Canada to modernize statistics agency, data collection

OTTAWA (Reuters) — The federal government plans to modernize Statistics Canada, including identifying new ways of collecting data and making it easier for people and businesses to find and use the information.

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains told business leaders at an Environics Analytics event in Toronto that Canada wants to become a leader in an increasingly data-driven world.

With data available more quickly and from a wider variety of sources than ever before, Statistics Canada must innovate to meet the needs of Canadians, Bains said.

The agency releases the country’s official economic data on everything from jobs to gross domestic product to trade. The reports are closely watched by markets and investors. Bains is responsible for Statistics Canada, though the agency operates at arms-length from the government.

Questions were raised about the agency’s operations last year when its head abruptly quit, while its website has been plagued by outages and delays.

Bains identified a number of key focus areas, including finding new methods of generating and collecting data that go beyond surveys.

The government also wants to look at new ways to integrate data from a variety of sources and make the data easier for businesses and analysts to use by making it available in its raw form.

Such changes would allow software developers to use simple tools to access data sets without the need for specialized knowledge of government agencies or programs.

Still, Bains made clear that the plans are in their early stages, with the government seeking input from Canadians through the rest of the summer and into the fall.

The federal budget released earlier this year allocated $39.9 million over five years to Statistics Canada to create a database of home sales in the country. Critics have long argued that Canada does not track enough data on its housing market, making it difficult to quantify risks.

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