Statistics Canada promises more detailed portrait of Canadians with fewer surveys

Bill Curry at The Globe and Mail: “Canadians are increasingly shunning phone surveys, but they could still be providing Statistics Canada with valuable data each time they flush the toilet or flash their debit card.

The national statistics agency laid out an ambitious plan Thursday to overhaul the way it collects and reports on issues ranging from cannabis and opioid use to market-moving information on unemployment and economic growth.

According to four senior Statscan officials, the agency is in the midst of a major transformation as it adapts to a world of big data collected by other government agencies as well as private sector actors such as banks, cellphone companies and digital-based companies like Uber.

At its core, the shift means the agency will become less reliant on traditional phone surveys or having businesses fill out forms to report their sales data. Instead, Statscan is reaching agreements with other government departments and private companies in order to gain access to their raw data, such as point-of-sale information. According to agency officials, such arrangements reduce the reporting paperwork faced by businesses while creating the potential for Statscan to produce faster and more reliable information.

Key releases such as labour statistics or reporting on economic growth could come out sooner, reducing the lag time between the end of a quarter and reporting on results. Officials said economic data that is released quarterly could shift to monthly reporting. The greater access to raw data sources will also allow for more localized reporting at the neighbourhood level….(More)”.