Statistics Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

More frequently asked questions for business surveys

How are businesses selected for a survey?

The majority of Statistics Canada business surveys are sample surveys. This means that only certain businesses in a particular industry, within each province and territory, are selected to receive the survey questionnaire. Together, the sampled businesses represent the entire industry being studied. Most businesses in the sample are randomly selected to represent other businesses with similar characteristics, such as revenue or number of employees. Some businesses must be included in the sample because they contribute substantially to their particular industry or region.

A small number of our business surveys are census surveys, which include all the businesses of significant size in a particular industry. A census is used when the industry being surveyed includes only a small number of firms, or firms that are very unlike one another. In such cases, a sample would not accurately reflect the entire industry being studied.

Why are businesses required by law to respond?

Canadians need accurate and reliable information as the cornerstone of democratic decision-making. Through the Statistics Act, Parliament has mandated Statistics Canada, as the national statistical agency, to produce such information.

Business surveys provide important economic information. It is used by businesses, unions, non-profit organizations and all levels of government to make informed decisions in many areas.

Because most business surveys feed directly or indirectly into legally mandated programs, mandatory response is required to ensure an adequate response rate and, therefore, reliable results.

Is the information provided by businesses confidential?

The Statistics Act protects respondents' information.

The Statistics Act contains very strict confidentiality provisions that protect collected information from unauthorized access. Agencies such as the Canada Revenue Agency, the RCMP and the courts do not have access to individual survey responses.

All Statistics Canada employees take an oath of secrecy and face severe penalties for any breach of confidentiality.

Access is strictly controlled

All Statistics Canada employees are responsible for ensuring the security of confidential information. Only employees who need to view confidential files as part of their duties are authorized to access them. A network of physical security systems and procedures protects confidential information against unauthorized access.

An important element of Statistics Canada's security system is the electronic protection of survey data stored in computer databases. Confidential data are stored and processed on an internal network that has no physical connection with external networks. This prevents any possible access by outside "hackers."

Confidentiality is ensured before data can be released

Statistics Canada takes special care to prevent published statistics from being used to derive information about a particular company. The Agency carefully screens final results before releasing them to ensure the confidentiality of published information.

Will the information from businesses be shared?

The Statistics Act prohibits Statistics Canada from releasing any information that identifies or could be used to identify an individual, business or organization. However, the joint collection and sharing of survey information with third parties is allowed under certain conditions specified in the Statistics Act.

Data-sharing agreements

To avoid duplicating surveys, Statistics Canada sometimes enters into joint collection and sharing agreements with federal or provincial government departments, and with other organizations. This reduces the overall paperwork imposed on businesses. Whenever this is done, Statistics Canada must inform respondents at the time of collection. Specifically, the Agency must tell them whether a data-sharing agreement applies to the information they provide and exactly what information is to be shared with which organization. Statistics Canada must also tell respondents about any right that they may have under the Statistics Act to refuse to share their information.

Confidentiality waivers

Statistics Canada is also allowed to disclose identifiable information when the respondent has given written consent to release it, thus waiving their right to the confidentiality protection provided by the Statistics Act.

Information collected under the Corporations Returns Act

In addition to its primary mandate under the Statistics Act, Statistics Canada is also responsible for administering the Corporations Returns Act. This legislation was enacted to monitor the extent of foreign ownership of Canadian corporations. Surveys conducted under the Corporations Returns Act are the only ones in which Statistics Canada is authorized to release certain non-financial information on specific corporations. This information relates to the corporation's ownership, province of head office, country of control and industrial classification.

The Canada Revenue Agency does not have access to individual responses

The Statistics Act allows Statistics Canada access to administrative records from the Canada Revenue Agency to reduce the paperwork imposed on businesses by government. However, the reverse is not true; the Canada Revenue Agency does not have access to individual records from Statistics Canada nor is it party to any data-sharing agreements with Statistics Canada.

How does Statistics Canada make it easier for businesses to respond?

Statistics Canada is trying to balance the burden its surveys place on respondents with the need for detailed business statistics. 

What is the Unified Enterprise Survey (UES) program?

The Unified Enterprise Survey program incorporates several annual business surveys into a single framework, using questionnaires with a consistent look, structure and content.

The standard Unified Enterprise Survey questionnaires collect consistent data from large and small businesses in different industries. The combined results produce more coherent and accurate statistics on the economy, particularly at the provincial/territorial and industry levels.

The unified approach makes reporting easier for firms operating in different industries because they can provide similar information for each branch operation. This way they avoid having to respond to questionnaires that differ for each industry in terms of format, wording and even concepts.

Electronic reporting

Statistics Canada offers the option of electronic data reporting through the Internet for some surveys. Electronic reporting allows companies to extract information directly from their data systems or to complete a questionnaire online and transmit it electronically to Statistics Canada. In offering such options, Statistics Canada provides strict electronic safeguards to secure the confidentiality of company-specific data.

Replacing surveys with data from other sources

Statistics Canada has greatly reduced the response burden by using administrative data that businesses have already filed with government, such as annual tax returns and monthly employee payroll records. For example, the monthly Survey of Employment Payrolls and Hours (SEPH), with a sample of 70,000 businesses, was replaced in 1998 by the Business Payroll Survey, with a sample of only 10,000.

Customized reporting arrangements

Large companies with multiple operations in different industries and provinces have the option of special, customized reporting arrangements for the Unified Enterprise Survey. For example, such a business can receive all questionnaires covering its branch locations at the company's head office. The company can also choose to receive, for each province and industry in which it operates, a combined questionnaire covering all its branches in that province or industry.

Fewer and faster monthly surveys

Monthly surveys provide timely data for monitoring trends in prices, trade, manufacturing and employment. Statistics Canada strives to make them easy to complete, by keeping them to a single page whenever possible. In recent years, Statistics Canada has substantially reduced the size of samples for monthly surveys by using administrative data.

Why doesn't Statistics Canada get business financial information from the Canada Revenue Agency?

Whenever possible, Statistics Canada does use administrative data already filed with government, such as annual tax returns.

However, those records do not contain all the information required to make an accurate profile of the industry. This is especially true for large firms operating in diverse industries and in more than one province.

Note: Statistics Canada does not share any individual survey responses with the Canada Revenue Agency.

Who uses business survey results?

The business sector benefits directly from the information businesses provide Statistics Canada. Survey responses are used to compile complete and accurate statistics on many industries and commodities.

Businesses use industry statistics to:

  • track their performance against industry averages;
  • evaluate expansion plans;
  • prepare business plans for investors;
  • adjust inflation-indexed contracts and entitlements;
  • plan marketing strategies.

Industry associations, business analysts and investors use the data to:

  • analyze the economic performance of various industries;
  • better understand rapidly evolving business environments, such as global communications networks, free trade and new technologies.

Governments use the data when making decisions about:

  • programs to promote domestic and international competitiveness;
  • fiscal, monetary and foreign exchange policies;
  • programs and policies to assist businesses;
  • calculating federal-provincial fiscal transfers and equalization payments.

How can businesses access published results from Statistics Canada?

The Daily is Statistics Canada's official release vehicle. It contains the results of Statistics Canada's surveys every working day. It is also archived to permit a search for information from past releases.

In addition to The Daily, the Statistics Canada website offers a wealth of information. Statistical tables on wide-ranging topics can be at found at:

This module provides a statistical portrait of Canada and its people. You will also find the most recent data from the 2006 Census.

This site contains hundreds of statistical tables searchable by subject, by province or territory, or by metropolitan area. These tables provide data on topics such as business performance, labour markets and prices as well as information on different sectors such as trade, manufacturing, construction, economic accounts and services.

  • Publications

You can order Statistics Canada publications and electronic products from this site, and also download several free internet publications.

Over 700 libraries have a selection of Statistics Canada publications. Under the Depository Services Program, a number of libraries carry every publication from Statistics Canada.

For more information about publications and products:

Toll-free telephone (Canada and the United States), please call us at: 1-800-263-1136.
National TTY line (teletype machine): 1-800-363-7629.
Fax: 1-877-287-4369
E-mail: infostats@statcan.gc.ca