While the Liberals reintroduced the long-form census (which received a record-high response rate), the head of Statistics Canada Wayne Smith is taking issue with the Liberal government’s insistence on managing Statistic Canada’s information technology infrastructure. The previous Conservative government created a department called “Shared Services Canada” with the goal of centralizing all information technology services across all government departments. The initiative has struggled to meet the needs of many existing departments, and there have been concerns about the security of data within the new integrated system.
Smith argues that including StatsCan in this project compromises the department’s independence and its ability to fulfill its mandate. Perhaps the biggest issue is that of data security. The agency collects huge amounts of confidential data from Canadians and has to be incredibly careful about how the data is stored. Relinquishing authority to Shared Services Canada means StatsCan is losing control over how this data is processed, stored, and analyzed.
In addition to the security of confidential data, there are also concerns about outsourcing of jobs that has taken place with the introduction of Shared Services, as well as the government’s ability to directly or indirectly interfere with the work of StatsCan through the new department. The work of Statistics Canada is critically important, and following years of Conservative interference, it’s crucial that the agency be given the full authority to control its own data and infrastructure.