How Ottawa's war on data threatens all that we know about Canada

Vanishing Canada: Why we’re all losers in Ottawa’s war on data

Records deleted, burned, tossed in Dumpsters. A Maclean’s investigation on the crisis in government data



When told that his small Prairie town had, in profound ways, fallen off the statistical map of Canada, Walter Streelasky, mayor of Melville, Sask., is incredulous. Streelasky had no idea Melville had been rendered a “statistical ghost town” after the mandatory long-form census was cut in 2010, and fewer than 50 per cent of the one third of Melville’s 4,500 residents who got the voluntary National Household Survey that replaced it in 2011 completed the form. Melville still exists—but as a shadow. We know how many people live there, but nothing about them—where they work, their education levels, whether they’re married, single or divorced, how many are immigrants, how many are unemployed, how many live in poverty. Melville’s numbers, then, aren’t factored into Canadian employment numbers or divorce rates or poverty rates. According to Sask Trends Monitor, the high non-response rate in the province resulted in “no socioeconomic statistics about the populations in about one-half of Saskatchewan communities.” Nationally, we’re missing similar data on 20 per cent of StatsCan’s 4,556 “census subdivisions,” making a fifth of Canada’s recognized communities statistical dead zones.

“To be dropped off the face of the Earth is pretty frightening,” says Streelasky, noting that Melville appears very much alive from his office: “We can smell the wildfires burning.” He plans to discuss the situation with his MP: “It’s the obligation of the federal government to make national data collection as complete as possible.”

Towns like Melville are far from the only entities vanishing from official Canadian records. Physicist Raymond Hoff, who published more than 50 reports on air pollution in transport and toxic chemicals in the Great Lakes—including pioneering work on acid rain—at Environment Canada between 1975 and 1999, doesn’t seem to exist, either. “Nothing comes up when I type my name into the search engine on [Environment Canada’s] website,” says Hoff, now a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland. Also gone are internal reports on the oil sands experiments of the 1970s. “That research was paid for by the taxpayer. Now, the people who need to protect Canada’s environment can’t get access.”

Protecting Canadians’ access to data is why Sam-Chin Li, a government information librarian at the University of Toronto, worked late into the night with colleagues in February 2013, frantically trying to archive the federal Aboriginal Canada portal before it disappeared on Feb. 12. The decision to kill the site, which had thousands of links to resources for Aboriginal people, had been announced quietly weeks before; the librarians had only days to train with web-harvesting software.

The need for such efforts has taken on new urgency since 2014, says Li, when some 1,500 websites were centralized into one, with more than 60 per cent of content shed. Now that reporting has switched from print to digital only, government information can be altered or deleted without notice, she says. (One example: In October 2012, the word “environment” disappeared entirely from the section of the Transport Canada website discussing the Navigable Waters Protection Act.)

(Derek Mortensen)

(Derek Mortensen)

Stories about government data and historical records being deleted, burned—even tossed into Dumpsters—have become so common in recent years that many Canadians may feel inured to them. But such accounts are only the tip of a rapidly melting iceberg. 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.

Statistics Canada no longer provides a clear snapshot of the country, says John Stapleton, a Toronto-based social policy consultant. “Our survey data pixelates—it’s a big blur. And the small data, we don’t know if it’s right.” twitter-birdtweet this

How many Canadians live in poverty now, compared to 2011? We don’t know; changes in income-data collection has made it impossible to track. Austerity measures, ironically, have resulted in an inability to keep track of the changes: StatsCan used to provide detailed, comprehensive data on salaries and employment at all levels of government; now we can’t tell where, or how deep, the cuts have been.

Related reading from Jonathon Gatehouse: When science goes silent

Disappearing data is only one part of a larger narrative of a degradation of knowledge—one that extends from federal scientists being prevented from talking about their research on topics as mundane as snow to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission being forced to take the federal government to court to obtain documents that should have been available under Access to Information. The situation has descended into farce: Library and Archives Canada (LAC), entrusted with preserving historic papers, books, photographs, paintings, film and artifacts, was so eroded by cuts that, a few years ago, author Jane Urquhart was unable to access her own papers, donated to LAC in the 1990s.

The result is a crisis in what Canadians know—and are allowed to know—about themselves. The threat this poses to a functioning democracy has been raised over the past several years, most recently, in the massive, damning June 2015 report “Dismantling democracy: Stifling debate and dissent in Canada” produced by Voices-Voix, a non-partisan coalition of more than 200 organizations and 5,000 individuals.

Less discussed, however, is how data erasure also threatens the economy, industry, the arts, and the country’s ability to compete internationally. The 2013 report “Information management in the Canadian federal government” is a title not likely to attract the non-librarian reader. But the conclusions drawn by its authors, a librarian at Carleton University and an information-management consultant, are chilling. Isla Jordan and Ulla de Stricker describe a country “without access to large parts of its institutional memory, and leaders without access to the information needed for strategic decision-making.” Toni Samek, a professor at the school of library and information studies at the University of Alberta, puts it more succinctly. Canada is facing a “national amnesia,” she says, a condition that will block its ability to keep government accountable, remember its past and plan its future.

Canada’s closed-data stance is taking root at the very moment “open data” and “knowledge economy” are global mantras. The OECD and World Bank have led the charge for open-platform disclosures. In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration launched openFDA to provide easy public access. Last year, the U.S. Federal Reserve posted full and revealing transcripts of meetings held by then chairman Ben Bernanke in the weeks and months leading to the 2008 recession—there for anyone with an Internet connection to read. U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2016 budget calls for an emphasis on making data “legally and practically” more accessible.

Canada certainly talks the talk. Last year, Tony Clement, Conservative MP and Treasury Board president, announced the Action Plan on Open Government 2014-16 to “foster greater openness and accountability . . . and, at the same time, create a more cost-effective, efficient and responsive government.” Rona Ambrose, the minister of health, announced a Transparency and Openness Framework that included a commitment to begin “transparently publishing drug safety reviews.”

Those dependent on these data balk at such claims. “Health Canada has improved its transparency in a few small areas, but overall, does an abysmal job,” says Joel Lexchin, a drug-industry watchdog and professor in the school of health policy and management at Toronto’s York University. “[It] doesn’t even make public a list of drugs withdrawn for safety reasons,” he says.

Access to federal scientific data is equally dire. Canada is in the Dark Ages, compared with the U.S., says biologist Jeremy Kerr, a professor at the University of Ottawa. Kerr works in climate change, ecology and conservation—“data-hungry fields,” he says. “I do big-picture ecology, where we think across countries and continents. But rapid scientific process stops at the Canadian border.” Detailed information about Canada isn’t available, says Kerr, noting that his American colleagues “make this data freely available.” Part of the problem is long-standing, he says, arising from “the difficult nature of federal-provincial relationships.” But “accessibility of data in Canada is becoming less, not more,” he says. “We are not collecting a lot of data that used to be routine.”

Canada not only lags other governments, but also international business, says Jan Kestle, founder and president of Toronto-based Environics Analytics: “Everyone is moving toward setting up data-governance processes inside companies to collect information and safeguard it,” she says.

Related reading: A rising tide of anti-intellectual thinking 

But 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. “There is no transparency, oversight, or published criteria for the decision-making process,” she says. While the U.S. Federal Depository Library Program tracks U.S. government-publication digitization efforts, Canada has no such mechanism. It’s LAC’s mandate to preserve federal government information, but there has not been a comprehensive web crawl since November 2008.

LAC is updating its “technical infrastructure,” a spokesperson told Maclean’s, and should have missing web archive content online by early 2016. In an interview with Maclean’s, LAC head Guy Berthiaume spoke of making LAC a “client-driven organization,” developing a three-year plan and digitizing a quarter of its archives. But the organization has suffered a 50 per cent cut in its digital staff, and received no additional funding in the 2015 budget.

Yet elsewhere in government, claims of “digitization” can be a precursor to brick-and-mortar closures. Last month, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), the union representing some 15,000 federal scientists, claimed that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Lethbridge Research Centre, created in 1906, had been closed quietly. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada spokesman Patrick Girard said it isn’t a shutdown, explaining that the government was simply “moving toward a digital-service delivery model, while keeping all materials of business value.” But according to PIPSC, its members are losing vital data. “They will have access to some information but in no way will they have full access; that’s not how digitizing works,” says Peter Bleyer, special advisor at the union. Government reports note that scientists were consulted in the process; Bleyer says they weren’t. Parsing the truth has become a national parlour game.

Economic considerations are cited routinely to justify cutbacks in collecting, analyzing and digitizing information. A closer look at recent data erasure, however, suggests it runs counter to sound economic strategy. The glaring example is the elimination of the mandatory long-form census, a detailed survey of Canadians taken every five years. Its replacement, the voluntary National Household Survey, added $22 million to the cost of the 2011 census; the response rate dropped from 94 per cent in 2006 to 69 per cent, which makes the data totally unreliable. “A response rate of 75 per cent is the minimum required for sample accuracy,” says StatsCan’s former chief statistician, Munir Sheikh, who famously resigned in 2010 after Tony Clement, then industry minister, stated publicly that the decision to cut the long-form census came from within StatsCan. “The federal government misrepresented my advice,” Sheikh told Maclean’s, adding that ongoing cuts to the agency have undermined its credibility. StatsCan stands by the data: “The results for the 2011 census are of very high quality, as in previous censuses,” says Peter Frayne of StatsCan.

Five years later, we are seeing the effects. Without the baseline provided by the long-form census, says statistician Doug Elliott, who runs Regina consultancy QED Information Systems, “when an employment rate or CPI [consumer price index] doesn’t make any sense, your immediate suspicion now is that the number is wrong, rather than trying to figure out why.” Voluntary surveys also create biased data, says Sheikh: Response rates from the very rich, the very poor, rural areas, immigrants and Aboriginal communities tend to be far lower—so these groups are not well-represented. “People who do not respond well to a voluntary survey are the very people social policy tries to help,” he says. “So if you were to base policy on data received, you’d say, ‘Gee, we don’t have a poverty problem in this country.’ ”

“You see this continual silencing of people who are not ‘winners,’ for lack of a better word,” says Armine Yalnizyan, a senior economist with the Ottawa-based Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “The result is that the government can pretend they’re not there. It’s like, ‘If you’ve got any needs, we can’t hear you, we can’t see you, la la la.’”

Sheikh believes we’d be better off with no census data than what we have now: “Then you do the best you can using reasoning, logic, and whatever other stats may be available [on which] to base your decision. But when you have wrong information, chances are, it will put you on the wrong path to policy development.” twitter-birdtweet this

Environics Analytics’ Kestle agrees, noting that the neighbourhood-level data provided by the census was vital for businesses looking to understand local markets, to decide where to locate or how to direct marketing. Businesses, including his own, have been hard-hit, says Elliott: “We’re in a labour-market crunch in Saskatchewan,” he says. “Businesses come to me and ask where they’re going to get employees; we’re stuck with poor-quality data to help them.”

Government, too, is operating in the dark, as evidenced last year when StatsCan was unable to provide auditor general Michael Ferguson with job data during the contentious debate over proposed reforms of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The Department of Finance was relying on data from the online classified service Kijiji to back its position.

As a result, economic decision-making is compromised, as a July ScotiaBank report points out. It claimed it would be “ill-advised” for the Bank of Canada to make rate-cut decisions based on StatsCan data, because it’s “stale”: “Canadian data might be following a similar trajectory to that which we have observed in the U.S., but, unfortunately, the problem here is that the Canadian data notoriously lags the U.S.,” it said. The report also noted that much of Canada’s trade data on resources, especially energy, “is inferred, because it is not available on a timely basis.”

Lack of tracking capacity also blinds us to whether there have been improvements in the inadequate housing and overcrowded conditions in the North, exposed in the 2006 census, says Yalnizyan: “We’ll never know whether that is improved or not.”

KINGSTON-pull-2 copy

When it comes to data, Canada has become “a cautionary tale,” says Phil Sparks, a former associate director of the U.S. Census Bureau who is co-director of the Washington-based Census Project, a group fighting to maintain the U.S. equivalent of a mandatory long-term census in the face of Republican calls for its elimination. He calls the Canadian experience “an unmitigated disaster.” The census’s elimination damaged Canada’s international reputation, says John Henstridge, president of the Statistical Society of Australia. “Prior to that, Statistics Canada was regarded as possibly the best government statistical body in the world.”

But the census is far from the only issue; less discussed is the 2012 elimination of four key longitudinal studies, some dating to the 1970s, which tracked health, youth, income and employment. Economist Miles Corak, a professor at University of Ottawa who studies income inequality and poverty, calls this a major informational loss, as well as “money down the drain.” “Longitudinal studies are very expensive,” Corak says, “but their value increases exponentially with time.” He compares the loss to stopping watching a movie halfway: “Only after you follow a group of children for 12 or 15 years, and they’re on the cusp of entering the labour market, do you have the capacity to see how adult success is foreshadowed by their family origins.” Statistics tell a human story, Corak says: “We think of statistics as cold, but they are the real lives of people embedded in bits and bytes. They live and breathe.”

Related reading by John Geddes: Why Stephen Harper thinks he’s smarter than the experts

Cutting the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics, a longitudinal study tracking economic well-being since the mid-’90s, left the country unable to measure changes in income over the longer term, says economist Stephen Gordon, a professor at Université Laval. It was replaced by the Canadian Income Survey, which uses a different methodology; now, old income data can’t be connected with new income data, he says. The upshot? Comprehensive Canadian income-data history currently begins in 2012.

Gordon expresses alarm that 20 years of data history between 1960 and 1980 vanished in 2012 due to changes in the way national accounts, GDP and other data were compiled: “It’s now impossible to have a clear picture of the Canadian economy since the Second World War,” he says. And that’s a huge problem for analysts who need to look at pressing concerns, such as the current oil price crash in context. “You want to look at data about oil prices rising in the ’70s, but you can’t.”

Lost StatsCan studies have been replaced by new studies—but what the new data track can be telling. The Households and the Environment Survey, begun in 2013, for example, tracks Canadians’ involvement with the environment—using measures such as birdwatching and volunteerism. The latest data reveal that 25 per cent of households have bird houses or feeders, and 18 per cent engaged in unpaid activities aimed at “conservation or protection of the environment or wildlife.”

Yet tax-funded environmental monitoring, conservation and protection has been debilitated with the closure of 200 scientific research institutions, many of which monitored food safety and environmental contaminants. Some were internationally famous. The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory in Nunavut, which played a key role in discovering a huge hole in the ozone layer over the Arctic, closed in 2012. Also shuttered was a brand-new climate-controlled facility at the St. Andrews Biological Station in New Brunswick. The original station provided writer Rachel Carson with documentation of DDT killing salmon in local rivers reported in her 1960 book Silent Spring, credited with giving rise to environmentalism.

The data gap naturally affects policy. “How can Environment Canada know how pollution from the oil sands has changed over the last 30 years, if they don’t have access to baseline reports?” asks Hoff, who reports that former Environment Canada colleagues call him for reports they can no longer access internally. Fisheries scientist Jeffrey Hutchings, a professor at Dalhousie University, says he can’t find studies on cod stocks dating to the 19th century that he referenced two decades ago at the now-closed St. John’s library, which had profound implications for cod management. “The work I was able to do then couldn’t be done now.”

The effects of penny-wise, short-term thinking are being felt in some of our most important research organizations. Consider the changes at Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the country’s primary health research funding agency, says Yalnizyan. Earlier this year, the CIHR outraged the scientific community when it announced that, as of September, it would no longer fund Cochrane Canada, part of a respected global collective known for “evidence-based,” systematic reviews free from commercial sponsorship and conflict of interest. But outlays for Cochrane—less than $2 million annually—were cost-efficient: For the $100,000 CIHR pays for a single “knowledge synthesis,” Cochrane can produce five.

The National Research Council (NRC), the country’s pre-eminent scientific institution, has seen a similar erosion following its shift in focus from pure science to applied science. “The NRC was the Rolls-Royce of federal science,” says Kerr, the University of Ottawa biologist. It now defines itself on its website as a “concierge service”—“a single access point where small and medium-sized enterprises can find high-quality, timely advice to help them innovate and accelerate their growth.” Output has plummeted: Published research, in areas ranging from medical technologies to astrophysics, declined from 1,425 reports in 2010 to 436 in 2012. Innovation, measured in patents filed, also declined, from three in 2010 to zero in 2012. “Their research mission has been destroyed.”

Failing to invest in pure science is ultimately bad for business, says Katie Gibbs, executive director of the advocacy group Evidence for Democracy. “It may not pay off in the short term, but it’s necessary to feed applied science,” she says, pointing out that many technological advances that drive our economy and quality of life—cellphones, satellites, GPS, MRIs, even Velcro—had their starts in government-funded basic research.

Nowhere is the information deficit more acute than in Canadians’ ability to assess government’s own functioning. Assessing the performance of a government that turns—and campaigns—on its economic record has been compromised as a result, a serious problem during a federal election, says Yalnizyan: “We have no income data post-2011 on a historically comparable basis, other than from tax records, which don’t give us information about families or poverty or inequality. I don’t think that is by accident.”

Corak, too, has concerns: “Income levels are something Canadians should be as aware of as much as the inflation rate and unemployment rate: ‘How much money do they make on average? How is that distributed?’ ” Data erasure, unsurprisingly, is an election issue itself, with the NDP, Liberals and Greens all vowing to restore the long-form census.

In the absence of readily available information, a record number of individual Canadians are turning to the mechanism to access internal government records and information, the Access to Information and Privacy system (ATIP). But that system is also a shambles. Fewer requests are being processed, at a more glacial pace with more redactions. Information commissioner Suzanne Legault found in a 2015 report that only 21 per cent of access requests in the 2013-14 fiscal year resulted in information released, compared to 40 per cent in 1999-2000. Legault made 85 recommendations for reform, including extending coverage to the Prime Minister, ministers and parliamentary secretaries. A recent change allowing government bureaucrats to determine whether material is classifiable as “cabinet documents” that are exempt from ATIP concerns Vincent Gogolek, executive director of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association: “The process is opaque,” he says. “Even the information commissioner is not allowed to look at it. So, no one can say, ‘Yes, they are applying this properly.’ ”

Also disturbing is Bill C-59—this year’s budget bill—which retroactively revised the ATIP law in an effort to exempt all records for the defunct long-gun registry, from any form of request, including complaint, investigation, judicial review or appeal. The change was made as Legault was poised to recommend possible criminal charges against the RCMP for withholding—and later destroying—gun-registry documents. By backdating the ATIP law’s revision to October 2011, the change effectively rewrote history, a “perilous precedent,” as Legault put it, that could be used by governments to retroactively rewrite laws.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement did not respond to Maclean’s interview requests, but he has rejected criticism directed at ATIP: “We are the most open and transparent government in the history of this country, and we are darn proud of it,” he told the House of Commons earlier this year, noting that the current government has processed the most ATIP requests. “That’s because they’ve received the most ATIP requests,” says Gogolek, “which is something they also use to blame the delays on.”

ATIP cases now clog the judiciary: The Federal Court of Appeal intervened earlier this year, when a citizen seeking information on the sale of military assets was told it would take 1,100 days. In 2013, an Ontario court had to order the federal government to release thousands of pages of documents detailing government involvement in residential schools withheld from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “It really got in the way of the truth-telling,” says Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. ATIP delays affected a complaint her organization filed with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal claiming the federal government discriminated against First Nations children, she says. An ATIP she filed in November 2012 was received in April 2013, after hearings started. The hearings were postponed when it was discovered the government had withheld 90,000 pages of documents.

A pattern of disappearing information has raised questions about political interference, notably, after the Canada Revenue Agency ordered employees to destroy all text-message records. The concern is that the agency was covering up evidence of a crackdown on charities that opposed government policy.

The census scandal drew international criticism. Government interfering in statistical gathering is both unusual and unacceptable, says Denise Lievesley, social statistics professor and dean of faculty at King’s College London and former director of statistics at UNESCO: “We were quite shocked when that decision was a political decision.”

(Kayla Chobotiuk)

(Kayla Chobotiuk)

As the government becomes increasingly opaque, citizens’ lives have become more transparent than ever before, says Brian Campbell, former head librarian at the Vancouver Central Library. “The decline in gathering social data about Canadians is occurring just as the government’s ability to gather information about and monitor Canadians is unprecedented,” he says. Yalnizyan agrees. “Government is more intrusive and more coercive of information than we’ve ever seen, with the passage of Bill C-51, and Bill C-377, which requires unions to publish information about their leaders—not only how much money they make, but also what they do on the job, as well as their time off the job.” The Voices-Voix study documented more than 100 cases of the government monitoring groups and individuals, among them civil servants, women’s groups, human rights organizations and Indigenous organizations. Blackstock saw her professional and personal life was monitored; in her case, the conduct was determined by the privacy commissioner to be in violation of the Privacy Act. “They were trying to discredit me, rather than arguing the [child welfare] case on the evidence,” Blackstock says, noting 189 various officials followed her movements: “Beyond being shocked and horrified, as a taxpayer, I thought, ‘What a huge waste of money.’ ”

Tax money was also deployed to try to dissuade the L.A.-based Society of Brain Mapping and Therapeutics from giving Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan, a former scientist who sat on Al Gore’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an award in 2012. Babak Kateb, a neuroscientist at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in L.A., who is the chairman and CEO of the society, says he received a call from the Canadian consulate in L.A. discouraging him from proceeding with recognizing Duncan. “I was shocked by the meddling,” Kateb told Maclean’s, adding that the government later participated in the society’s 2015 conference. “Your current government doesn’t know how to deal with science,” he says. “On one hand, they object to an award being given to a champion of science, but then, years later, support the organization she is on the board of. They don’t have a compass.”

Related reading from Paul Wells: Stephen Harper, friend of science, kind of 

The vanishing of Canada has created a counterinsurgency—scientists, researchers, economists, civil rights groups, librarians and artists marshalling resources and their own time to monitor, expose, protest and create a new literature of knowledge loss. Li, for one, has taken preservation of national records into private hands by spearheading an effort with universities across the country dubbed LOCKSS—“Lots of copies, keep stuff safe”—to archive federal websites, an exercise not unlike trapping fireflies in a jar: “Without that or a print record, there’s no way of tracking change.” After the government changed Crown copyright policy, guidelines for legally reproducing its documents in 2013, Li went online for the old copy. It had vanished. In July, Evidence for Democracy launched True North Smart and Free, an interactive website documenting seven years of changes to how science is collected and used in federal policy decision-making.

Meanwhile, as actual information vanishes, it’s being replaced by mythologizing historical narratives. As stations monitoring climate change close in the Arctic, historic missions in the North, notably, the Franklin expedition, are celebrated; at a time when veterans’-services offices have been closed and StatsCan no longer tracks military personnel, or wages and salaries of veterans, soldiers who fought historic wars are memorialized, with $28 million spent on the anniversary of the War of 1812, in one example.

Archival history is a casualty when a country is in a severe economic, military and political crisis, says Robin Vose, president of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. “Why do we need to let it fall victim in peacetime, when we’re an affluent society?”

Yet LAC did recently add to the national archives, making its first purchase this April in almost a year: a parcel of 19th-century paintings, illustrations and journal materials from the Peter Winkworth collection of Canadiana. The single-most expensive purchase, at $46,750, was an 1883 oil painting of a fish hatchery in Newcastle, N.B. (part of Miramichi) by Edward Scope Shrapnel. The irony is acute. We’ve lost data, trashed records and stopped monitoring vital aspects of fisheries and acquatic life. But we’ve gained an idyllic rendering of an ecologically untroubled time that now serves as yet another indictment of what has been lost.

– With Zoe McKnight and Monika Warzecha

The story has been edited to clarify the fact that one third of residents in Melville, Sask. got the NHS in 2011.



Vanishing Canada: Why we’re all losers in Ottawa’s war on data

  1. …so why would the Harper government want millions of Canadians to disappear? Are they planning to eat us? Sell us to the Chinese?

  2. Disturbing. They can make it up as they go. There won’t be any evidence to prove otherwise. All that money spent over the years kind of like the black advertising budget. Whoosh!

  3. I think the author really summed it up-Harper does not need science or data, he has various mythologies to guide his decision making. It’s repulsive what has happened. Statcan and the NRC are just shells of their former selves.

  4. Fuck off all of you statist shits. The government has no business knowing one fucking thing about us.

    “We know how many people live there, but nothing about them—where they work, their education levels, whether they’re married, single or divorced, how many are immigrants, how many are unemployed, how many live in poverty.”

    Best news I have heard in years.

    Keep your snotty prodnoses out of my affairs.

    • I guess as long you aren’t starving or in need of say, infrastructure funding or medical services, that attitude will work. But how can your community plan ahead for anything if they don’t know who they are?

    • Well George, since the government uses this information to set policy, including the delivery of health care, allocation of funding for development and social services, the improvement of infrastructure, and economic development investment, it is actually critical that they have that information. they don’t share it with anyone, so your angry and paranoid rejection of the census is somewhat ridiculous.

    • George you’re angry at the wrong people. It’s not the statisticians that care or share personal information on you or me. It’s simply acquiring general numbers to help inform decision making about the overall population. Sound information provides sound policy. This saves money because it’s efficient. The Conservatives have altered things so we will have a harder time focusing efficiently now.

      It’s the Harper Government that has specifically chosen to keep its nose in the affairs of Canadians by:
      limiting our access to information, which is our right to access;
      implementing Bills C-51 and C-377 now, to enable closer following and monitoring of private citizens’ actions. Ask yourself, why is it necessary for them to pursue more detailed, personal information on us, when they did not have a mandate to do so? Especially when they show little regard for the details of historical data/records already in place (the general, numbers-type stuff).
      If this bothers you, vote him out.

      • Nice try, but with an opening line like that, I don’t think that George is interested in informed debate.

    • Oh, look. It’s one of the ten people nationwide who had a problem with the census.

      Unfortunately for the rest of us, one of the others was Stephen Harper.

    • George, the Government has passed spying legislation so heavily that they can know anything they want about you. This is the most statist government in Canadian history. You seem rather confused …

    • If I were you, I’d be totally embarrassed by showing my ignorance – – both ‘lack of knowledge’ and ‘lack of manners’!

    • Did you read the entire article, or did just a few lines and then make a ridiculous comment?

    • George Pratt;
      Most people will listen to your vulgarities rather than any content you have to offer.
      3 in two sentences whittles away at any decent point you are trying to make.
      Don’t get angry…just get a little smarter. People may then listen to your point of view.

    • How do you feel about bill c-51 then?

    • Not fuck you! Oct 19th we’re taking back this country from the lowlife invasion.

  5. Stephen Harper’s war on information is, of itself, reason to vote his party out the door. I have never been a left-leaning person, but I’m willing to move my vote to the left until the Harper movement disappears and Conservatives are conservative once again. Harper’s strategies, seen as a whole, amount to an attempted coup against the Canadian government. When he said we wouldn’t recognize Canada when he got through with it, he wasn’t kidding.

  6. Note: it’s the LIBRARY at the Lethbridge Research Centre that was quietly closed, not the centre itself. They missed the word “library”.

    • AND -they shut the library because everything is now digitized. We don’t need research libraries anymore.

      • Ah yes, there it is. The “everything’s online, we don’t need libraries” argument.

        Here’s the thing – everything isn’t digitized. If you’re going to move to an online access model, which is an excellent idea, here’s what you do. You go through your stuff, decide what needs to be digitized and digitize it. Then you scale back your infrastructure. Add new stuff as it’s produced.

        Here’s what the government did. They closed the libraries and cut the funds for digitizing. When the libraries were closed, the staff that was left had a few weeks to deal with all of the material. A lot of it ended up in dumpsters. The rest is sitting in a warehouse waiting to be digitized, but with the digitization budget cut maybe it will get done by 2050. Meanwhile, access to whatever is left is severely curtailed or non-existent.

        If you’re the government, you then say “what’s the matter, Luddite? Everything’s online” and blame the public sector unions for the mess you’ve created.

        Sheer and utter incompetence.

      • probably one of the most ridiculous comments I have ever seen. Your real name should be slightdanger, because you are a slight danger to all who care about information and learning.

  7. Sounds like a bunch of bullshit to me. Something like Justin Trudeau’s rants.

    • Really? Did it not meet your rigorous requirements for backing data and statistics?

    • and you sound like you’re thick between the ears

      • they actually seem a little airy between the ears.

  8. This is what I find most disgusting about the Harper government, it’s war on information, truth and knowledge.

    The motivation is to prevent anyone from arguing with his ideological plans for the country. Impossible to argue without the facts.

  9. This government may very well win another majority government given where they are in the polls despite all of the crimes they have committed against Canada and Canadians. With their recent hiring of strategist Lynton Crosby you mark my words. Where will Canada be after four more years of Harper with unchecked power?

    Do Canadians deserve to lose their country if they vote for Harper without knowing the facts he hides so well?

    • The Harper government is done this election…

      • 1. Re muzzling scientists. If they are civil servants they have no right to make public comment without permission. It has been a condition of employment I can personally testify as far back as 1972.
        2. Census; Much of the former census data was collected for the private sector on the taxpayers dime, not for government planning.

        3. Intercensal estimates were notoriously inaccurate for BC resulting that the province was underfunded by several millions per year for health care because of the positive migration to the province which was not accounted for. prior to 1986 when a personal health number was instituted (the agreement provided for establishing provincial population either by intercensal estimates OR a plan where the program has a permanent health numbering system which demonstrably counted rather than one based on premium collection, union membership and dependent status. .

        • 2. One of the jobs of government is to do things that the private sector can’t. Or things that are more efficient for the public sector to do. Yes, the private sector makes (made) a great deal of use of the census results, as do governments, universities and not-for-profits. There’s nothing wrong with that.

          3. So estimates between each census were inaccurate in this instance and I’m sure others as well. We could always do them more often to deal with this issue, but I don’t imagine that’s what you’re proposing. No, the census (short or long form) isn’t perfect. But it was much (much) better than the more-expensive-yet-less-accurate survey that replaced the LFC.

  10. A lawsuit against the HarperCons need to be filed NOW! For so many reasons, including their penchant to cheat!

    • Oh c’mon. Why don’t you specify your political bias!

  11. The next time you see ISIS destroying a piece of our global cultural history, remember this article, the there is difference between.

    • No there isn’t .This is deliberate just as banks are used now instead of bombs were not the native beads taken to remove their history.

  12. If anyone thinks this is strictly a Conservative issue they have forgotten a lot about the libs and hidden money and the destruction of records concerning that scandal.

    This is a story with an agenda rather than a story illustrating both sides of the street.

    I wonder how much federal funding MacLean’s gets every year?

    Seems to me they are acting more and more like the cbc rather than an alternative and accurate news source.

    Standing by for the entitled Canadians who will now line up to call me names – which will indeed prove my point.

    • So you didn’t find any inaccuracies in the story, then?

    • It’s interesting how the right wing demonize the press when they hear information they don’t want to hear. It’s also why freedom of the press is so important, pieces that reveal information – like this one. It’s also why Stephen Harper (and government) avoids interviews because he can’t control his information stream when journalists ask questions. They may uncover something or challenge him on his version of “facts”. That gets messy when you don’t want to reveal what you’re actually doing, publicly. If he had nothing to hide, he would be more transparent to Canadians.

      You’re right, years ago, Liberals were involved in a scandal, just as the Mulroney government had before them. These issues were rightly presented to Canadians by our press. CBC is highly regarded internationally for its award winning journalism; lets stop that myth just because you don’t agree with what is reported. Lies don’t become true simply by repeating them, over and over.

      • While there is sopme merit in CBC radio on account of geography but there is no merit in paying for CBC TV on the taxpayer’s dime – there is a multitude of cable channel;s.

    • trying to figure out your arguing point. The Liberals tried to destroy their history, and the Conservatives are trying to destroy all of ours. I am sorry you are stuck in the mud and have yet to wipe your eyes clean, but the point you are trying to make is ludicrous. Harper offered a fair and open government, and his government has been anything but that. Wake up.

  13. Well it would be very helpful if Macleans did a story that was as informative and well done on how the Media in Canada are rigging the election by the silencing of the Green Party Platform and taking away the right in an election to be fully informed.It is shocking that nowhere is the story about the affront to democracy how big business for big business interests have made sure climate change cannot be spoken about.This is about how the right of Canadians to be informed just as you point out in this story.Most people like May they respect her they know she always comes to the table fully informed so why when the most critical issue in the world and in this election when can’t hear a dicky bird about it.It is absolutely shameful.This is what they have tried to do in the USA with Bernie Sanders and Corbyn in England.
    I cannot say how much I liked the story and how important a story it is.This outrage is just as important.Please help.

    • May should absolutely have a forum. I say she is using the internet quite well, despite the ridiculousness of this election and her media coverage.

    • The Green party is one sitting member with one issue If it is so important and moving why aren’t there more ? Probably because it is not that crucial issue to most Canadians who are concerned with putting three squares on the table and helping their kids getting an education. Canada’s contribution to atmospheric carbon is almost trivial compared with China, the US India and others. Check the Aug 8 2015 issue of The Economist.Not measured per capita or per sq mile but by jurisdiction which is the only way to compare.

      • “by jurisdiction which is the only way to compare.”

        Riiiiight. Should Canada’s emissions be too high we have simply to break up the country into 12 independent provinces and territories and voila, 12 times the emissions!
        If you happen to have been born in Liechtenstein you won the lottery – as long as your emissions stay below China, you’re golden!
        And don’t forget to save money on garbage disposal and recycling. Throwing you garbage right into the ocean will have such a trivial effect on the total amount of garbage in the ocean it’s a no-brainer!

      • Because of the massive effort by the Koch Bros to silence and lies about climate change.When the Pope is calling the likes of them and Corporate powers” Devil Dung” we have a big problem and guess who is running around having all the Tv and Radio talking heads calling him a Marxist.The Corporate powers are doing everything in their power to shut her down.Billons have been poured into this.

  14. I have been building family trees for a couple of generations back in my family. I was always able to access census data on-line at no cost (Archives, maybe?)

    When the 1921 census data became available, I started looking for it in the same places, with no success.

    The only place these data appear to be available is through a commercial site, for a fee.

    Canadians paid for these data to be collected. Stored. Assembled and analyzed. Protected. These are OUR data.

    It appears that the federal government has sold the data to a commercial organization, thereby limiting (at least) citizens’ access to our data.

    There is no end to the villainy and lack ethics of these ideologues, nor, apparently to their stupidity.

    • Having done the genealogy thing you should be aware that LDS has acquired masses of data all over the world by an agreement to microfilming records records of the governmental jurisdiction and making a full copy available to the jurisdiction. Under the old system I paid $2 a photo copy from LDS and $13 a copy from the province. Now it is available free from subscribers to, which I am sure works out to only pennies per copy. Also you don’t have to pore over public archive documents or microfilm machines even if there was no charge. Time is money.

  15. I applaud Anne Kingston for valid points. I must strongly challenge her and some others on another point. Have the lessons of history been forgotten? Are Canadians ignorant of important details of the last decade? . . . Work at Statistics Canada was out-sourced to Lockheed Martin Corp of the American military beginning in 2003. Its website lists “surveillance” as a specialty. Lockheed Martin’s website discloses that it does work for the NSA. Edward Snowden provided the information to show that the American “security” forces get back-door entrance to important data bases, if they can’t get front-door (i.e. legal) access. It does not matter which country. – – The historic lesson is that states with detailed files on citizens are police states. “IBM and the Holocaust” by Edwin Black is a powerful documentation of the enabling role played by mechanized data (census) files on citizens in Nazi Europe. You are wrong if you think that names are not on the data files at StatsCan. There is an urgent reason why Canadians have a Charter Right to Privacy of Personal Information. – – I can only think that a citizen would seriously advocate for “supply your personal information, and if not you will be prosecuted” as I and others have been, if you are unaware of what we’ve gotten ourselves into with integration of the U.S. and Canadian military. – – StatsCan demands very detailed personal information. Even the lengthy National Household Survey is conducted under threat of prosecution, although there is a strong case to say that surveys are voluntary under the law. – – But further, Canadians have to decide whether to cooperate with giving our money to Lockheed Martin Corp. They were the number one contract interrogator at overseas U.S. prisons like Abu Ghraib and Bagram. Torture – illegal. They produce illegal weapons. They break U.S. Arms Export rules meant to keep weapons out of the wrong hands. They are very corrupting of democratic processes. And they are a large part of the reason that American tax-payers are burdened with debt of more than $18 Trillion dollars (wars). Canadians should be careful what they wish for. It is a travesty that Lockheed Martin Corp got anywhere near the data base at StatsCan. That is still no reason why one should advocate for the tools of a police state (detailed files on citizens) in Canada. I find it very troubling that anyone would do so.

    • Good post. A parallel concern. is massive amounts of provincial health plan data (hospital admissions, diagnosis etc

      Insurance agents used to steal daily operating room slates off of hospital bulletin boards hoping to find something that would invalidate the patient’s life or term insurance. Much easier nopw to hack into a US held data bases and get mountains of data.

  16. This scares the hell out of me . All those documents aren’t his to disposed of. They belong to the public!! Its our tax dollars that paid for that. Its libricide!! This could seriously compremise our ability to function as a competitive country. With no data to compare our progress and evaluate our potential as a people we could face serious challenges in everything. Trade economics, science ; well we know he hate science. This should be brought to trial after the election when we kick them out on charges of destroying our archives and the future of Canada. These archive are not the property of any one goverment it belongs to THE PEOPLE of Canada. Oct 19 this guy has to come down and has to answer for his crimes!! I hate this guy!!

    • I thought nut cases weren’t allowed to post???

      • ….but I just read your post????

  17. My comment is to the guy in Saskatchewan talking about the labour market crunch, all the poor unemployed and underemployed people you’re looking for are right here in Nova Scotia. The federal government forgot about us a long time ago too!

  18. to put it more succinctly people,the goverments moves have put us back to square zero a.k.a 1866 and it’s a case of starting from scratch or retrieving what is savagable at great costs but now leaves the Government to tea party at our expense

  19. Stephen Harper is a Fucking Liar

    • don’t sugarcoat it, tell us what you really feel

  20. ISIS destroys historical artifacts. Harper destroys historical data. Hmmmm. Just saying!

    • Aha there are other nut cases too!

  21. Stephen Harper is the definition of IGNORANCE. All knowledge and information that he doesn’t concur with is destroyed because knowledge is truth. And we know Harper doesn’t believe in truth. Can you guess any other organization in the middle east that does this kind of non sense. TAKE A GUESS?! Our Prime Minister is a terrorist razing our history, our science, our data, perverting it to his own nonsensical vision. Harper promotes his false patriotism for the country he says he ‘loves’. He is the most UNCanadian PM ever. We’ve suffered nine LONG years under the this neoliberal demagogue, its time to make him vanish from politics.

  22. Thank you so much for drawing attention to this important issue.

    LOCKSS (lots of copies keep stuff safe) is a collaborative effort of many dedicated librarians in Canada initiated by Amanda Wakaruk.

    Web archiving is another project we are now working on to provide access to government information.

  23. Another good reason to turf Harper.

  24. As a career computer technician, I have been – at times – deep in the bowels of developing technologies, hardware and software. The cost of data storage is at an all time low, and there is no valid excuse for removing or deleting data. Our cost per TB is under $30 and the server-class systems we currently can purchase are 1000x faster than those 5 years ago. Data removal is just as the above article states – pointless and unmanaged, with people completely unqualified making decisions on what to keep and what to remove, whether under instruction from government agencies or simply out of ignorance. As the adage states “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Removing information from the past makes us ignorant for the future.

    • Having had a little background in this area in the early days, this is a typical wonk’s approach – it costs next to nothing but let’s save everything! I support the idea that we should not collect much of what was collected to serve the private sector and university professors – the cost is in the collection, not the storage. Not that there is any privacy anymore – mainly due to the same wonks, it is right that such invasive probes should be voluntary. Why should taxpayers subsidize the data requirements of corporrate Canada?

      • What a load of BS.
        The erosion of our privacy has nothing to do with any “wonks”, and everything to do with government policy. The identity of census respondents is entirely protected.
        There was no cost savings on the changes the Conservatives made to the census.
        And finally, your implication that the data was only collected for the private sector is nonsense. Did you even bother to read the article you’re commmenting on?

        ” Melville still exists—but as a shadow. We know how many people live there, but nothing about them—where they work, their education levels, whether they’re married, single or divorced, how many are immigrants, how many are unemployed, how many live in poverty. Melville’s numbers, then, aren’t factored into Canadian employment numbers or divorce rates or poverty rates. According to Sask Trends Monitor, the high non-response rate in the province resulted in “no socioeconomic statistics about the populations in about one-half of Saskatchewan communities.” Nationally, we’re missing similar data on 20 per cent of StatsCan’s 4,556 “census subdivisions,” making a fifth of Canada’s recognized communities statistical dead zones.”

  25. I applaud the elimination of useless data. The government needs to know how many of us there are, and how old we are, and that’s about it. The notion that government somehow magically uses all this”data” for effective planning is beyond ludicrous. I’m 55, and I can pretty much bet that I’ll see Bigfoot before I’ll ever see a striking example of successful government planning. I will, however, encounter examples of poor government planning more often than I move my bowels. Given that, I remain unconvinced that bearing the ongoing costs of massive data collection and storage is worth as much as a pinch of coon crap.
    We have to exorcise this powerfully flawed notion that government’s just need more data to do better. News flash! Government will screw it up more often than not, simply because there is no incentive to get it right. If a business tries a new idea and it fails, money and jobs are lost, often alongside careers and families and marriages. If government tries a new idea and it fails, we taxpayers are compelled to double down so that the force of government can be re-applied. Only the taxpayers lose.
    By eliminating the data, we reduce the impetus to “Do Something!”, thus limiting the opportunities to screw up. The f–k-up percentage will almost always be a fixed value. Reducing the number of such opportunities is the simplest, cheapest, and most effective method of reducing those outcomes.
    If 65% of initiatives fail, reducing the number of initiatives will automatically reduce the number of failures.
    And a 65% failure rate for government is pretty accurate.

    • The only “coon crap” here is your comment.
      The Conservatives didn’t save so much as a penny when they trashed the census.

      But I did enjoy your use of numbers drawn entirely from your imagination to argue against empirical data.

      • So, a Princeton survey found that only 2% of Americans thought that the federal govt. performed “excellently”, and 74% gave it a fair or poor rating. Only 1/3 of Americans thought it did a better job than given credit for. Only 4% of Americans are convinced that when govt. takes action, it actually solves the problem it sets out to solve.
        That, my good fellow, is a clear indication that govt. is not doing a good job. That is another way to describe failure. If only 2% of Ford owners thought their cars were “excellent”, and 3/4 rated their products as fir or poor, Ford would be out of business in a year.
        More telling, 80% of Americans want the federal government to become almost inconsequential in their daily lives, in the fashion that a Briton of 1914 could go about their daily lives with only the rarest of interactions with government.
        Again, this is evidence bordering upon proof of the routine failure of government. Most of my interactions with government have left me shaking my head at the sheer stupidity that is ingrained within the system, and the biggest problem is that there is no consequence for failure.
        What would be so wrong with having people do follow-ups with those who are forced to endure some interaction or another with government? What would be wrong with giving every department a best before date? Bring your taxpayer satisfaction scores up, or you’re done. Bring your budget down, while serving more customers, or there will be mass lay-offs. Sink or swim.
        By far the biggest problem is that, like a fish that has no idea that it’s in water, I would posit that most government workers have no idea whatsoever that the system they work in is badly broken, and the only way to fix that is to reduce the number of initiatives, and make the consequences of failure much, much more harsh.
        Kind of like the private sector.

        • So Bill, you list programs you believe to be flawed and ineffective. Let’s skip over whether they are or not, but instead ask why do you think they’re flawed and ineffective. Probably because someone analyzed data. Data that the government collected.

          The Census tells us how many French-speaking people there are, which is presumably why you think bilingualism is a failure. The Census tells us about the economic state of natives, which is presumably why you think those programs haven’t worked. You suggest programs that “help Indians reduce all their societal failure metrics by a certain amount in a specified time frame” yet also demand that they collect less data. How do you propose we measure the metrics that you want?

          How can you know government failed if there’s no data to measure outcomes?

        • It’s a understandable error, it being written in ‘American’ and all, but you’re commenting on an article about Canada.
          Though granted, even if we were discussing the US you’ve provided nothing to substantiate the ‘65%’ you pulled out of your backside.
          But I have to admit, making up numbers is cheaper and way more fun than acquiring real ones!

          • There’s no evidence to suggest that Canadians are any happier with government than Americans, but if we were 10 times happier, that would still mean only 20% would rate the performance of government agencies as “excellent”, and only 40% would be convinced that government succeeds at the tasks it undertakes. Can you make a reasonable case that we are 10 times happier with government than our neighbors?
            Even if we were, that is a colossal rate of failure at some level. In fact, it substantially supports my 65% failure rate supposition.
            The underlying question here is very meaningful. The evidence suggests that failure is SOP in government, even if it’s only partial failure. Why should we be compelled to continually pay taxes to support failed initiatives?
            We spend a billion a year to promote the expansion of the French language into areas of the country that are not Quebec. We have done so for decades now, yet the number of bilingually Anglo-French people in the nation continues to shrink. As does the number of unilingually French people in the country. Societal evolution is inexorable. Why not kill official bilingualism and the programs around it?
            We spend a billion on the CBC, yet every year it loses eyeballs on the screen. Increase viewership and sell more ads, or die. Why not?
            Every year we spend something like $10K per native man, woman, and child on the same old programs that have had an abject failure rate. Give Indian Affairs a mandate to help Indians reduce all their societal failure metrics by a certain amount in a specified time frame, or the funding ends? Can you make the case that those people will be any worse off in the absence of programs that seem to drive them to poverty, crime, alcohol, and premature death? I’m not thinking so.
            The bottom line here is that government spending, and spending increases cannot be sacrosanct if we are to maintain our liberty. Governments have to learn to deliver better results on smaller budgets. That means spending less time collecting data that they have no business collecting, among other things. They haven’t been using what they have collected in any meaningful ways in the first place.

          • So that poll I haven’t even demonstrated to exist that measured something else in a different country totally proves…uhhh….65% of something else! Heh, I’m doin’ science here!


    • If Harper were to be up front about why he wrecked the census, I’m sure that he would say something similar to what you just wrote. Too bad that he won’t, as it would provide some clarity as to why he figured that it was worth spending more money to come up with worse data.

      Of course your 65% number is completely bogus. The US survey numbers speak more to cynicism than anything, assuming that the perception is the reality anyway. If government were as ineffective as you say, we’d be living in Mogadishu – 65% of the water you drink would be contaminated, 65% of the roads you drive on would be undriveable or in the wrong place, 65% of airplanes would land unsafely, 65% of crimes would be unsolved and 65% of us would be completely illiterate.

      • What makes you think that water is drinkable due to government efforts? Many of the roads I drive on ARE in the wrong place. (i.e. Trans-Canada Highway through Banff National Park), 1/3 of all murders go unprosecuted, and most property crime is unsolved. Maybe the private sector would be better at air traffic control and airport operations, and in spite of the fact that we spend double what we did (adjusted for inflation) to educate a child than we did in 1970, literacy skills are dropping.

        • PS- I HAVE lied on the long-form census, and will continue to do so in the future in all census that ask any more than the number, age, and sex of the individuals in my home.

          • Good for you. Gandhi would be proud.

        • Because they filter and chlorinate it? Because we haven’t had any cholera outbreaks lately? Because most roads go where they need to go? Because how would people get to Banff otherwise? Because maybe you’re right about private sector ATC, but I don’t see 65% of planes crashing? Because I said literate, not “literacy skills are dropping?” If the government didn’t do its job educating us, we wouldn’t be having this conversation because we would likely be unable to read and write. Oh, and the US government created the internet too.

          65% failure means 65% utter failure, Bill. Not “I don’t like this” or “they spent too much on that,” but failure. People dying in droves failure. Congo level failure. You set the bar pretty high.

          You have no idea how good you have it.

      • You’re stuck in reality, along with all that useless data the government is torching.
        Bill Greenwood and the Conservatives have discovered The Secret
        freed themselves from those bonds.

        • Here’s the dichotomy; You see government as righteous and benevolent, from which much good emanates. I see government as a necessary evil that draws upon the goodness of the citizenry, but which must ALWAYS be held in check.
          Your vision of government must by necessity infringe, often unnecessarily and intrusively, upon my liberty. My life is lessened by your kind of government.
          However, my vision of government, in which intrusion and confiscation are resisted and held in check, repealed even, lessens you naught. Your vision requires substantial sacrifice on my part, with or without my acquiescence. Coercion is often required. My vision requires no sacrifice on your part. You lose nothing that you cannot attain on your own.
          Ergo, my vision reflects the most righteous path.
          In simpler terms, whenever we have an opportunity to take an axe to one of the confiscatory tentacles of a rapacious and ravenous federal power, I’m a happy camper. But here’s what I don’t get. You lefties love to call yourselves “anti-government”, and “anti-establishment” and “pro-freedom” all that kind of stuff, yet you continually rally around the parties that are the absolute antithesis of that which you espouse. Big, confiscatory, central government is the exact opposite.
          Hence my view that most of you are intellectually barren.

          • The only ‘dichotomy’ demonstrated in this whole exchange is that, while the BS you invent comforts you and confirms your worldview, all it provides to me is humour.

  26. Lol…’vanishing Canada’…cue the scary music…oh Lord, we don’t know how many Jedi’s reside in Melville??? Will someone please think of the children?!?!?

    You pinkos are done…you can send me all the forms you like…I won’t fill them in. Neither will millions of other Canadians, thereby making any mandatory stats collected meaningless. What Stephen Harper has done for us is liberated us from the choking clutches of government bureaucrats…and I will forever be thankful to him for that…

    • Stephen, you don’t have time for this. Get back on the campaign trail!

    • Cue the Dueling Banjos, ‘kevin frank’ is here to provide stats from his imagination – “millions of other Canadians” – while he mocks the notion of collecting empirical data.

  27. My experience with the census:
    When I was a little kid, I couldn’t sleep one night and went downstairs to find my dad at our kitchen table filling out some paper work. He said it was a “census.” He explained to me that it was a way for the government to know more about the citizens. I asked if I could fill out one too. But, I was not a “grown-up” so I had to wait. However, my dad said I could help him fill in some of the check boxes. I remember feeling very important! Years later, I realized I, as a “grown-up” have never filled out a census. I still hope to one day!

    • I have read the comments. There are some here that don’t realize that losing information was done purposely. Anything that is going to conflict with any policy that the Conservatives come up with is going to be done away. If you disagree with policy there is nothing to back it up with. If you raise a big enough stink about it they’ll tear your life apart because they can. I don’t know if want to live in a country where that can go on.

      • Conversely, the stats can be used by Liberals to impose a policy that nobody wants.

    • Well many people lied on it.

  28. One can only hope that a fair number of gov’t scientists/archivists/librarians have hidden away copies of this destroyed information, to be suddenly “found” and put back into the proper record once the Cons are gone.

  29. “Academics, scientists, statisticians, economists and librarians”…all the people who will lose their meal ticket, and who have a vested interest in keeping everything the same. Was there a dire need for all these statistics? No. They were being used as tools to justify policy under the Liberals and expand government. Furthermore, these statistics were being handed over to the UN’s statistical division to also use as a tool to push their own programs. Getting rid of all of this is not anti-science but pro-freedom from the unwanted interference by government in the lives of Canadians.

    • Dream on. Any government that destroys writing, rewrites history, perverts the democratic process and gathers all decision making into one small secretive group and ridicules (as a start) anyone with expertise who disagrees with them is not aiming, in the long run, to provide less government. History shows that doctrinaire governments often graduate into something less desirable. Despite Harper’s protestations that he is a only doing what’s best for Canada, in fact he has changed our parliamentary democracy into some form pseudo-democratic dictatorship.

  30. After reading and re-reading this article, I keep noticing an absence of one important thing. Where are all the exampls of the results of the good planning that comes from having reams of data and scores of well-heeled “public policy” (read: left wing social activists) experts to interpret such info?
    If they have been so knowledgeable thanks to data collected over the last few decades, why has Alberta’s rapid population growth over the last 20 years caught so many planners off guard? After all, anyone with a high school education can tell you that the lower tax regime area’s of a country will ALWAYS grow faster than those regions with higher taxes.
    Time and again we hear about the impending disaster from this lack of data, yet no one is able to trot out the successes that are the direct result of good planning due to having all this info available. Show us the results of good, long term government planning. The simple fact is that there are none.

  31. Ridiculous partisan article full of misinformation and exaggerations. Typical propaganda. Much of the data was digitalized so the got rid of the paper copies. Public libraries toss out books all the time. They stamp them with “discard” and bring in new books. The government has always done the same. And why should Canada be giving away things we worked hard on? All of the things talked about in the article are a part of the misinformation smear campaign that the media and opposition have been engaged in since the Conservatives first came to power. They have been attacking PM Harper and the Conservatives since the get go and when he went into a defensive mode they claimed he was being secretive and controlling. The media has been hostile and involved in trying to bring down the government because the special interest groups can no longer control the government.
    Worst opposition and bullying and disrespectful media in our history as a nation.

  32. And the media STILL won’t confront Harper on his Evangelical Christian faith that believes that the earth is only 6,500 years old and all scientists are liars. Why are they protecting him?

  33. Ask Harper WHY he gives MILLIONS to Israel while cutting and slashing programs and infrastructure in Canada? His Evangelical Faith tells him that he MUST protect Israel at all costs or the Armageddon won’t happen and therefore no Rapture. This man is writing policies for ALL Canadians based on his faith, not the will of the people and the media hides it.

  34. Sign of a corrupt government that has lost touch with it’s people – propaganda disinformation (yeah who really believes Canadian economy really good and is the federal budget really balanced?), destruction and suppression of unfavourable data, dismissal of scientists and critics who publish unfavourable and selling out Canada to corrupt Chinese money….been to Vancouver lately ? Ni Ho Ma?

  35. Anne, I found this a very disturbing article that the Harper Government could do this to Canada!.Thank you for your good work on giving us Canadians such vital information!

  36. Im glad hes gone i hope this is under control now i mean the books anyways. I cant stand reading off a screen we still need and use books.