A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Garbage in, Garbage out?

Having publicly available information on the well-being of our local communities and national numbers on employment, business viability, population etc etc is essential not only to keep the government 'honest' but to make local and governmental decisions affecting these things. At first glance then it would seem that the ongoing project to make such government data more readily available is a good thing, is it as Tony Clement would have us believe “proof of the governments openness and transparency”. Or, is it proof of the Harper Regimes inability to do anything right and a further coverup of the real data.
It seems that the data is not only incomplete due in large part to the cancellation of the long form census but is still almost impossible to find unless you know the exact details of the listing you are seeking AND it cost more to to collect this incomplete data.

The complaints echo an audit last week from the auditor general of Canada, who found the voluntary National Household Survey in 2011 cost taxpayers $22 million more than the mandatory long-form census it replaced — and produced far less reliable data.”
Statistics Canada eventually withheld the release of survey data for one of every four municipalities and other census sub-divisions because of the poor quality of the numbers.
"As a result of data not being released due to quality concerns, potential users of this data for approximately 25 per cent of geographic areas do not have reliable National Household Survey data available for their use," said Michael Ferguson's report.

So even if you can find details of how your area of the country is doing its all but useless in that it does not reflect the actual situation in your community.
'The single greatest complaint about the Federal Government's Open Data Portal was the quality of its search.'- Report to Treasury Board
"Almost without fail, the single greatest complaint about the Federal Government's Open Data Portal was the quality of its search," says the document.
"Participants talked of searching for data sets they knew existed but could not find without typing an exact phrase or knowing a key term."

Non of this is helped by the lack of links on much of the data to a particular area by postal code and the
reluctance of some researchers to use it brought on by a lawsuit launched by Canada Post against a small Ottawa company, Geolytica, claiming copyright on postal codes. SAY WHAT! So a public corporation (Canada Post) wants exclusive use of the postal code system, are they nuts and why is the Harper Regime wasting our money with lawsuits on such nonsense!

"Connecting data to geography is one of the most popular uses, both for analysis and application development," says the 13-page report from last June.
But users said they were spooked by a lawsuit launched by Canada Post against a small Ottawa company, Geolytica, claiming copyright on postal codes.
Through Geocoder.ca, Geolytica provides a downloadable database of postal codes that includes geographic boundary information. Canada Post launched its suit in March 2012, later claiming the phrase "postal code" is also a trademark.

So, if you find and use the data will you be sued for using it and is it accurate?

Treasury Board has since relaunched data.gc.ca, saying it has fixed most of the problems cited in the consultation sessions, including improved search functions and quality of metadata.
Time will tell if the 'improvements' have made the data easier to find bur how you can 'improve” the quality of the data when it has not been collected in the first place is questionable. Given that this data is (presumably) used by the Harper Regime to make decisions related to the workforce, the economy, social services etc that’s kinda scary. Or do they simply let political ideology lead the way? Oh, OK, no wonder the data is crap!

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