Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Good Stats Require Good Data

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Good Stats Require Good Data

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Good stats require good data


An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published Sept. 20:

A chief statistician who does not direct his own data processing department cannot be sure the reports he issues are accurate.

Wayne Smith, Canada's chief statistician, tried to make that simple point to his masters in the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau -- but they didn't get it. They required him to continue using the inefficient and unreliable information technology service of Shared Services Canada.

In an email to members of his advisory board, leaked to the Reuters news agency, Mr. Smith said Shared Services Canada, the computer department for the whole government, had been given an effective veto over many of the chief statistician's decisions, including collection, analysis and dissemination of data.

Rather than preside over the decline of a world-leading statistical office, Mr. Smith quit.

Mr. Trudeau announced Mr. Smith's departure Friday and appointed Anil Arora in his place. (Mr. Arora was a senior executive at Statistics Canada from 2000 to 2010.)

In February, it became clear Shared Services Canada was not equal to the task it had been given. The agency, invented by the former Conservative government to centralize computer services of federal departments, supposedly to save money, has been trying since 2013 to create a single email system for 43 departments and agencies and bring all their data processing into its machinery. Auditor General Michael Ferguson found the centralized operation was providing poor service and likely not reducing expense.

At that point, the government should have recognized it was steering its ship onto the rocks. It should have listened more closely to the many arms of government that were asking to be spared from inclusion in the dysfunctional family of Shared Services Canada client agencies. …

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