library of Queensland, or a contemporary office – are places of still, quiet production, with few sensory side-effects. We see people everywhere, faces lit by their open laptops, yet no evidence of their production. They could be using Facebook, Photoshop, Excel or Processing. [more…]

wifi structures

The visuals I saw while watching the US elections on the tele on Tuesday were just plain dazzling.  Lots of speculative data, predictions, interactivity leading to scenarios and more speculation on the results, good visualizations, resulting from a visualization dissemination and creation infrastructure which manufactures the geographic imagination of the US Nation.  Obama stated in the speech that won him the candidacy for the Democrats (UK Guardian)

that there were no red states, no blue states, only the United States.

The maps we saw on US election night however, were all about blue and red differences.

Map of results by state

Map of results by state

Zooming into county maps shows a different picture where colour speckles add up to a uniform blue for Ohio on the state map above. Many voices are not seen on the state map, the county map shows lots of diversity, as would the sub county map.  Maps tell all sorts of stories and can portray silences or consensus where in fact cacophonies and polarities exist. The county map looks way more red than blue for the Democratically won state of Ohio.

Speckles of red and blue in Ohio became a uniform Blue

Speckles of red and blue in Ohio became a uniform Blue

Reading about the US Electoral system helps explain how this works out.

The map in popular culture is key to the formation of the collective imagination of the nation.  I do wonder if viewers will actually think that Hawaii and Alaska are really located in the ocean south of Arizona instead of one connected to Canada’s North and the other in the middle of the Pacific!

1 square = 1 electoral vote

1 square = 1 electoral vote

Information Aesthetics produced an excellent blog post which includes links to numerous electoral visuals.  Watching this also highlighted the lack of maps and visuals during the Canadian 2008 Elections.  Eventually I did see a map on the Tele, around 11:30 PM on Radio Canada, while CBC showed none!

I was looking for maps all night on the Tele!  None appeared so I came home and found a few.   I wonder if the cost and license restrictions of the actual electoral boundary file was an issue for television networks and the media.  The only institution that provided a map with ridings was CBC. The rest were visualizations or shell maps of provinces and territories.

The CBC maps were interactive, with roll overs pop ups and some zooming capabilities!  As I predicted before seeing the maps, multicoloured areas are urban, west is blue with some patches of orange, centre is orange, east is baby blue, with some patches of red and blue, and all those country ridings are tory blue!  And Ottawa, which I did not predict, is surrounded by blue, with one orange and 2 reds!  Ontario, well, it is awfully blue!  Kinda fun to look around to see what is up!

CyberPresse has a pretty interesting visualization!  One cannot see the real geographic distribution of the results but it remains a creative and interactive way to see the votes!  As you scroll over the little squares a pop up window shows the results!  At a glance a user can see the number of seats per province and then look at the littles squares and their colours, this was perhaps a little less effective but I guess they were struggling with screen real estate and access to a base map.

CTV had a pretty rudimentary map of the provinces and territories.  If you click on the province you get a window of the ridings and a rather garish obtrusive list of ridings that blocks the map.  You select the riding and then you get the results of the province in a table but not a geographic distribution of results by riding.  The map is then left at the bottom of the page all lonely with not much information associated with it.

The Globe and Mail also had an interactive map but again just a shell with the provinces and territories like CTV example above, with a small bit of scroll over action that yields a pop up window and the left pane changing on the right.  Informative but not the big picture of the country like a map with all the ridings.

Finally there is our national institution, Elections Canada!  A few minutes ago it had no results! Oh My!  No maps, and not the most intersting way to access the info. I wonder if they will ever produce a map?  Will it be more than a static PDF? Since they own the base file you’d think they could do a little something with that monopoly access?  Or perhaps because Statistics Canada sells that for them they also have some sort of dissemination restrictions.

Some of us are kinda, well, obsessed with the political jockeying south of the border, and this little Canadian contest seems almost beside the point (of course it isn’t). But anyway, for those of you who are data junkies at the best of times, and now suffering from Obamamania, and/or Palin fever, there are a few great projects out of the good ol US of A. [Would be nice to see the same effort and creativity put into Canadian politics, but I suspect that’s just dreaming.] Anyway, here a few nice sites to visit:, visual depiction of who’s in the news:
Everymoment Now : Obama Vs. McCain : Context and Scope to the 2008 US General Election (a site that digests all existing polling data, weighs it according to the polls’ past performance, and gives meta polling results, as well as some insightful commentary):


CafePress Meter (user-made t-shirt sales as polling indicator, apparently a far better measure than the traditional polls):

cafepress meter

Do you have any good US election data sites? Any good Canadian ones?

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