It has been a while since the Harper Government terminated the mandatory long form census and much has been written about how bad a decision that was. Much has also been written about how this current Federal government muzzles scientists, takes forever to allow access to information and cuts organizations that go against the political spin. It is all part of the idealogical agenda of starving the “beast”, not only starve government of revenue but of essential information. Once the starvation takes hold it shows how incompetent government is and services can be privatized. The whole process is hidden behind austerity or it was pandering to special interests.
In the Roman Republic the Censor was an elected official, a powerful one. The Censor conducted the census that showed who in Rome qualified to be in the Senate and held the property requirements to run for various offices. The censor also knew how many men were available for the Legions, how many animals were available for the baggage or cavalry and how much grain was available to feed them all. New France conducted North America’s first census to know how many men were available to defend the colony. It also showed the King needed to start sending his ‘daughters’ over to correct the imbalance of the genders.
Without a reliable census how does a nation know itself? Reliable census data is required to understand what a nation is capable of. Knowledge is power or at least the potential for power. Certain people complain if government collects data but freely give more intrusive information to unelected, unaccountable corporations. This is also part of starving the “beast” agenda, private corporations are spun as trustworthy yet democratic government is not. Of course information can be misused and history has many examples of it. Yet ignorance is much more convenient for those who want to corrupt things to gain power.
The public requires information to be informed voters and governments need information to govern well. For this reason the census is in Canada’s Constitution (1867 Act 91-6) as Federal obligation. The Federal government now collects faulty census data and thus Provinces, Territories and local governments are using faulty data to make decisions. The spin was there are other methods to collect the same data, has anyone heard what they are? If we were smarter in Canada, Ontario and London we would be collecting data and using data better.
There is a road on the north shore of Lake Erie in Elgin County that seems to have a high rate of cancer fatalities. I once asked the Province to do a study, but they don’t have resources for such studies. Cancer catches my attention because I have been so effected by it the last few years, three family members have passed away. If we collected the location information of each cancer patient in Ontario, residence, work and so on, what would the result be? Geographical Information Systems or GIS could show where the spikes of cancer patients, autism, or any condition and relate it to potential causes. The Health and Environment Ministries could work together taking soil, air, water and other samples to see connections.
The use of GIS dates back to a cholera outbreak in London England in the 19th Century. The locations of each case were mapped out and it was discovered the cases were connected to contaminated wells. The result was London’s sewer system and the eventual cleaning of the Thames River. Not using information this way is costing Canada’s health care system more money than the GIS system would cost. As census and collecting statistics is a Federal responsibility then the Federal government needs to lead on the data collecting required.
Canada needs a national information cloud where all levels of government share information with each other and with the public. Private and secret information on individuals should be kept out of the cloud and a system to insure relevant information isn’t declared secret or private must be developed with the cloud. Effective use of information can save money or spark new business opportunities.
Included in a National Cloud should be government funded raw science that has no direct or immediate application. The science corporations can not fund because it has no profit prospects still needs to be done. Allowing anyone to take the results and analyze them to see how they can be applied or reinterpreted will give Canada an competitive edge. This should not only apply to natural sciences but social sciences as well. All of the Archives of Canada should be accesible to share the wealth of information hidden away in government storage.
Any cloud must have an easy interface that can be used by the less web literate Canadians. It will need multiple server farms across Canada and perhaps a one outside of Canada to protect the information from attack. We live in the information age and government infrastructure spending needs to reflect that. Spending money without good information will cause Canada to start dedeveloping as an nation. Canada is already falling behind in research of graphene, nanotubes et cetera, maybe a leap into a national cloud will help us catch up.