The CANSIM Crash Diet at Statistics Canada

This post comes courtesy of the Canadian Social Research Newsletter, March 2, 2014 edition (

The CANSIM Crash Diet at Statistics Canada

WARNING: If you’re not a number-crunching social policy historian who believes
in accountability and transparency, you might just want to skip the following rant.

And another one gone
And another one gone,
Another one bites the dust.
[Source : Queen]

Statistics Canada’s world-class data collection has been trimmed, again.
February 24, 2014
By Gilles:
As a result of the 2012 federal budget cuts, there are now 2,000+ fewer workers at StatCan [ ] — out of a workforce of about 5,000.
The 2012 budget cuts are leading directly to reductions in the amount of public information StatsCan collects and produces, and they could lead to data collection and processing services being contracted out (if they’re not already doing it…)

The latest victim of the budget cuts is the collection of tables in the CANSIM database.
Here’s a sample deleted table:
TERMINATED: Table 384-0009 Government transfer payments to persons, provincial economic accounts
On this table, you’ll find five years’ worth (2005 to 2009) of national statistics PLUS archives going back to 1981 on federal and provincial government transfer payments to individuals and organizations for almost 20 programs, from Old Age Security to Employment Insurance (federal) and Workers’ Compensation to Social Assistance (provincial/territorial).

I went to the CANSIM home page [ ] looking for an announcement regarding what other CANSIM tables had bitten the dust and when. There was not one word on the home page about the CANSIM Crash Diet. If you’d like to know the full extent of the terminated tables for the complete collection, you’ll have to drill down each of the 31 topics on the home page to see the specific tables. I checked only a few categories, but the number of deleted/terminated tables was depressing.
[ *Terminated* tables appear in a grey box at the end of each subsection. ]

A few examples:

For the category “Aboriginal peoples” : 4 tables terminated out of a total of 7
For the category “Children and youth” : 89 tables terminated out of a total of 130
For the category “Families, households and housing” : 67 tables terminated out of a total of 112
For the category “Government” : 62 tables terminated out of a total of 141
For the category “Income, pensions, spending and wealth” : 41 tables terminated out of a total of 167
For the category “Seniors” : 13 tables terminated out of a total of 30

One of StatCan’s two stated objectives is “To provide statistical information and analysis about Canada’s economic and social structure to develop and evaluate public policies and programs and to improve public and private decision-making for the benefit of all Canadians.” (The second objective is “To promote sound statistical standards and practices…”).

How much longer will StatCan be considered world class, I wonder…

And while we’re lamenting the passing of rich online resources that the federal government has recently terminated, here are a few other reports that are now accessible only via an archiving site like [ ] :

[R.I.P.] Social Assistance Statistical Report: 2008
Social Assistance Statistical Report: 2008 is the fifth annual joint publication by federal, provincial and territorial governments. This report includes a description of, and statistics related to, the welfare system in each province and territory, information about federal-provincial-territorial jurisdictional and funding issues, a bit of historical info on the Canada Assistance Plan and the Canada Health and Social Transfer, etc.

[R.I.P.] Social Security Statistics, Canada and Provinces, 1978-79 to 2002-03
This report offers 25 years of longitudinal data on costs and numbers of beneficiaries for most programs – over 100 tables – covering a large number of programs — here’s a partial list : Child Tax Benefit, Family Allowances, the Child Tax Credit, Old Age Security/Guaranteed Income Supplement/Spouse’s Allowance (“The Allowance”), Federal Training and Employment Programs, Federal Goods and Services Tax Credit, the Canada/Quebec Pension Plans, War Veterans’ and Civilian War Allowances, Veterans’ and Civilians’ Disability Pensions, Unemployment/Employment Insurance, the Canada Assistance Plan, Workers’ Compensation, Youth Allowances, Social Assistance and Social Services for Registered Indians — and more…

– Go to the Social Statistics Links page:

Data day will not be celebrated in Hamilton

This is a guest post by Sara Mayo, Social Planner with Social Planning & Research Council of Hamilton. This is on the eve of the first release of data from the National Household Survey, which replaced the long-form census in Canada. The original post can be found here.

SPRC reserves judgement on NHS data until questions are answered about data quality

By Sara Mayo, Social Planner

On May 8, Statistics Canada will be releasing the first data from the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS). Major new data releases are usually hotly anticipated and a busy time for social planners, but the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton has decided that we will not be commenting or reporting on the new NHS data at that time, including trends on Immigration, Aboriginals, Ethnic Origin, Language and Religion that will be released by Statistics Canada.

Since the news of the cancellation of the 2011 Census long form, the SPRC has been clear that the voluntary NHS is a poor replacement. The cancellation of the 2011 Census long form was a hasty decision by the federal government, without any notice or consultation with Canadians, and the negative effects will be felt for years to come. At a community forum on the Census that we organized  in September 2010, Code Red for Neighbourhood Data, organizations across Hamilton voiced their concerns that the cancellation of the long form would harm planning for new schools, immigration settlement services, poverty reduction strategies, youth programming at community centres, services for working parents, and neighbourhood improvements, among many others.

While NHS response rates have been better than the low benchmark of 50% set by Statistics Canada, they are still much lower than for the Census long form. 94% of households completed the Census long form in 2006, while the average NHS response rate for Canada was 68.9% (67.6% for Ontario). In the city of Hamilton, only 65.3% of households who received the survey answered it.

Statistics Canada’s own estimates show that NHS survey respondents are not representative of the population. Their analysis shows that raw NHS data from the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area overreports people earning a high income, those who are university educated, Canadians who work in the public administration industry, or in business, finance or administrative occupations and Chinese Canadians. Conversely, raw NHS data from the Toronto region undercounts the number of low income Canadians, the number without a high school diploma or less, those working in construction and transportation, Black Canadians, non-citizens, Aboriginals, and those who have moved in the last year. Accurate estimates of these populations are critical to social planning.

Our own analysis of response rates by Social Planning Network of Ontario communities (Table 1), shows a general trend whereby communities with low NHS response rates usually have higher poverty rates. The major outliers to this trend are the cities of Toronto, Markham, and Mississauga and the town of Richmond Hill, which all have higher than average poverty rates, yet higher than average NHS response rates. This may be explained in part by the higher NHS response rate of Chinese Canadians (who are a large portion of residents in these cities) as reported by Statistics Canada.

Table 1: Social Planning Network of Ontario Communities, NHS response rate and poverty levels

Community Social Planning Network of Ontario member

NHS raw response rate

Poverty rate (before tax LICO, 2006 Census)

Ajax Community Development Council Durham



Belleville Community Development Council of Quinte



Brampton Social Planning Council of Peel



Burlington Community Development Halton



Caledon Social Planning Council of Peel



Cambridge Social Planning Council of Cambridge & North Dumfries



Clarington Community Development Council Durham



Cornwall Social Development Council of Cornwall & Area



Greater Sudbury Social Planning Council of Sudbury



Halton Hills Community Development Halton



Hamilton Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton



Kingston Social Planning Council of Kingston & District



Kitchener Social Planning Council of Kitchener-Waterloo



Markham Social Planning Council of York Region



Milton Community Development Halton



Mississauga Social Planning Council of Peel



Oshawa Community Development Council Durham



Ottawa Social Planning Council of Ottawa



Peterborough Peterborough Social Planning Council



Pickering Community Development Council Durham



Richmond Hill Social Planning Council of York Region



Thunder Bay Lakehead Social Planning Council



Tillsonburg Social Planning Council Oxford



Timmins Cochrane District Social Planning Council



Toronto Social Planning Toronto



Uxbridge North Durham Social Development Council



Vaughan Social Planning Council of York Region



Waterloo Social Planning Council of Kitchener-Waterloo



Whitby Community Development Council Durham



Woodstock Social Planning Council Oxford






Data source: National Household Survey: Final response rates (Statistics Canada)

Statistics Canada has not yet indicated which mitigation strategies they have applied to adjust estimates to compensate for lower response rates among these critical groups. They have also not answered our questions about whether they will be releasing NHS data at lower levels of geography (such as census tracts and dissemination areas). Given the geographic concentration of many demographic groups with low response rates, we are quite concerned that neighbourhood-level data will be very unreliable.

We are especially dismayed that detailed information on data quality in the NHS will not be published until May 8th. As part of a conference call with members of the Community Data Program on October 18 2012, Statistics Canada representatives informed data users that they would be publishing a paper on NHS data quality issues in December 2012. Requests to find out why that document has been delayed have not been answered. When it is finally released, we will examine this paper to better understand data quality issues with the NHS.

At the same time, we want to make clear that we continue to support Statistics Canada staff, and the agency as a whole,  who are facing budget cuts that undermine their ability to obtain reliable data about Canadians. High quality Statistics Canada is used in communities across the country to plan for the population’s needs and to improve quality of life.

Starting on May 8th, the SPRC  will take the time to read Statistics Canada’s analysis of NHS data quality and mitigation strategies, and consult with other data users across the country about their judgment on the reliability and comparability of this data. We will update the community when we have formed an opinion on what uses of NHS data will be most prudent for Hamilton.

GIS as Ubiquitous as Word Processing?

Came across this great article looking at the effects of the spread of mapmaking tools and greater access to data. While all this great access to tool and data is good, how do we ensure good quality in the use of these tools? And how do we use these tools to broaden the dialogue and conversations in our communities? Interesting food for thought.

Is GIS about to get as ubiquitous as word processing, and if so what are the implications?

The Walkable City

Toronto Public Health has released a new report entitled, The Walkable City: Neighbourhood Design and Preferences, Travel Choices and Health.  This report summarizes the findings of a Residential Preferences Survey that gauges public demand for walkable versus more auto-oriented neighbourhoods, and links this information with travel choices, physical activity levels and body weight.

This is the first study of its kind in Canada.  It provides unique data and findings for the City of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).  The findings underline the important role that neighbourhood design plays on travel choices, physical activity and health.  This original research was conducted as part of the Healthy Canada by Design collaborative project funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC) through the Coalitions Linking Action and Science for Prevention (CLASP) initiative.

D(ata)-Day has Arrived!

D-Day, as in Data Day has arrived in Canada.

Statistics Canada has always charged to access much of its data but starting today – February 1st, 2012 – self-serve standard products available on the Statistics Canada website, which includes CANSIM and census data products, are now free of charge under the Statistics Canada Open Licence Agreement.

For those of you who are not familiar with these resources, CANSIM (CANadian Socio Economic Information Management System) is a collection of time series data on a variety of different aspects of the Canadian economy and population. It covers over 10 million data series and is organized into tables. These tables used to cost $3 per time series table, which could prove costly if you were looking at a bunch of data over any length of time.

In terms of Census data, much of it will be free, most often down to the Census Tract level. Census Tracts are small, relatively stable geographic areas that usually have a population of 2,500 to 8,000. Data at the Dissemination Area level (small area composed of one or more neighbouring dissemination blocks, with a population of 400 to 700 persons) will still require payment.

Next week (February 8, 2012) is the first release of data from the 2011 Census and it will be interesting to see how this access to free data will shape local conversations.

It is a fantastic boon for all data geeks! Nonprofit organizations and students will really appreciate this new pricing.

Get ready Canada. The free data stream has started to flow!