Statistics Canada
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Corporate Business Plan – Statistics Canada – 2012–13 to 2014–15

Chief Statistician’s Message

Statistics Canada is committed to ensuring that Canadians have all the key information on Canada’s economy, society and environment that they require to function effectively as citizens and decision makers in a rapidly evolving world.

Like all federal departments and agencies, Statistics Canada is facing a period of fiscal restraint. The Agency plans to move quickly, primarily in 2012-13, to implement the necessary program adjustments. The Agency has the necessary resources to deliver on all of its most critical programs without any significant reduction in program quality.

I believe this Corporate Business Plan, describing the current state of planning for the next three fiscal years, demonstrates that our Agency is meeting the challenge of restraint with imagination and energy in order to deliver the greatest possible value to Canadians.

Wayne R. Smith
Chief Statistician of Canada

History and mandate

At Confederation in 1867, the Constitution Act (then the British North America Act) assigned responsibility for the “Census and statistics” to the federal government. After many years of relying primarily on periodic Censuses and highly decentralized ad hoc statistics collected by federal departments, the federal government adopted the Statistics Act of 1918. The Act established a highly centralized statistical system led by a new Dominion Bureau of Statistics. In the wake of the Great Depression of the 1930s and the second World War, Canada, in concert with other western powers, and based on internationally established standards, significantly expanded its statistical system, adding macroeconomic measures of gross domestic product, international payments, employment and unemployment, and inflation to more traditional official statistics. The frequency of the national population and agriculture censuses was also increased to every five years from every 10. The Dominion Bureau of Statistics was renamed Statistics Canada in 1970. Canada’s national statistical system is widely envied.

Today, Statistics Canada, under the current Statistics Act, has a broad mandate to collect, compile, analyze and publish statistical information on all dimensions of Canada’s economy, society and environment. The Agency is charged with leading the national statistical system, working collaboratively with other federal departments and other levels of government to avoid duplication of effort and promote coherence of statistical information. The Agency is specifically required to conduct Censuses of Population and Agriculture every five years. Under the Corporations Returns Act, Statistics Canada is also required to collect, analyze and publish information on the extent of foreign ownership and control of Canadian enterprises, with a report on this topic being provided to Parliament every year.

To accomplish these missions, Statistics Canada is given authority under its legislation to collect information from individuals, businesses and other organizations through surveys on either a mandatory or voluntary basis as required to obtain the necessary degree of data quality (Censuses are mandatory under the Statistics Act). The Agency is also empowered to obtain administrative data in the hands of businesses, governments or other organizations to be used for statistical purposes.

Statistics Canada is also required to ensure that information in its care is used strictly for statistical purposes, and that information pertaining to individual Canadians or organizations is never disclosed.

Success in its mission requires that Statistics Canada enjoy the complete trust of Canadians and their institutions. To this end, Statistics Canada and its employees are committed to achieving the highest levels of professionalism in carrying out its work, to strict objectivity in its analyses and interpretation of data, to equality of access by all Canadians to all data produced by Statistics Canada, to maintaining the highest standards of quality, to protecting the confidentiality of information entrusted to its care, and to ensuring that information is used only for statistical purposes.

And, of course, Statistics Canada could accomplish nothing without the cooperation of the thousands of households, businesses and other organizations that respond to its surveys every year. The Agency extends its sincerest thanks to its survey respondents.

Our commitment

Statistics Canada is committed to ensuring the relevance of its statistical programs to the highest priority information needs of Canadians, while ensuring that its information is of appropriate quality for uses to which it is put, and that the business processes and systems are efficient, robust and responsive. The key ingredient in meeting this commitment has always been, and will always be, an innovative, motivated and professional workforce deployed in a strong and supportive corporate culture.

Our strategies

Relevance

Developed, democratic countries such as Canada require vast amounts of information to function effectively. There are many providers of this information, and the national statistical office, while by far and away the largest, is but one among many: private firms provide opinion and market research; stock exchanges provide stock price indices; real estate associations provide average house resale prices; and the lists goes on. National statistical offices provide objective official measures of the state and development of the economy, the society and the environment. Like other national statistical offices, Statistics Canada works collaboratively with other data producers to create a national statistical system that meets the needs of Canadians.

Statistics Canada, within the resources allocated to it, seeks to align its statistical and analytical programs with the highest priority information needs of the nation. These needs are in constant evolution. Some of the key strategies that the Agency employs to achieve this goal are:

  • Engaging with data users and other stakeholders to better understand their evolving data needs and to ground our statistics in a genuine understanding of the phenomena we are seeking to measure (see Annex A for an overview of the Agency’s consultative mechanisms);
  • Increasing efficiency in administrative operations in order to direct a larger share of available resources to statistical programs;
  • Redirecting resources to emerging data needs that are growing in relative priority to better respond to emerging priorities;
  • Increasing exploitation of relatively inexpensive administrative data sources to displace and complement more expensive survey data and thereby better respond to emerging priorities;
  • Offering a cost-effective, user-pay service for the conduct of large scale survey and other statistical programs on behalf of other public and private institutions while ensuring the resulting information is made available to all; and
  • Developing and exploiting state of the art techniques for extracting maximum value from existing data sets such as micro-data simulation and small area estimation.

Accessibility

Data not used to its fullest possible potential represents a failure of relevance. Increasingly, modern policy research requires access not only to aggregated statistics but also to anonymized data at the level of the individual business, household or person. Statistics Canada is committed to removing obstacles to access. Some of the key strategies that are being employed:

  • Maintaining an active partnership with the news media to promote broad coverage of new information releases from Statistics Canada;
  • Making available from every program an appropriate suite of standard products meeting the needs of the majority of users;
  • Offering without charge all standard products delivered to data users through the Internet;
  • Encouraging re-dissemination of Statistics Canada data and analysis under an open-data licence that requires no payment of fees;
  • Developing tools to allow users to automate the retrieval and display of data from Statistics Canada without charge;
  • Meeting more specialized needs through custom tabulation and other custom services provided at cost;
  • Working with researchers to exploit statistical micro-data through public use micro-data files, a nation-wide network of research data centres and collaborative research programs;
  • Developing tools to allow for secure remote user access for micro-data tabulation and modeling work; and
  • Sharing analytical tools developed by Statistics Canada to permit their further development and broader use.

Through these strategies Statistics Canada believes it will meet its goal of providing ready access to official statistics and analysis that respond to the ever-evolving priority information needs of Canadians and their institutions.

Quality

For Statistics Canada, the pursuit of quality is not a question of achieving arbitrarily high standards, whatever the cost, but rather of ensuring that the standard achieved is appropriate given the intended uses of the information.

Statistics Canada has a strong reputation of providing quality information that is fit for purpose. This reputation for quality is a hallmark of the Agency both domestically and internationally, and something the Agency is absolutely committed to preserving. Some key strategies being deployed are:

  • Pursuing all opportunities to accelerate the availability of statistical information after the reference period to which it refers, without compromising fitness for use;
  • Working with international organizations and other national statistical offices to develop standards for key statistical measures (economic accounts, labour force characteristics, price indices, environmental accounts, etc.) and internationally coherent classifications of industries, occupations and similar characteristics;
  • Applying consistently and in a timely manner, throughout all of the Agency’s programs, updates of adopted classifications and standards;
  • Maintaining comprehensive, current, accurate registers of businesses, farms, institutions and addresses to ensure proper coverage of samples drawn for business and household surveys;
  • Periodically redesigning all statistical programs and re-stratifying samples in order to ensure that estimates remain robust;
  • Providing users with all information necessary for the interpretation and use of statistical data, with full transparency about the accuracy of estimates produced; and
  • Maintaining a state-of-the-art capacity in statistical methodology to support continuous, cost-effective improvement to the Agency’s methods and standards.

Quality, including relevance, is the essential underpinning of a successful national statistical office. A core strategy of Statistics Canada is to limit the scope of the statistical program as necessary in order to ensure its quality is not compromised.

Managing respondent burden

National statistical offices consume two principal scarce resources in their production processes. Financial resources are the first. The willingness of Canadians, Canadian businesses and other institutions to provide us with data through surveys and administrative records is the second.

Canadians and Canadian institutions, while recognizing the value of official statistics, expect Statistics Canada to minimize the burden the Agency places on them through surveys. When Canadians are asked to respond to a survey they expect Statistics Canada to make the process as convenient as possible and to secure their personal information from access by others. The major strategies being pursued by Statistics Canada to meet these expectations are:

  • Increasing use of administrative data, such as income tax records, employment insurance records, health records, and birth registrations, to replace survey data where appropriate;
  • Providing suppliers of administrative data with a secure and user-friendly electronic transmission option through the Internet; and
  • Providing survey respondents with a secure and user-friendly electronic response option through the Internet.

Operational efficiency

Statistics Canada is also expected to provide the largest possible output of statistical information and analysis from the financial resources entrusted to it by Canadians. In its ongoing pursuit of efficiency the Agency has instituted a permanent review of its business architecture (organizational structure, business processes and computer systems) to implement the following key strategies:

  • Establishing single corporate service areas for statistical services such as collection, coding and classification, data capture, survey frame maintenance and telephone and e-mail inquiry services in order to generate and capture economies of scale;
  • Consolidating computer applications to reduce effort required for their development and maintenance;
  • Centralizing all informatics resources (systems analysts and architects, programmers, hardware acquisition and management) to increase coherence and interoperability of systems and achieve economies of scale;
  • Reducing the software tool kit employed in systems development and analysis to reduce acquisition and training costs and facilitate staff mobility;
  • Deploying more cost-effective electronic methods of data collection;
  • Adopting a common corporate project management framework to improve cost and schedule estimation, reporting and delivery of planned results;
  • Improving planning and budgeting processes and extending the planning horizon to ten years;
  • Reducing the number of managerial/supervisory levels where appropriate; and
  • Collaborating with other national statistical offices in the development and sharing of common tools.

Statistics Canada has a strong reputation for both managing respondent burden and operational efficiency. Any new initiatives are, therefore, building on an initial position of considerable strength.

Robustness and Responsiveness

By “robustness”, Statistics Canada means minimal risk of program error or failure due to defects in the design or maintenance of its business processes or systems. “Responsiveness” means the ability to mount new programs quickly and deliver quality results in useful time frames for decision-makers.

Many of the strategies described above for increasing efficiency also serve to increase robustness and responsiveness. Moving to a smaller number of corporately managed business processes and systems means better testing, design, coherence and documentation, all of which significantly enhance robustness. Generalizing business processes and systems means there is no need to build new systems or processes to support a new statistical program, which improves responsiveness.

The Agency’s core strategy for ensuring robustness is the development of a ten-year investment plan that identifies all investments required to ensure both the quality and continuity of all programs, along with their timing, duration and estimated cost by fiscal year. Making these investments is a high planning priority, second only to transformational investments in business architecture that enhance efficiency. A rigorous multi-year planning framework ensures the allocation of resources to these vital investments with optimal efficiency.

Innovative, motivated and professional workforce

A strong focus on its workforce is another hallmark of Statistics Canada. The Agency has, over the years received multiple awards for its strengths as an employer. Employees have responded by building an internationally recognized—in many respects world-leading—statistical program. Maintaining this strong engagement and corporate culture is the key to future success. The main strategies to foster an innovative, motivated and professional workforce are:

  • Maintaining strong recruitment, professional development and career development programs in all core professional groups involved in the business of official statistics (mathematical statisticians, social scientists, and computer analysts and programmers);
  • Professionalizing support functions (communications, collection, classification and coding, etc.) by giving them greater control over how their work objectives are accomplished and by automating routine work leaving more time for value added tasks;
  • Maintaining programs that build a positive, exciting and healthy workplace;
  • Participating actively, nationally and internationally, in professional communities engaged in official statistics; and
  • Introducing programs to stimulate creativity and innovation, particularly at the “grass roots” level.

Ensuring an innovative and motivated workforce will continue to be a key priority going forward.

From strategy to action: Our major program initiatives of the next three years

Statistics Canada has framed a number of initiatives to implement the strategies outlined above. In the following pages, major initiatives starting or ending in fiscal years 2012-13, 2013-14 or 2014-15 are presented.

Relevance

Financial pressures

Budget 2012 and other financial pressures will require Statistics Canada to reduce the scope of its statistical program over the next three fiscal years. Operational efficiencies have allowed the Agency to offset a portion of the budget pressure but reductions in statistical and analytical programs are necessary. Statistics Canada has worked to balance program reductions between economic and social statistics, between analytical and data production programs, and between statistical and administrative functions. Programs required to support fiscal and monetary policy, federal-provincial equalization programs and allocation of tax revenues have been preserved. As a deliberate strategy, Statistics Canada has chosen to reduce the scope of its programs rather than compromise their quality. Under Budget 2012, Statistics Canada’s operating budget was reduced by $33.9 million, or 9.4%. A summary of program reductions arising from Budget 2012 is provided in Annex B.

Censuses of Population and Agriculture

In 2012-13, Statistics Canada will complete the release of results from the 2011 Census of Population. The 2011 Census of Agriculture will release its results in May 2012. Both Censuses were very successful, by any standard. For 2011, many of the questions that had traditionally been part of the mandatory Census were asked on a voluntary basis in the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS). The NHS was conducted simultaneously with the Census of Population, and shared staff and infrastructure with the Census in order to reduce costs. While response rates exceeded initial targets, there still remains a significant potential for response bias. The exact outcome will only be known once all the data quality assessments are complete. Data processing, estimation, weighting and quality assessment for the NHS will continue throughout 2012-13. Release of data from the NHS, along with findings from quality assessments and quality indicators, will occur in 2013-14.

In 2012-13 the Agency will also table its findings on options for the conduct of the 2016 Censuses of Population and Agriculture. Statistics Canada is conducting a more fundamental review of options based on practices in other countries. Planning for the 2016 Censuses will proceed during 2013-14 and 2014-15, including public consultations on the content of the two censuses.

Consumer Price Index

Statistics Canada is in the third year of a multi-year program to further improve the accuracy of the Consumer Price Index, Canada’s most cited measure of inflation. The index will be adjusted more frequently, and on a timelier basis, to reflect changes in consumer spending patterns. A larger number of price quotes will be collected each month and the sample of retail outlets where these quotes are taken will be made more systematic, while introducing new sales outlets more quickly. Efforts to remove quality change from prices will be intensified since price changes resulting from quality changes are not part of inflation. The Consumer Price Index, aside from being a key indicator for monetary policy, is used for indexation of everything from pensions and employment insurance to tax brackets, wages, and alimony.

2012 Survey of Financial Security

Determining the economic well being of households requires timely measurement of both income and wealth, with the distribution of wealth an increasingly important factor as the population ages. Statistics Canada measures incomes annually, but measurement of wealth has been more sporadic. In response to strong demand, the Agency has funded a new iteration of the Survey of Financial Security to be conducted in 2012. Previous iterations were in 2005 (with a reduced sample that limited the utility of the data) and in 1999 (with a larger sample). The 2012 survey will have a sample equal to that of the 1999 iteration. Data will be released in 2013. Statistics Canada is working toward more frequent and regular cycles of this highly relevant survey.

2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey

The Aboriginal Peoples Survey is a national survey of First Nations people living off reserve, Métis and Inuit living in Canada. The survey informs policy and programming activities that are aimed at improving the well-being of Aboriginal peoples and is an important source of information for a variety of stakeholders including Aboriginal organizations, communities, service providers, researchers, governments and the general public.

Statistics Canada was pleased to secure funding from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada for a fourth iteration of the Aboriginal Peoples Survey to be conducted by the Agency on a cost-recovery basis. This cycle of the survey will focus on education, employment and health for the off-reserve aboriginal population.

Environment Statistics

Statistics Canada recognizes that its environmental statistics program is insufficient to support current public debate and program formulation. Environmental statistics need to be comprehensive, coherent and incorporated into the national statistical system in a manner that permits analysis in relationship to such dimensions as economic activity, well being, and health. Statistics Canada has also been a significant player in the development of the United Nations’ System of Environmental and Economic Accounts, which seek to develop environmental accounts which parallel and can draw on the national accounts. In order to develop its environmental statistics program, the Agency has moved to establish a conceptual framework for the program, in consultation with stakeholders and data users. This work is expected to be completed in 2012-13. Once complete, the framework will be used to identify and prioritize data gaps in environmental statistics. This prioritization will be used to guide Statistics Canada’s developmental efforts in this area.

Analysis of administrative data and record linkage

Statistics Canada analysts have demonstrated, in recent years, the power of administrative data to answer policy relevant questions. Linkage of administrative data records through time or across files represents a very low cost, but powerful, method of data development. The Agency will intensify its efforts in this area over the next three years while protecting the privacy of individuals and ensuring the security of data in its care.

Micro-data simulation

Similarly, Agency analysts have demonstrated the power of exploiting existing survey and administrative data sets to generate new insights through micro-data simulation. The Social Policy Simulation Database and Model allows users to simulate the impact of various tax and other policy interventions on socio-economic outcomes. The Demosim model has allowed Statistics Canada to generate population projections for the aboriginal population and will play a role in quality assessment for the 2011 National Household Survey. Persim has allowed Statistics Canada, and the federal government at large, to benefit from a workforce projection tool to support human resources management. Statistics Canada will invest significantly in the development of the underlying software tool and its applications over the next three fiscal years.

Accessibility

The second dimension of relevance, as discussed above, is access to data. Statistics Canada will also be very active in this domain over the next three years.

Dissemination model

In February 2012, Statistics Canada eliminated a long-standing irritant for data users, its practice of charging for many of its standard data products. As of this date, all standard products have been made available for free on Statistics Canada web site. At the same time, the Agency removed all restrictions and fees for re-dissemination of its data, moving from a policy of restriction of re-dissemination to one of encouragement. In April 2012, the Agency moved to a single 8:30 A.M. (Eastern) release time for all its data. Over the next three years, the Agency will continue to develop its dissemination model to offer more user-friendly solutions for data users and to empower them to automate the retrieval and re-use of official statistics. Statistics Canada will move away from print publishing to focus on electronic delivery solutions that are more flexible and offer lower costs. The Agency will also expand its role as a portal for official statistics from other federal departments and agencies. Finally, the Agency will increase its engagement with the federal government’s Open Data initiative.

Micro-data access

Over the next three years Statistics Canada will continue to expand research based on business and household micro-data. Together with its partner granting councils and universities, the Agency will further extend its pan-Canadian network of research data centres where researchers and analysts conduct projects of mutual interest requiring access to household micro-data. As an adjunct to the data centres, the Agency has developed a prototype tool that will allow researchers and analysts to securely work with microdata remotely from their desktops while preserving the security of confidential information. Over the next three years, the new tool will be pilot tested by federal government analysts and then made available to academic and private sector researchers and analysts more broadly.

While the Agency has been very successful in increasing research exploitation of household micro-data, thus far this has been less true of business micro-data. To add to the momentum in this type of research, Statistics Canada, working in partnership with other federal departments, will launch in 2012-13 a new project looking at the productivity of Canadian enterprises. Lagging productivity relative to Canada’s southern neighbour is of significant policy concern in Canada. It is now generally believed that understanding productivity requires analysis at the level of the individual firm. The newly developed Centre for Data Development and Economic Research will now play an important role in advancing research related to business data.

Quality

Over fiscal years 2012-13 to 2014-15 a large number of projects intended to maintain the quality of statistical programs will be undertaken. The following are some of the most significant either beginning or ending in the next three years.

Historical Revision of the System of National Accounts

To ensure international comparability, Canada’s economic accounts (Gross Domestic Product, Gross National Income, etc.) are based on a set of international standards adopted by the United Nations Statistical Commission. An updated standard was approved in 2008, with all member countries committing to implement the standard at the earliest possible opportunity. To support economic policy, the new standard must be applied to current data, but the historical time series must also be revised to a comparable basis. Major historical revisions such as this also afford Statistics Canada an opportunity to introduce other changes and improvements, such as the reflection of new benchmark data. Implementation of the 2008 System of National Accounts standard has been underway for several years and will culminate with the release of the revised series in the fall of 2012. A further series of improvements to the economic accounts will be implemented in 2014-15.

Major survey redesigns

The monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS) is Statistics Canada’s largest ongoing household survey and the LFS infrastructure supports many other social statistics programs. Designed to produce estimates of employment and unemployment at the national, provincial, census metropolitan area and economic region levels with data available within seven days of the end of the reference month, the LFS is a major factor in defining the collection infrastructure maintained by Statistics Canada. Surveys on related topics are often conducted simultaneously with the monthly survey, while the survey sample is also often reused in other statistical programs.

The LFS is redesigned after each decennial census (censuses in a year ending in a “1”) with the redesign covering survey content as well as all aspects of the survey sample design and survey operations. As with all survey redesigns, a major focus will be the adoption, in the interest of efficiency, of common business processes and systems. The redesign will begin in 2012-13 and be fully complete in 2016-17.

Several other major surveys will begin redesigns in 2012-13 including the Canadian Community Health Survey (the Agency’s principal population health survey, to be completed by 2015-16) and the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (the principal source of labour income data used in the System of National Accounts, beginning in 2013-14 to be completed by 2016-17).

Government Finance Statistics Program

Statistics Canada publishes a comprehensive set of government finance statistics. They encompass all levels of government by converting distinct sets of financial statements into one consistent, comparable set of financial statistics. This enables comparison of government finances across jurisdictions. The revenue statistics from this program are used in the equalization program of the Federal–Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act.

The statistical framework for these data must be revised to reflect changes to international financial and statistical accounting practices. By November 2013, data for the Fiscal Arrangements Act will move to the new standard. The remainder of the data program, which is used by governments for analytical and forecasting purposes, as well as for reporting to international agencies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), covers expenditures by function of government (e.g., health, education). Changes to this part of the program will be implemented incrementally from 2014 to 2016.

Statistics Canada will document and implement the first phase of the new IMF standard and finalize the publication schedule for the remainder of the program.

Canadian accounting standards in survey programs

Canada has adopted the new International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) as the standard for corporate accounting. Accounting information is the foundation of much of the Economic Statistics Program; thus, it has been necessary to study the effects of these changes on the data that will be available from corporations, and to adapt statistical surveys and programs to accommodate the changes in the available information. These necessary modifications will be implemented to ensure that the economic data continue on a consistent basis. Specific impacts on the data will be highlighted in Statistics Canada releases to help users through this transition.

In the coming period, Statistics Canada will modify the collection instruments of the Quarterly Survey of Financial Statements to reflect the new accounting standards and adapt to the changes that occurred in accounts related to businesses’ balance sheets and income statements.

Industrial and Commodity Classifications

Coherent presentation of statistics (by industry or by commodity, within Statistics Canada, or between Statistics Canada and other national and international producers of statistics) requires the development of standard classifications. For this purpose, Statistics Canada works closely with statistical offices in the United States and Mexico to develop classifications that are in turn consistent with standards developed by the United Nations.

The current industrial classification standard, adopted by Statistics Canada in November 2011 is the 2012 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). This classification will be applied to economic statistics programs throughout Statistics Canada in 2013. Work is underway on the next update to the NAICS standard for release in 2017.

Also beginning in 2012-13, Statistics Canada will be implementing the 2012 North American Product Classification System (NAPCS). This work, to be completed in 2014-15, will replace a number of specialized classifications that had been in use in some programs, contributing both to coherence of commodity-level data and to the efficiency of businesses processes. Work will also begin shortly on the next version of NAPCS, also expected in 2017.

Communicating about data quality

Beginning in 2012-13, Statistics Canada will place even greater emphasis on communicating with data users on topics of data quality. A new guide will be made available to assist users in assessing the quality of surveys that can be applied to any survey, whether from Statistics Canada or some other source. Documentation to assist users in understanding and interpreting seasonally adjusted data will be updated and referenced in all data releases that make use of seasonal adjustment. Periodic post mortem meetings will be organized with key data users and analysts to discuss major economic indicators and to hear any concerns they might have regarding data quality, to explain quality assurance procedures at Statistics Canada, and to identify opportunities for improvements to either communications or programs in these vital areas.

Efficiency, Robustness, Responsiveness

Statistics Canada’s Corporate Business Architecture initiative, launched in 2009, is pursuing the triple objective of increasing the efficiency, robustness, and responsiveness of the Agency’s organizational structure, business processes and business systems. In its initial phases, the focus has been explicitly on increased efficiency. Now, savings will be reinvested in projects leading to further efficiencies, and, in projects increasing robustness or responsiveness, and ultimately in new statistical programs for Canadians. A management committee has been established with a mandate to pursue this agenda aggressively. Proposals from the committee are given the highest priority in the annual multi-year planning process. Some of the more significant initiatives currently underway are summarized below.

Frame Integration

While Statistics Canada has had a central business register for some time, operations related to the maintenance of lists of businesses, farms and other institutions for purposes of sampling had remained relatively decentralized. Similarly, sampling for social surveys was based on relatively expensive area frames, list frames, or relatively ineffective random-digit dialling approaches. Under the guidance of the Corporate Business Architecture management committee, all frame activity related to businesses, farms or other institutions are being incorporated into the central business register, reducing systems costs and simplifying business processes. As of 2012-13, the farm register, the largest operation outside the central business register, had been largely incorporated and work was well advanced on the integration of other institution-based frames. Statistics Canada has committed to an address register as the frame that will support both the census and other ongoing general population surveys. Significant progress has been made in achieving this objective with work continuing on both initiatives during the period 2012-13 to 2014-15.

Common Processing Environments

Historically, the processing of Statistics Canada’s survey and administrative data has been decentralized with individual program areas developing processing systems for individual surveys or files. As processing steps, while quite different between household and business surveys, are otherwise very similar from survey to survey and program to program, this level of customization is inefficient. The Agency is developing shared processing environments for business surveys and for household surveys. The environment being developed for household surveys will be designed to allow it to be used for the Census of Population as well. Work on these common processing environments is now well advanced. Over the next three years existing programs will be progressively linked to the new environment. Significant economies will be realized by maintaining a much smaller and more robust set of processing systems.

Integrated Collection and Operation Systems

For efficient operations, Statistics Canada needs to be able to start a survey in any mode (paper, e-questionnaire, telephone interview, personal interview) and pursue collection of the survey using any other combination of modes (for example, starting with the least expensive mode despite low response rates and ending with other modes that typically yield higher response rates). The Agency needs to be able to securely move cases easily between its multiple call centres, and between call centres and its workforce of personal interviewers working out of their own homes. Calls must be made first at the time at which they are most likely to generate a response. Collection effort must be directed to achieve the best possible quality. Information about individual cases must be available in real time to detect issues related to interviewer or questionnaire performance. Intelligence about business failures or industry shifts must be fed back to the survey frame. And all of this work must be accomplished with the smallest number of systems and processes possible, while collection business processes are centralized to achieve economies of scale.

Significant progress has been made over the past four years in centralizing and streamlining collection activity. The focus in the next four years will be to further develop collection systems to achieve the targeted level of flexibility between modes and sites.

Statistical Information Management and Data Service Centres

Much like processing systems, statistical information management has, historically, been highly decentralized at Statistics Canada. Meta-data (information required to manage and use statistical information) has been inconsistently developed and managed. Both meta-data and the data itself have traditionally been stored on servers belonging to individual programs using a wide variety of software and under a wide-variety of storage and retention policies.

Under the Corporate Business Architecture initiative, Statistics Canada has established a common, corporate statistical information management policy framework. The Agency has committed to driving the development of statistical programs through the progressive creation and storage of metadata, thereby ensuring the consistent and timely development of metadata. Over the next three years, the Agency will move to implement data service centres with statistical information stored on corporately managed physical storage using common tools and formats. As a first step, reusable IT components will be piloted by two major projects in the economic statistics program to support their integration with core services including generalized methodology systems, the Business Register, taxation data, and standards.

International Collaboration

The processes involved in conducting a survey or exploiting an administrative data file for statistical purposes are very similar from one national statistical office to the next. Past practice has demonstrated that national statistical offices can realize savings by sharing tools. Statistics Canada, for example, uses a tool developed by Statistics Netherlands for its computer assisted interviewing applications. The Agency is looking at another tool, developed by the OECD, for publishing its databank on the Internet. In both cases, use of the external tools reduces operational costs by avoiding custom development. Statistics Canada has also made its tools available on an “as is” basis to other countries.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s Conference of European Statisticians and an ad hoc group of national statistical offices from countries with advanced statistical systems convened by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, have both concluded that there is potential for even greater economies through further standardization of processes and tools, and potentially through joint development of key applications.

These initiatives are at a formative stage and Statistics Canada is actively engaged in the discussions. In 2012-13 the Agency is committing resources to the joint development of a generalized statistical information model. Adoption of such a model would significantly increase the probability that a statistical tool developed in one country could be used by another. Statistics Canada is also exploring models for collaborative development with other national statistical offices, including open source development models.

International Technical Assistance

While Statistics Canada’s formal mandate does not include technical assistance to other countries, there is a recognized obligation of developed countries to assist developing countries in establishing a solid and credible statistical system. Statistics Canada is being encouraged in this regard by the Canadian International Development Agency and has established a new partnership to provide management training to 150 African, Caribbean and Latin American senior statisticians over five years.

Reducing Respondent Burden

As mentioned previously, the second scarce resource consumed by national statistical offices, after financial resources, is respondent patience. Respondents argue, reasonably, that they should not have to provide the same information to the federal government twice. When they are required to provide information, respondents want to do so in a way that is convenient to them. And respondents want to be assured that their private information will not be disclosed to third parties.

Statistics Canada has a number of initiatives underway to reduce burden on business and household respondents. A commitment was made in response to the Red Tape Reduction Commission in 2011-12 to intensify existing efforts to replace business survey data with administrative data, primarily from tax sources. The work will begin in 2012-13. Beyond these commitments, the Agency embedded a test in the 2011 Census of Agriculture to determine whether taxation data could be used to avoid asking income questions on this census. The results will be analyzed with a positive outcome considered highly likely for the 2016 Census of Agriculture. In 2012-13 work will also be initiated to establish an inventory of administrative data available within the federal government as the first step in planning for further reductions in direct surveying of Canadians and Canadian businesses. Discussions have also been initiated with the provincial and territorial governments with the same objective.

Canadians have shown, in the 2011 Census of Population and in various business surveys that they appreciate the convenience and security of an Internet based e-questionnaire response option, provided that it is offered in a user friendly way. The 2011 Census achieved an Internet response rate of over 50%. Statistics Canada is well-advanced in the development of a generalized infrastructure for Internet-based data collection capable of supporting business and household surveys including the Censuses of Population and Agriculture. Over the next three years this new infrastructure will be deployed to make e-questionnaires the default option for business surveys and a response option for the Agency’s major household surveys, including the Labour Force Survey, the Canadian Community Health Survey, and the General Social Survey.

In addition to making survey response more convenient for respondents, e-questionnaire approaches produce a higher quality of data and can generate efficiencies when compared to traditional collection methods that require an interviewer provided e-questionnaire becomes the default mode (as is planned for business surveys where this mode is likely also to be the mode preferred by respondents).

Our management initiatives

In addition to its many business initiatives, Statistics Canada will also be conducting some significant projects with respect to its internal services (human resources administration, financial administration, procurement, records management, corporate communications, etc.) during the period 2012-13 to 2014-15.

Administrative Services Review

The federal government is committed to achieving efficiencies through the adoption of common business processes and systems, and, where appropriate, through centralization of services that offer economies of scale, and do not need to be provided locally. To this end, the government has prescribed software tools to be used in various functions and, through the creation of Shared Services Canada, has begun in the area of informatics to centralize technology services (e-mail, network services, telecommunications, data centres, etc.). Statistics Canada is responding to these government wide priorities and will work towards their implementation.

Statistics Canada’s back office systems supporting human resource and financial administration are quite efficient by any standard; however, the Agency is not currently using any of the software tools that have been prescribed in these two domains. The Agency recognizes a need to replace its existing tools for record management, but once again does not have in place the tool now prescribed for use by departments. The required financial and information technology resources to move forward on these three fronts alone are substantial. The Agency is currently exploring different scenarios that would allow it to make progress on these fronts over the next three years.

A complicating factor for Statistics Canada is that its internal working network is physically segregated from the Internet. This approach has been adopted by the Agency over time to secure the confidential information supplied to it by individuals and organizations. While the Agency itself has recognized that this arrangement is neither optimal nor necessary to secure its confidential data holdings, it is also clear that neither its applications nor its hardware have been hardened sufficiently to allow the internal network to be connected to the Internet without a major investment of both time and money.

In 2011-12, Statistics Canada was one of 44 departments that transferred many of its informatics technology functions to Shared Service Canada. Measures were put in place between the two departments to ensure that the confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act were respected. Shared Services Canada now operates most of the hardware infrastructure supporting Statistics Canada. The physical segregation of Statistics Canada’s working environment appears incompatible with the goals of Shared Services Canada. The two organizations will be working over the next three years to find a timely and affordable solution to these issues.

Administrative Process Review and Automation Project

Statistics Canada has booked into its financial plans significant savings from a comprehensive review and automation of its internal services. While the pursuit of this review will be complicated by uncertainties about the pace and focus of the government-wide review, realization of the planned savings is essential to the delivery of its business plan and the project will therefore proceed during the period 2012-13 to 2014-15.

Consolidation of IT staff and assets

As part of its Corporate Business Architecture initiative, in order to gain greater corporate control over IT staff and assets, and in order to standardize tool kits, systems architecture and processes, Statistics Canada has undertaken to centralize its IT staff and assets. The last group to be consolidated will join the Informatics Branch in 2012-13. Some residual organizational and staffing issues remain to be resolved by 2013-14. The creation of Shared Services Canada came in the middle of this consolidation, which has somewhat altered the Agency’s plans and requires development of governance processes and institutions between the two departments that will be worked out in 2012-13.

Long-term planning and project management

Statistics Canada has modified its planning processes to focus on the identification and funding of investments required to ensure the efficiency, continuity and quality of its program. A central piece of the new process is a 10-year capital plan. The cyclical and foreseeable nature of investments required for statistical programs allows for a high degree of confidence in these projections. The timing of the annual corporate planning process has also been adjusted to better integrate federal budgeting processes. The 2012-13 planning process was the first under the new regime, which continues to be refined.

While Statistics Canada has a long-tradition of successful project management, up to and including the quinquennial Census (the largest peace-time operation of the federal government), the flavour and formality of project management tools varied considerably across the Agency. Given the large scale of projects being undertaken as a result of changes to the corporate business architecture, the Agency has created a departmental project management office with the mission to define and implement a common approach and tool kit for project management at Statistics Canada. In 2012-13 these tools are being applied to the long-term planning process, to the management of all significant investments under the business architecture initiative, and progressively to all projects involving significant expenditures.

A vibrant and innovative workplace

Statistics Canada is widely recognized for its professional and innovative workforce. As the Agency moves forward during this period of fiscal restraint, creativity and innovation will be the drivers for progress. Starting in the second half of 2012-13, Statistics Canada management will be engaging employees to find inventive ways to become a more innovative organization.

Our planned spending

Statistics Canada’s spending can be seen as composed of three pieces: spending for the ongoing programs of economic and social statistics and the internal services that support these programs; spending for the Censuses of Population and Agriculture that varies tremendously from year to year and is highest in years when the Censuses are in collection (2011, 2016); and spending related to statistical work that is done on a cost-recovery basis on behalf of other organizations (primarily, but not only, federal departments and agencies). The spending plan outlined below will allow Statistics Canada to deliver its base program as adjusted in the wake of Budget 2012, as well as the specific initiatives discussed in this plan.

Planned Spending Table
Forecast spending 2011-12 Planned spending 2012-13 Planned spending 2013-14 Planned spending 2014-15
thousands of dollars
Economic Statistics 188,471 174,020 174,585 176,243
Social Statistics 130,282 119,365 119,288 119,271
Census, Demography and Aboriginal Statistics 338,210 66,796 21,858 14,094
Internal Services 96,068 94,500 94,460 94,452
Re-spendable revenues 110,000 80,000 90,000 100,000
Budget 2012   (8,200) (25,651) (33,865)
Total 863,031 526,481 474,540 470,193

The last word

Statistics Canada’s plan for the next three years to deliver value to Canadians is ambitious and broad in scope, yet achievable. While meeting reduced budgetary targets, the Agency will make progress on addressing a number of pressing information needs. While ensuring that all necessary investments are made to ensure the continuity and quality of its programs, the Agency will make substantial progress in improving the efficiency, robustness and responsiveness of its operations. While delivering its program commitments, the Agency will reinforce its innovative culture in order to deliver, in future, ever greater value to Canadians from the resources entrusted to its care.

Annex A

Maintaining relevance

To maintain the relevance of its programs, Statistics Canada must consult widely and frequently with data users and other stakeholders. The following listing describes the principal venues through which these consultations are held, typically once a year but no less that once every two years.

Advisory Committees

National Statistics Council sits at the pinnacle of a system of advisory committees that brings together distinguished Canadians with a strong knowledge of Canada’s national statistical system and a strong interest in participating in its development. The Council normally meets twice a year to advise Statistics Canada on its programs and priorities. Other advisory committees, listed below, bring together distinguished experts in a particular field to provide more detailed guidance on program operation and implementation. Two new advisory committees were added recently, one dealing with environmental statistics and the other with data dissemination.

  • Agriculture Statistics
  • Canadian Health Measures
  • Demographic Statistics and Studies
  • Dissemination
  • Environment Statistics
  • International Trade
  • Labour and Income Statistics
  • National Accounts
  • Population Health Survey
  • Postsecondary Education Statistics
  • Price Measurement
  • Services Statistics
  • Social Conditions
  • Statistical Methods

Consultation and collaboration with the provinces and territories

Statistics Canada has asked each province and territory to name an individual within their administration to serve as a focal point for the Agency on statistical matters. Most provinces and territories have chosen to name the head of their provincial or territorial statistical office. In its operations, Statistics Canada liaises with the focal points on an ongoing basis. Each year, the Chief Statistician meets with the focal points as the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Consultative Council on Statistical Policy to discuss high-level issues of priorities, statistical policies and programs. Under the aegis of the Consultative Council, a number of more specialized committees (listed below) have been struck to discuss more detailed issues of program operation and implementation. Of these committees, the Vital Statistics Council is of somewhat different character. The Council has been in existence as long as Statistics Canada itself and is, in effect, managing the operations of the collection and exchange of vital statistics data (births, deaths, marriages, divorces, morbidity). In statistical areas that are primarily of provincial and territorial jurisdiction, more elaborate mechanisms of collaboration and consultation exist. These are described below:

  • Agriculture Statistics
  • Business Statistics
  • Census of Population
  • Demography
  • Economic Accounts
  • Energy Statistics
  • Labour Statistics
  • Mineral Statistics (hosted by Natural Resources Canada)
  • Social Statistics
  • Transportation Statistics
  • Vital Statistics Council for Canada

Departmental Audit Committee

This committee, comprising three knowledgeable Canadians from outside the Public Service, advises the Chief Statistician on the adequacy of the Agency’s control framework for its operational, financial and administrative activities. It reviews the Agency’s performance in terms of compliance, efficiency and economy. It also reviews, approves and disseminates the internal audit policy, reviews and approves audit plans and reports and advises on actions to be taken in response to major audit findings and recommendations.

Other Regular Multi-lateral and Bilateral Meetings

  • Canadian Education Statistics Council
  • Deputy Ministers Responsible for Justice and Public Safety
  • Canadian Council of Cancer Registries
  • Longitudinal Health Administrative Data Initiative Steering Committee

Annex B

Impacts of Budget 2012

The following is a comprehensive list of programs identified for elimination or reduction to meet Statistics Canada’s savings target announced in Economic Action Plan 2012 of $33.9 million by 2014-15.

The savings achieved through these program adjustments represent moderate reductions in the production of statistics in support of policy development, administration and evaluation, while continuing to meet the highest priority needs for public purposes. In some cases, the information will continue to be available in a different format.

Program adjustments by sector

Aboriginal Statistics

Aboriginal Statistical Training Program
The program is discontinued. The course material is available upon request.

Agriculture

Agriculture Value Added Account
The program is discontinued. Custom data tables on the Agriculture Value Added Account continue to be available on a cost-recovery basis from the Agriculture Economic Statistics program.

Farm Business Cash Flows
The program is discontinued. Custom data tables on the Farm Business Cash Flows continue to be available on a cost-recovery basis from the Agriculture Economic Statistics program.

Farm Cash Receipts
Data will be released semi-annually instead of quarterly.

Farm Product Price Index
Data will be released quarterly instead of monthly.

Farm Product Prices Survey
The following four components of the survey are discontinued: Potato prices; Straw and hay prices; Grain and oilseed prices; Grain and specialty crop prices.

Field Crop Reporting Series: The December Farm Survey
The program is discontinued.

Fruit and Vegetable Survey
Data will be released once a year instead of twice a year.

Hog Survey
Data will be collected twice a year instead of quarterly.

Net Farm Income
Data will be released once a year instead of twice a year.

Culture

Surveys of Government Expenditures on Culture
The program is discontinued.

Economy – General

Composite Leading Indicator
The program is discontinued. Similar information is available from other sources.

Education

Education Matters: Insights on Education, Learning and Training in Canada
The publication is discontinued. In future, analytical articles on education themes will be published directly on Statistics Canada's website.

Salaries and Salary Scales of Full-time Teaching Staff at Canadian Universities
The program is discontinued.

Energy

Annual Coal Mines Survey
The program is discontinued.

Annual Contract Drilling and Services to Oil and Gas Extraction Survey
The program is discontinued.

Annual Electricity Utility Financial Survey
The program is discontinued.

Annual Gas Utilities/Transport and Distribution Survey
The program is discontinued.

Annual Oil Pipeline Transport Survey
The program is discontinued.

Health

Residential Care Facilities
The program is discontinued.

Labour and Income

Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics
The longitudinal dimension of the survey will be dropped. Statistics Canada will continue to conduct a survey to produce annual estimates on income.

Non-profit Sector

Satellite account of non-profit institutions and volunteering
This program is discontinued.

Public Sector Statistics

Public Sector Employment Program
This program is discontinued.

Science and Technology

Provincial Scientific Activity Surveys
This program is discontinued.

Survey of Federal Intellectual Property Management
This program is discontinued.

Survey of Intellectual Property and Commercialization in the Higher Education Sector
This program is discontinued.

Service Industries

Annual Survey of Service Industries: Personal Services
This program is discontinued.

Quarterly Industry Revenue Indices
This program is discontinued.

Transport

Air Carrier Operations in Canada Survey (Civil Aviation Surveys)
Release of this information will now occur 20 months after the reference period rather than 14.

Air Passenger Origin and Destination, Canada – U.S.A.
Release of this information will now occur 20 months after the reference period rather than 14.

Annual and Quarterly Trucking Surveys
This program is discontinued.

Fare Basis Survey
Release of this information will now occur 20 months after the reference period rather than 14.

Marine Origin and Destination Survey
This program is discontinued.

New Motor Vehicle Sales Survey
Only data not adjusted for seasonality will continue to be available.

Program adjustments across sectors

Efficiencies through increased use of electronic data collection

Statistics Canada will continue its migration to electronic data collection for a number of business and household surveys. Increasing the use of online collection improves the cost-effectiveness of programs and provides respondents with an easy, accessible way to complete surveys.

Streamlining dissemination of publications

Statistics Canada is developing an innovative, web-based approach to releasing publications and analytical reports. This new approach will reduce the number of print publications to make analytical products accessible online to Canadians in a more timely fashion, at no charge.