Modernization: a key to Statistics Canada's efforts to reduce response burden

January 24, 2019

The Chief Statistician of Canada has issued the following statement.

For a hundred years, Canadian businesses, governments and citizens have come to rely on quality, timely and relevant statistics and insights from Statistics Canada. Key socioeconomic indicators, societal trends and analytical reports on the state of various sectors and trade are routinely used by Canadians, businesses and governments to make important decisions.

Statistics Canada's modernization efforts are responding to issues raised by Canadians, obtained through extensive coast-to-coast consultations held this past year. We have started an ambitious journey to provide timely, relevant and quality information that Canadians expect and deserve from their national statistical agency with the strong privacy and confidentiality protections. In addition to the needs for more detailed, timely and high-quality information, citizens and businesses across the country said that they want us to be mindful of the burden placed by survey questionnaires, and to continue to reduce duplication and increase coordination with existing data sources.

In responding to the concerns of survey burden and fatigue, we are taking a number of concrete steps. For example, our Questionnaire Design Research Centre as well as our Business Response Management Committee are doubling their efforts in ensuring that we ask questions that are essential, where we cannot obtain the same information from an alternate sources, and that they can be interpreted correctly and as easy as possible to respond. In the agriculture sector for example, we have been working to produce farm data – without contacting farmers – and aiming towards an objective of producing all the needed information by this important economic driver without asking a single questionnaire from an agricultural operator. And the Accumulated Response Burden Initiative limits the time in which a small business must remain in a survey sample and exempts businesses from Statistics Canada for a year: it has resulted in nearly 26,000 questionnaires not being sent to small businesses and farms since 2015.

Our ability to provide high quality information is intrinsically tied to the participation of Canadian businesses and citizens in our surveys. Their participation and support allows us to turn survey results and the responsible use of administrative data into reliable information and insights for a better Canada.

Statistics Canada is experimenting, conducting pilot projects and pathfinder projects, using more innovative methods, leveraging new public and private sources of administrative data, crowdsourcing, and using scanner data, with our continued commitment to privacy and confidentiality that Canadians expect of us. It is not just a promise, it is the law.

In 2018, our modernization efforts yielded positive results. We launched the Canadian Housing Statistics Program, which uses administrative data from provincial governments to produce new, detailed, and timely statistics on Canadian and foreign ownership of residential properties. For our pathfinder project on cannabis statistics, we created the Cannabis Stats Hub to measure the impact of legalization through crowdsourced information. And we are doing the same in many other areas of importance to Canadians such as Tourism, Opioids, health and the environment.

As our modernization journey progresses, we will continue to expand and scale up our successful pilot and pathfinder projects to all sectors of a rapidly changing economy, the environment and society. We are keenly aware of the important relationship we have with Canadians, the burden placed on respondents, and the privacy and confidentiality assurances they expect and deserve. It is through our continued efforts to modernize that we will address these important issues while continuing to provide the information required for the 21st century.

Anil Arora, Chief Statistician of Canada

Contact

Media Relations
Statistics Canada
613-951-4636
STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca

Follow Statistics Canada on Twitter @StatCan_eng