Statcan chief: Agency can’t back down from a push for new data sources
OTTAWA — Statistics Canada won’t back down from a push to find new sources of data to fuel the nation’s thirst for information, but will only move as quickly as Canadians are comfortable, the country’s chief statistician says.
Anil Arora said his agency needs to do a better job of telling the country why it needs information and how it protects data after blowback from a proposal to collect banking information from 500,000 Canadians.
Statistics Canada has pressed pause on the pilot project until the end of a review by the federal privacy watchdog.
In the meantime, Arora said the agency will look for other ways to feed growing data needs by tapping non-traditional sources of information.
“We are one of the best statistical agencies in the world not because we hold back,” Arora said in an interview after his morning address.
“We (will) move at the pace at which society is accepting of the trade-offs that are there, and we need to do a better job of explaining to Canadians . . . the checks and balances that are in place, the complex systems that we built over 100 years to protect their privacy.”
Statistics published by the agency are used to set interest rates on loans and mortgages, help local planners decide where to place new schools or hospitals, and set the value of federal seniors benefits like old age security.
But the data underpinning the agency’s findings has started to become problematic and its methods are now embroiled in a political fire fight over privacy concerns.