Recently, the United Way of Greater Toronto released a study on poverty in Toronto called Losing Ground. In a related Toronto Star column, Carol Goar talks about the numbers behind the story. Or is it the story behind the numbers? Truth carries a painful user fee talks about the issue of access to the kind of data that makes this kind of reporting happen. sort of like the cartoon below. She states that:
The United Way of Greater Toronto had to pay the agency $28,000 for government data showing that family poverty deepened in Toronto between 2000 and 2005, while low-income households made modest gains everywhere else.
It had to spend its donors’ money to prove that Toronto has the lowest median income of any major urban centre in the country.
It had to dip into its charitable givings to marshal evidence – already collected at taxpayers’ expense – that a one-size-fits-
all poverty strategy won’t work for Toronto.
This article goes on to point out why access to data from Statistics Canada is crucial for citizens and nonprofit organizations (among others). Access to important data allows ALL citizens to actively pursue the kind of analysis that are is critical for a properly functioning democratic society. After all, as Ms Goar states, this particular exercise “illustrates the drawbacks of letting Statistics Canada decide what the public needs to know.” Unfortunately, until this situation changes, it means only those that have (or can find) the financial means to purchase the data will be able to carry these exercises.