Statistics Canada: More than just numbers at stake

August 14, 2014

Earlier this week it was determined that Statistics Canada’s August 8, 2014, Labour Force Survey release for the month of July contained data errors. As a result, Statistics Canada pulled this report out of circulation on August 12.

One can only wonder just how much this incident is a direct result of the present government’s numerous austerity measures, in particular the elimination of about 1,000 positions at Statistics Canada in recent years. Given the inevitable loss of expertise when so many employees possessed of irreplaceable institutional knowledge are summarily axed by the government, it is surprising that more incidents of this nature have not occurred.  While we hate to be the ones to say “I told you so,” the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE) did warn the government about the consequences of making these kinds of disruptive and untimely cutbacks.

The Conservative government’s culture of secrecy is such that we will undoubtedly never know whether the government’s actions created the conditions that led to these data errors. However, for Canadians already facing long wait times for employment insurance benefits, an additional delay of one to two weeks before claims are processed as these mistakes are corrected could prove to be a real hardship.
In addition, the late production of corrected data will have an impact on Canadian businesses and organizations that depend on this information to make timely, informed decisions.

The consequences of the austerity decisions taken by the Conservative government against cautions to the contrary are only just beginning to be felt.  Today it is the Canadians who depend on employment insurance income.  Tomorrow, will it be Canadians who depend on their pension cheques, their safety when out of the country, potable water in their homes, safe food to eat…  The austerity measure impact only on those individuals whom the government knows are vulnerable, who need services from this same government and who already had a right to these services.

Last but not least, the reputations of the men and women who work tirelessly to serve the Canadian public have been sullied by this incident, and the resulting negative perceptions will be difficult to erase.

Can we stand idly by as our government systematically destroys our Canadian institutions one by one, and makes Canadian citizens bear the weight of these ill informed decisions?