Governance Transparency

For those hoping it will get better, it won’t – meet Anil Arora

Media Privacy Transparency

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


Privacy Transparency

Smart people distrust Statistics Canada privacy: 2016 census report

Longitudinal Labour Force File
Social Data Linkage Environment
.T1-Income Tax Returns and T4-S and T4-F forms
.Child Tax Benefits
.Immigration and Visitors files (1993 or earlier)
.Provincial and municipal welfare files
.National Training Program
.Canadian Job Strategy
.National Employment Services
.Employment Insurance Administrative
.Record of Employment
.Social Insurance Master file
.T1 Personal Master Files
.Canadian Child Tax Benefits files
.Longitudinal Immigration Database
.Indian Registry
.Vital Statistics – birth and death databases
.Sample portion of Census of Population (1991 onward)
.National Household Survey (2011 onward)
.National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth
.Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada
.Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics
.Youth in Transition Survey
.National Population Health Survey
.T1 Family File
.Clinical administrative databases (1992 onward)
.Canadian Cancer Registry
.Canadian Community Health Survey (all cycles)
.Canadian Health Measures Survey (all cycles)
(with qualifier, “files include but are not limited to”)
Source(s): Annual Report to Parliament 1999-2000, The Privacy Commissioner of Canada; Approved record linkages – 2014 submissions, Statistics Canada.


As mentioned recently, Statistics Canada released its 2016 Census Program Content Test report on April 1st of this year, just one month before it began census letter mailings. As already discussed, the 2016 census was the first where Statscan neither asked respondents about their income nor for consent to obtain the information from their Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) tax records. Instead, it proceeded to link Canadians’ census and CRA tax records without their consent.

One would suspect more than a few Canadians who took the time to read the brief, and conspicuously vague, note on their census form announcing the change may have had concerns. Statscan has claimed no such concerns were brought to its attention.  However, a careful reading of the referenced report casts doubt on that claim. And it was smart people who were most concerned with changes to the 2016 census, according to the same Statscan report.

Accountability Governance Population Privacy Transparency

The likely reason millions of Canadians have yet to complete 2016 census

The vast majority of Canadians were furious when, in the summer of 2010, the federal government of the day decided to exclude the long-form questionnaire from the 2011 census. They were enthusiastic to fill out their long-form census questionnaires. They had practically no security or privacy concerns.

At least that was the popular media narrative.

Only a few months later, Canadians handed the same government that made that seemingly fateful decision its first majority. Despite their supposed enthusiasm, one in three Canadian households opted not to complete the voluntary 2011 National Household Survey (68.6% unweighted response rate) – and that’s with Statscan spending tens of millions more on ‘follow-up’ and accepting forms with as few as 10 of 84 questions completed. As it turned out, security and privacy were the primary reasons prosecuted census refuseniks offered for their refusal to comply.

Accountability Governance Population Transparency

With 2016 census ‘restored’, it feels like 2006 all over again

Statistics Canada started sending out its 2016 Census letters this week. Shortly after taking office, the recently elected federal government once again made it mandatory for survey respondents to complete the long form questionnaire, presumably restoring the census.

Contrary to promises it made last year while still sitting in opposition, the current federal government did not make any changes to the Statistics Act, which appears to have been last amended in 2005. That means  Statscan can, and, if history is anything to go by, will once again be threatening non-respondents with jail time. Effectively, the clock has been set back to May 2006, when the conditions were already in place for the eventual long form census cancellation.

Governance Transparency

2011 NHS: Illustrating why the data is still as unreliable as ever

Map 1 Global non-response, 2011 NHS2011_NHS_FED2013ord_CT_GNR_Toronto
Map 2 Low income, 2006 Census2006_2B_FED2013ord_CT_LICO_Toronto Map 3 Visible minority, 2006 Census2006_2B_FED2013ord_CT_VISMIN_Toronto
Governance Transparency

2011 NHS: Reminder that the data is still as unreliable as ever

Consider this the 2011 NHS: How much less we now know, illustrated *, FED edition.

How much we knew about Canadians following the 2006 long-form Census:

… how much less we know about Canadians following the 2011 National Household Survey:

… and how much less reliably we know it, owing to Statistics Canada’s remarkably lowered data quality standards.

If you’ve recently visited the Statscan web site, you’ve likely noticed the ‘Features’ widget on the front page. Atop the list of featured content is a link to the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS). With the federal election in full-swing, it’s tempting to compare the 2011 NHS data by Federal Electoral District (FED) in the hopes of gleaning some insight into whether/how socio-demographic/economic characteristics play a role in election results.

Civil liberties Transparency

95% ‘somewhat’ to ‘very’ proud to be Canadian *

Proud to be Canadian

Editor’d Note: The public-use microdata file (PUMF) will be released shortly; the following will be updated accordingly.

So 95 percent of Canadians are ‘somewhat’ to ‘very’ proud to be Canadian. Or so some segment of 48.1 percent of respondents to Statistics Canada’s 2013 General Social Survey (GSS) – aka Cycle 27, Social Identity – indicated. If you thought the response rate for the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) was bad, at least that survey asked fairly discreet, straight-forward questions. In addition to the arbitrary questions on national pride and patriotism, the 2013 GSS also contained questions that likely discouraged certain individuals from responding, effectively defeating its purpose.

Governance Monetary policy Transparency

2013 SHS: A few questions in light of the upcoming CPI basket update

Figure 1 SHS response rates 1997-2008
Source: The Importance of the Long Form Census to Canada, David A. Green and Kevin Milligan, Canadian Public Policy – Analyse de politiques, vol. xxxvi, no. 3 2010

This Thursday, Statistics Canada will be updating the Consumer Price Index (CPI) basket weights with the latest results from its 2013 Survey of Household Spending (SHS). While this CPI basket update will be the second undertaken since a major SHS redesign in 2010, little information about the household spending survey has been made publicly available since then. Statscan stopped producing public use micro data as well as data quality reports for the SHS immediately following the redesign.  The official reason: “There will be no public use microdata file (PUMF) for SHS 2010 due to resource constraints.”

Statscan’s sudden lack of transparency following years of declining data quality and a significant overhaul of its key household spending survey is cause for 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.