You are currently browsing the archive for the canada category.

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

The CivicAccess list from time to time has some really good discussions.  As of late there have been a couple of great ones.  They are honest and often bring up issues that require some external expertise.

The question of race questions in the former long-form Canadian census was the latest.  It was inspired by comments associated with the NYTimes map – Mapping America: Every City, Every Block posted to the list.  The list threads on this topic can be read here.

Debra Thompson was invited to read the threads and to respond.  Debra wrote The Politics of the Census: Lessons from Abroad in the Journal of Canadian Public Policy as a response to the recent cuts to the Canadian census and won the McMenemy Prize for her paper in the Canadian Journal of Political Science: Is Race Political?

Here is Debra’s Response:

That type of argument (race is dangerous, we shouldn’t be asking a question on it anyway) is actually pretty common – and came up back in 1996 when the question was  first put on the census. Unsurprisingly, it’s more often the white majority that claims race is dangerous, rather than racial minorities who largely understand that race is socially constructed, but carries consequences nonetheless. The basic fact of the matter is that we have a range of policies that depend on accurate census data. Yes, employment equity is one of those policies. Yes, it has its problems – especially in that it can’t account for variation in discrimination within the population we call “visible minority”. Some visible minorities are clearly discriminated against in a variety of socio-economic indicators – housing, employment, services, etc. Most often, these are Aboriginal peoples, Black Canadians and some Asian population groups. Other VM groups don’t necessarily need the policy in order to ensure their labour force representation is equitable. But can you imagine a Black-only or Aboriginal-only employment equity policy? It just wouldn’t fly.

The debates over whether or not a question *should* be in the census is more often than not a debate about the efficiency and equity of affirmative action-type policies. In my opinion, these debates are very important, but should take place elsewhere. I personally think employment equity is a good idea. It means the state has a positive obligation to promote racial equality. We know that the marketplace won’t do this on its own. It also sends important signals about citizenship and social justice as important priorities for the Canadian state. I would also tell critics that our employment equity policy is actually very very weak. VERY weak. It has little by way of actual monitoring, the courts have rarely backed it up, and it doesn’t compel the private sector at all. If our policy was stronger, we would have seen more VMs in the public service by now. Yet, if you look at the data, women have almost achieved representative parity, and VMs are still very much underrepresented – not nearly as badly as persons with disabilities, but still.

No matter the pros and cons of this legislation, it’s the law of the land. And we can’t make this law work properly without accurate data. In the 1980s before there was a “race question”, StatsCan used the ethnic origin question and other proxies to determine which respondents were VMs. But it was highly problematic – think about my father’s family, for example. We came to Canada in the 1860s, via the Underground Railroad. We’ve been here for a very long time. (This is why I find it so frustrating when white Canadians ask me, “no, where are you REALLY from?” I’m from HERE.) In response to the ethnic origin question, what would Dad write? “Black” is a racial group, not an ethnic group. But to put “Canadian,” “American,” or “British,” as Dad might have done, wouldn’t capture the fact that he’s black. StatsCan also had the same types of problems with other groups – Jamaicans and Indians (from India) who put their ethnic origins as “British,” Haitians who put theirs as “French”. If you want to measure race, you need a question on race.

Canada is also not alone in this regard. Over 60% of countries in the world have a question on nationality/ethnicity/race, though they use diverse conceptualizations of what these terms mean. It’s also been proven time and time again by places like the United States and Great Britain that having a question on race in the census is actually helpful if the society’s ultimate goal is racial equality. Canada has had this question on its census since 1996. And we’re not more divided than before, race riots haven’t broken out (though there are some places in Canada where racial minorities are living so far below the poverty line that I wouldn’t be surprised if they did), and our kitten-hugging version of multiculturalism – high on rhetoric, low on actual results in terms of lessing racial disadvantage – is still intact. So, you see, having a question on race isn’t about making Canadian society more divided. It’s about making it more equal. I think that’s a pretty important goal.

Peggy and John are keeping up the good work on the Save the Census Campaign and here is their latest update:

The census in the news:

Save the Census’ is on Facebook and Twitter @savethecensus:

Join our new Facebook page and Twitter page, where you can find the most up-to-date information from the Campaign, including media coverage and any other important correspondence.  Please circulate to friends and other supporters!

Continuing our battle takes—surprise—money! If you would like to donate to the Save the Census campaign please visit

Find out more at,, and For more information or to get actively involved with the campaign email us at

This was a message posted on list (also see archive for other great resources) in response to a blog post written by David Eaves.

The list, from whence this blog is inspired, was founded on the discussion of making StatCan data free along with freeing Canada Post Data back in 2005 among many other access to public data Issues. Some on the list have been working toward that goal ever since. The number quoted by David in his article is very low and only reflect a portion of the revenue cost recovered by StatCan. Revenue generated by the sale of the Census alone since 1996 has been over $10 000 000. My ATIP requests

Statistics Canada, 2010, ATIP Request A-2010-00067, Census Revenue Notes, June 29. Indicates that

StatCan recovered $13,642,959 from the 2001 Census

The cycle for 2006 is not yet complete and therefore I do not have those figures. The figure above includes license fees, the sale of standard products, Custom Products, CD Rom fees, and Geography products. For instance the Community Data Consortium alone purchases about $700 000 worth of Census data for each cycle.

David does rightly make the point that revenue figures do not reflect the overhead cost of managing those resources and collecting them.

The cost of the census for 2001 was $432,033,300 or $14.40 per person according to ATIP request A-2010-00068. The cost recovered reflects 3.16% of the actual cost of the Census. Again, we do not know the overhead cost of recovering those moneys.

Most of StatCan’s special surveys are cost recovery projects, often cost shared between federal departments. Which means we also pay for those. Many surveys on topics related to Canada’s most vulnerable were discontinued, the LF Census was canceled and we expect to see more cuts coming down the pipes. It is true, that StatCan uses the revenue generated to fund other surveys.

The real problem however is not with StatCan but with the Treasury Board and Cabinet. There was a submission to Cabinet under the current government regime, offering cost savings by StatCan in order to cover the cost of making the Census Free. The Tory government accepted the proposed cost savings and refused to allow the giving of census data back to Canadians. If the Treasury were to actually adequately fund Statistics Canada then it would be able to give the data back to us. I am still trying to dig up the paper trail on the submission, but alas, memoranda to cabinet are confidential in Canada.

Bref, political pressure needs to be on the current government and also the Treasury. StatCan has little power over its budget beyond the usual mechanics, especially these days. We also need to keep in mind, that we have already lost disability surveys, and we have lost the ability to track the country’s immigrant, ethno cultural visible minorities, the poor, linguistic groups, people with mobility issues because the Census was just Cancelled (read more about lost surveys). More cuts to StatCan will not be about helping those groups and us advocating the abolition of cost recovery and not advocating to cover the revenue lost to StatCan by the Treasury will make us complicit in further marginalizing those groups. We need to lobby for more resources to StatCan to cover the loss of cost recovered funds, and of course to return the Long Form Census and we also need to ensure that it is autonomous from political interference as recommended by National Statistical Council of Canada. (more details available here).

I have not published my ATIP requests yet as I am still trying to validate a few pieces and do the analysis. It is also part of my PHD dissertation and at some point I need to publish officially.

Members on the 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 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

From the wonderful folks at the Save the Census Campaign

(I particularly giggled at the Stevie Cutie one, what would Ertha Kitt say!)

Reinstate the Long Form Census
to the tune of “Deck the Halls”

Reinstate the Long Form Census,
Fa la la la la la la la
Its demise is really senseless,
Fa la la la la la la la
Give us back this vital data
Fa la la la la la la la
Bring it back right now, not later.
Fa la la la la la la la.

Hear the raging statisticians
Fa la la la la la la la
Stating all our hopes and wishes
Fa la la la la la la la
Many groups across our nation
Fa la la la la la la la
Join to stop this devastation
Fa la la la la la la la

Those from lower social classes
Fa la la la la la la la
Fear the new one will bypass us
Fa la la la la la la la
Sing we now in protestation
Fa la la la la la la la
Speaking out to save our nation
Fa la la la la la la la!

Hark the Statisticians Sing
to the tune of ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’

Hark the Statisticians sing
Give us back that census thing
Don’t destroy the data source
That we use to chart our course.

Joyful if it is returned
From its data much we’ve learned
It has been around since when
Christ was born in Bethlehem.

Hark the Statisticians sing
Don’t listen to the far right wing!

Many want it now restored
Province, village, town and Board
Rural, urban, poor and rich,
Think to lose it is a shame

Cancelled almost secretly
For no reason clear to see
Many mourn this tragic loss
Blaming Harper – he’s the boss!

Hark, the statisticians sing
Please reinstate the Census thing!

Census Forms
to the tune of ‘Jingle Bells’

Filling out the form
On a long form census day
Takes ‘bout half an hour
Glad to have my say

Don’t find it intrudes
Isn’t worth the fuss
The information it provides
Benefits all of us

Census forms, census forms
Glad to have my say!
It’s a thing we really need
Bring back our census day!

Census forms, census forms
Glad to have our say
It’s a part of Canada
Please don’t take it away!

Need the whole long form
More than a survey
Counts us every one
No one goes astray
Things that we all need
The census helps us get
If we can just volunteer
Some needs will go unmet.

Census forms, census forms
Glad to have my say
It’s a part of Canada
Please don’t take it away!

Stevie Baby
to the tune of “Santa Baby”

Stevie Baby, just slip a census under the tree, for me.
Been an awful good count,
Stevie Baby, so make it mandatory again.

Stevie Baby, a data source that we know is true — like you!
We’ll wait till it returns,
Stevie baby, so make it mandatory again.

Though its now your nemesis
Think of all the fellas that it’s gonna miss
Next year could be twice as good,
If you’d restore the Census list!

Stevie baby
We want a count on which we can count — a fount.

Information we need, Stevie baby,
So make it mandatory again.

Stevie honey
One little thing we really need, indeed.
Data that we can mine, Stevie Baby,
So make it mandatory again.

Stevie cutie
Don’t think this is one little thing – we sing!
Sign your x on the line, Stevie cutie,
And make it mandatory again.

Please maintain this data source
With some gentle suasion, just to reinforce.
You don’t need to keep jail time
Make it just a minor crime!

Stevie baby
Won’t complete your “Household Survey” – no way!
It’s a failed substitute,
Stevie baby, so make it mandatory again.
Make it mandatory again
Tory, tonight!

We Need a Long Form Census
to the tune “We Need a Little Christmas” from ‘Mame’

Please stop this folly
Bring back the form before you hurt our nation more
Fill out the questions
We may be losing things we never missed before now

Cause we need the long form Census
Right this very minute
Joyous statisticians, data without limits

Yes we need the long form census
Right this very minute
Its cancellation caused a flurry
That Stephen Harper makes us worry

So climb off your high horse
Reverse the dumbest thing we’ve seen you do in years
Don’t be a fruitcake
It’s time you faced the facts, to public pressure please bow!

For we’ve grown a little smarter
Grown a little older
Grown a lot more vocal
Grown a whole lot bolder

And we need a lot more data
‘Bout every householder.
We need the long form census now!

Good King Censusless
to the tune of “Good King Wenceslas”

Good King Censusless looked out
On the cottage season.
With the sunshine all about
Warm and crisp and even.
Everyone was drinking beer
Feeling great elation.
How could he disrupt the cheer
breaking cross the nation?

“Mr Clement, good MP,
If you knowst it, telling,
Yonder voter, who is he
Tory ranks not swelling?”
“Sire, a man I once knew long
Loathed the census taking
If you could remove this wrong
You’d be nation-making.”

“Make it so”, he said at once
With no consultation,
“Though I may be thought a dunce
Causing consternation.”
Statistician would not toast
His part in this madness.
He would rather quit his post
Causing him much sadness.

Harper bellowed “What a fool!
Get that man to focus!
He should know that math’s not cool,
Stats are hocus pocus.”
Statistician stood his ground
In the public’s favour.
He said he was honour-bound;
People thought him braver.

“Bring me hatchets, bring me fire,
We shall burn his cabin!
He’s earned my unholy ire!
He won’t know what happened!”
Steve and Tony, off they trod,
Off they trod together
Feeling stormy, yet instead
Of the sunny weather.

Statistician’s cabin burned
To the ground next morning.
Steve and Tony have not learned,
Though this be a warning:
Cabin dwellers all be sure
Be you all accounted,
Those who cannot count the poor
Can’t themselves be counted.

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,
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.

via:, Parti libérale du Canada

Pour diffusion immédiate
Le 8 décembre 2010

Le projet de loi libéral sur le recensement est adopté malgré le fait que les conservateurs aient voté contre

OTTAWA – Malgré le fait que le projet de loi libéral visant à sauver le formulaire détaillé de recensement obligatoire ait franchi l’étape de la deuxième lecture, les conservateurs de Harper ont voté contre à l’unanimité. Ces derniers continuent d’ignorer la volonté de la majorité des Canadiens qui n’ont cessé de lutter contre les attaques idéologiques portées contre le recensement, a déclaré aujourd’hui la députée libérale, Dre Carolyn Bennett.

« Aujourd’hui, chaque député conservateur devrait avoir honte de ses actes », a affirmé la Dre Bennett, dont le projet de loi d’initiative parlementaire vise à enchâsser dans la loi le formulaire détaillé sur le recensement obligatoire. Ce projet a été adopté en deuxième lecture aujourd’hui lors d’un vote à la Chambre des communes.

« La victoire d’aujourd’hui démontre clairement que la majorité des parlementaires soutiennent l’enchâssement du formulaire détaillé sur le recensement dans la loi ainsi que la préservation de l’intégrité des données nécessaires à l’élaboration efficace des politiques et à la prise de décisions reposant sur des données probantes. Seul ce gouvernement idéologique veut l’éliminer et dépenser 30 millions de dollars de plus provenant de l’argent des contribuables pour obtenir des renseignements moins fiables sur la base d’un questionnaire court non obligatoire. »

En votant contre le projet de loi d’initiative parlementaire de la Dre Bennett, les conservateurs continuent d’ignorer les appels des gouvernements provinciaux, territoriaux et municipaux, des économistes, des groupes communautaires, des associations médicales et des organisations religieuses qui utilisent les renseignements recueillis par l’entremise du recensement afin de prendre des décisions reposant sur des observations factuelles et qui aident les Canadiens dans leur vie quotidienne.

La semaine dernière, il a été confirmé que ce projet de loi ne nécessitera pas de recommandation royale pour poursuivre sa démarche parce que son adoption économisera en réalité 30 millions de dollars au gouvernement. Ceci signifie que le projet de loi n’exige pas que le gouvernement conservateur le soutienne pour qu’il devienne loi s’il celui-ci est adopté par la Chambre des communes et le Sénat.

La question est maintenant de savoir si Stephen Harper respectera la volonté de la chambre élue. Si l’on se fie aux événements passés, nous demeurons sceptiques. Mais nous n’abandonnerons pas. Ce qui est en jeu, c’est l’intégrité des statistiques officielles du Canada et l’élément essentiel de la prise de décisions d’ordre économique dans les salons et les salles de conférence de la nation.

« Ce projet de loi est important car si le recensement n’est pas rétabli, Stephen Harper pourra mettre en œuvre son ordre du jour idéologique et réduire d’importants programmes pour les Canadiens. Il ne s’intéresse pas aux renseignements précis sur des choses telles que les niveaux de chômage, le multiculturalisme ou le travail non-rémunéré, parce qu’il préfère réduire des programmes tels que l’assurance-emploi, les services d’intégration pour les immigrants et les programmes destinés aux aidants naturels. »

Grâce à l’initiative libérale pour un gouvernement ouvert, un futur gouvernement libéral demanderait à tous les ministères et organismes fédéraux afin qu’ils adoptent le principe par défaut du gouvernement ouvert quand il s’agit d’échanger les renseignements et de rendre gratuites les données statistiques canadiennes.


Renseignements :

Bureau de l’hon. Dre Carolyn Bennett, députée, 613- 995-9666

You gotta love the re-mix folks! Here is a video to celebrate the no more $5 bucks for FOI request for Government of Canada information. It is a good thing too, as apparently it cost $55 bucks to process the checks!

Mark Weiler left the following message on

The Office of the Information Commissioner has entered a six month pilot project where the $5.00 application fee for ordering records through the Access to Information Act is now being waived. You can now order records from the OIPC by emailing the Access to Information and Privacy Officer,  English & Fraçais.

« Older entries § Newer entries »