When do government statistics go from being tedious to troubling? The answer: when they are mostly missing. The vacuum of statistics and evidence is growing acute in Ottawa—an absence of the raw material that often makes it impossible for MPs, watchdog agencies, journalists and, ultimately, the voting public, to figure out what the government is doing and how well. Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, is set to release his estimate of the how much the Conservatives’ push for longer prison sentences will cost. It could be $10 billion by 2015, but you wouldn’t know that from any official projections from government departments such as Justice and Public Safety. That’s just one reminder of the paucity of hard numbers from the line departments implementing policy. Overall, departmental performance reports are “an exercise in self-congratulation and puffery,” according to Liberal MP Shawn Murphy. Auditor General Sheila Fraser recently said departments facing strategic reviews don’t gather the information they needed to make informed decisions on what could be cut.