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Vanishing Canadian Government Data

Records deleted, burned, tossed in Dumpsters. A Maclean’s investigation on the crisis in government data : Vanishing Canada: Why we’re all losers in Ottawa’s war on data by Anne Kingston, Maceans (September 18, 2015).

“A months-long Maclean’s investigation, which includes interviews with dozens of academics, scientists, statisticians, economists and librarians, has found that the federal government’s “austerity” program, which resulted in staff cuts and library closures (16 libraries since 2012)—as well as arbitrary changes to policy, when it comes to data—has led to a systematic erosion of government records far deeper than most realize, with the data and data-gathering capability we do have severely compromised as a result.”

  • In 2010 Canada’s decision to make their long-form census voluntary. The result of the high non-response rate in the province of Saskatchewan is that there are now no socioeconomic statistics about the populations in about one-half of Saskatchewan communities.
  • Environment Canada’s website has apparently deleted internal reports on the oil sands experiments of the 1970s and reports on air pollution in transport and toxic chemicals in the Great Lakes — including pioneering work on acid rain between 1975 and 1999.
  • The Aboriginal Canada portal was taken offline on Feb. 12.
  • More than 60 per cent of content was shed when 1,500 government websites were centralized into one.
  • Where digitization has helped other governments and companies make more information available, it is having the opposite effect here. The edict to eliminate information deemed “redundant, outdated and trivial” (known as “ROT”) gives federal managers licence to decide what data should be cut and what kept, says Li, the U of T librarian.
  • … and more…

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