Media Privacy Transparency

Why bother? The 2016 census story that was somehow ‘missed’


Accountability Media

Why bother? The anatomy of the Kijiji jobs report story

Accountability Civil liberties Governance Media Privacy

Why census privacy matters

For its 2016 census, the country’s national statistical agency announced changes that would impact citizens’ privacy. For the first time ever, census respondents’ personal information would be retained and linked with other administrative and survey data the agency has access to.

The national media quickly jumped on the story. The country’s public broadcaster wrote “If you’re worried about privacy, you should worry about the 2016 census”. The country’s premiere technology publication wrote “Lost our Census: Why the biggest hit to privacy this year is all about you”.

Once aware of the changes, the public was outraged. Calls for a nationwide census boycott erupted. Academics and former top bureaucrats – including a former federal privacy commissioner and a former chief statistician – publicly voiced their concerns.

No, this isn’t a Bizarro universe scenario of what didn’t happen in Canada following the referenced changes to the 2016 census implemented by Statistics Canada. This is what’s actually happening in Australia, where the Australian Bureau of Statistics has implemented similar changes for its upcoming 2016 census, set to take place next month.

Health Media

As WHO affirms link between meat consumption and cancer risk, Canada frets over bacon

Figure 3. Non-linear dose-response meta-analysis of red and processed meats consumption and the risk of colorectal cancer

Source(s): Chan DS, Lau R, Aune D, et al. Red and processed meat and colorectal cancer incidence: meta-analysis of prospective studies. PLoS One 2011; 6: e20456.

This week, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), released a long-overdue monograph1 affirming the link between meat consumption and cancer risk.  After reviewing more than 800 studies, the IARC decided to classify processed meat as a known carcinogen (Group 1), and red meat in general as a probable carcinogen (Group 2A). The agency urged public health officials to re-examine their dietary recommendations. Those anticipating the Canadian media to objectively inform the public of the news and start a rational dialogue may have been disappointed.

A news segment by Canada’s national broadcaster interviewed a cattleman who viewed the report as “an attack“ on his industry. The reporter referred to it as an “added hit” to declining beef and pork sales before queuing up a spokesman for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. He urged Canadians to ignore the findings and follow Canada’s Food Guide recommendations, as did the family physician who closed the segment.

Canada’s ‘national newspaper’ fared no better. It published an editorial that was criticised by readers for insulting their intelligence, and a column by its public health reporter that urged readers to ignore the supposedly misleading report – even as it misrepresented its content.

Accountability Governance Media Trade and investment

Will Trans-Pacific Partnership diversify Canadian economy? Not a chance.

The recent Globe and Mail leaders’ debate focused on the economy. One important – albeit crudely constructed – question asked during the debate was: “Do you have a jobs plan for industry beyond taking things out of the ground”. The question presumed that natural resource extraction has been a big employment driver in Canada, which it hasn’t. That aside, the implicit question was whether the aspiring leaders had a plan for, or even wished to see, greater industrial diversification in Canada. None of the candidates provided a direct response to the question. However, one response in particular stood out for its reference to international trade.

Employment Immigration Media Population Race and ethnicity

Why misleading, misinformed screeds calling for the elimination of race-based stats ought to be retired

Chart 1 Share of Canadian population reporting ‘Canadian’ ethnic origin vs share reporting* ‘visible minority’ status, by census year
Chart 1 Share of Canadian population reporting 'Canadian' ethnic origin vs share reporting 'visible minority' status, by census year

Source(s): Census of population public-use microdata files (PUMFs), Statistics Canada

The recent Canadian Economics Association (CEA) conference has been criticised for its lack of diversity, as have its precedents. It wasn’t clear at first why one particular economist was singled out for criticism. Apparently it had to do with an article  this economist, an older white female, wrote a couple years ago calling for the elimination of “visible minority” status from employment equity and, along with it, the race question altogether from the Canadian census. She argued race is an arbitrary, antiquated and irrelevant concept. That her screed was poorly written and argued is understandable, albeit unfortunate, given it’s not her area of expertise (‘feminomics’). That the same economist is supposedly set to chair the 2017 CEA conference is a legitimate concern.

Employment Media Transparency

Fluctuating self-employment data a sign of Canada’s weak labour market (Includes Correction*)

Chart 1 Part-time self-employment by sex, seasonally adjusted and unadjusted
               January 1987 to December 2000Chart 1 Part-time self-employment by sex, seasonally adjusted and unadjusted Jan1987-Dec2000

 Source: CANSIM Table 282-0019 Labour force survey estimates (LFS), Statistics Canada
*downloaded February 11, 2015


Chart 2 Part-time self-employment by sex, seasonally adjusted and unadjusted
               January 2001 to December 2014Chart 2 Part-time self-employment by sex, seasonally adjusted and unadjusted Jan2001-Dec2014

 Source: CANSIM Table 282-0019 Labour force survey estimates (LFS), Statistics Canada
*downloaded February 11, 2015


Note: Chart data was seasonally adjusted using TRAMO-SEATS from Banco de España. For more information, see Empirical Evaluation of X-11 and Model-based Seasonal Adjustment MethodsU.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 2007.

Employment Media

November 2014 LFS: An alternative view. 23,000 jobs lost, or 12,300 new ‘entrepreneurs’ found?*

Statistics Canada’s November 2014 Labour Force Survey (LFS) release  generated the typical headlines, like Canada lost 10,000 jobs in November (courtesy CBC News). The associated write-ups highlighted bank economists’ ‘cautious optimism’, as they have for a number of years now. While Statscan’s brief report twice mentioned significant self-employment gains, both month-to-month and year-over-year, most national news reports (like CBC News’) omitted any such mention. As the saying goes, you can only lead a horse to water.

The almost statistically insignificant changes reported in the latest and last LFS release of the year nevertheless merit mention, if only for reflecting the year that was(n’t) in the Canadian labour market.

Civil liberties Foreign policy Governance Human rights Media

Foreign policy failure: Canada (once again) isolated in refusal to acknowledge, condemn Israeli war crimes

Israel/Gaza: Attack on UN school in Gaza a potential war crime that must be investigated - Amnesty International July 30, 2014
Israel/Gaza: Attacks on medical facilities and civilians add to war crime allegations - Amnesty International July 21, 2014 Israel/Gaza conflict: Questions and Answers - Amnesty International July 25, 2014
Here at the #RallyForIsrael in Ottawa with my Liberal colleague @MarcGarneau - standing in solidarity w/ Israel. - @HonJohnBaird July 16, 2014

UNRWA Strongly condemns Israeli shelling of its school in Gaza as serious violation of international law

United Nations Relief and Works Agency, July 30, 2014

The precise location of the Jabalia Elementary Girls School and the fact that it was housing thousands of internally displaced people was communicated to the Israeli army seventeen times, to ensure its protection; the last being at ten to nine last night, just hours before the fatal shelling.

I condemn in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces.

This is the sixth time that one of our schools has been struck. Our staff, the very people leading the humanitarian response are being killed.

 For other UNRWA announcements, see the UNRWA Official Statements page. Notably, these latest Israeli war crimes come on the heels of the 10th anniversary of the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The ICJ found Israel’s construction of the Wall contrary to international law, and advised Israel to cease construction and dismantle sections it had already erected.

Israel ignored the ICJ opinion, as it has ignored every UN decision critical of its nearly seven decades of illegal dispossession / subjugation of the Palestinian people and military occupation of their homeland — and there have been many.

Effectively, the current state of Israel persists contrary to international law. That – and not any single recent event – is and continues to be the root cause of the perpetual conflict in the Middle East.

The photo of “Bought and Paid-for” above speaks to the source of Canada’s misguided Middle East policy — and the cynicism of its politicians. Federal MP and supposed Liberal Foreign Affairs critic Marc Garneau makes a point of promoting his involvement with UNICEF Canada and his support of the UN Declaration and Convention on the Rights of the Child. As far as we know, Palestinian children are entitled to the same rights and protections. Hopefully UNICEF takes up the matter with Mr. Garneau and other cynical Canadian politicians who claim to support the organisation and its mission yet have turned a blind eye to the suffering and targeted killing of Palestinian civilians, nearly a quarter of whom were children.

In closing, the linked BBC Channel 4 news clips show reporters asking tough questions of both sides and deflecting spin to get to the facts – a reminder to Canadians of what journalism is supposed to look like (lookin’ at you, The Canadian Press). Also noteworthy are Debunking Israel’s 11 Main Myths About Gaza, Hamas and War Crimes from Huffington Post UK and Terrorism in the Israeli Attack on Gaza by Glenn Greenwald writing for The Intercept.

Accountability Environment Foreign policy Governance Media Trade and investment Transparency

Keystone XL: Canada’s environmental record underscores US reluctance to approve project


NC6 submissions from Parties included in Annex I to the Convention
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 2013

BR1 submissions from Parties included in Annex I to the Convention
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 2013

Over the last couple days various Canadian media outlets have reported on the federal government’s quiet submissions to the UNFCCC late last month, in which it conceded likely not meeting its 2020 GHG emissions reduction targets.

For some reason, none of the articles include links to the actual reports. Above are links to UNFCCC Annex I countries’ National Communications (NC) and Biennial Reports (BR). They include reports from Canada (PDF), the United States (PDF) and fifteen other industrialised economics.

Canada’s report is an interesting read, if only for the myriad excuses proffered for its failure – which include the popularity of pick-ups and SUVs

Since 1990, there has been a 33% growth in transportation emissions in Canada, an increase that was mainly driven by an increase in cross-border trade, on-road freight transportation activity and a shift in personal vehicle ownership from cars to light-duty trucks.

By contrast, the US government promoted its recent submissions to the UNFCC on the Department of State website, touting its efforts and successes in reducing emissions. If the US wants to continue making progress on its environmental record, it’ll likely want to distance itself from Pig-Pen as much as possible. The US decision on Keystone XL will be telling.

Apologies to the Fraser Institute for ‘smearing’ Canada’s environmental record – with Canada’s official environmental record. (That canard was posted a week before the government’s hush-hush UNFCCC submissions.)