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We Live In A Data-Gatherer Society Click Here To Comment!

We are all data collectors and data users. I bet if you thought about it, you’d realize just how much data you process on a daily basis, making your basic day-to-day operational decisions.

  • Surveying the fridge and the pantry before grocery shopping. Making purchasing decisions based on what you know you have, or are missing. Making other decisions based on what you know, or can predict, will be on sale at some later date, or in some different store.
  • Visualizing your day and how much time you can allot to certain tasks. Being able to estimate how long certain tasks will take, based on how long they took before, and taking into consideration new variables. For example, the drive across town to the grocery store took 20 minutes last week but will take 30 this week as the trip is being attempted at a different time of day.
  • Planning activities for children, based on what they have enjoyed in the past. Trying to predict, based on what you know, what they might like in the future.

These are all scenarios in which we, as adults, recall, calculate, remember, process and interpret data we have gathered unconsciously – even subconsciously – and stored over a lifetime. We do all that, then we make decisions.

So, what does it say about our government when it does not want to take time to gather accurate, detailed data on citizens in order to make their decisions? I know so many people, including myself, who are outraged about this. In my opinion, StatsCan has never collected ENOUGH data on Canadians. Certainly not enough on the issues that affect groups that are marginalized or otherwise poorly understood.

  • We know too little, and have therefore done too little, about the health and welfare of our First Nations communities. We have a fragmented, rather than a systemic, understanding of the factors that have led to disasterous conditions.
  • We have a national blood services agency that feels justified in voting an entire group of potential donors off the donation island as they do not have enough current data and must lead with assumptions instead.
  • We have only scant data what families really look like in Canada in 2010 and are still setting public policy based on 1950’s era assumptions about intact male/female partnered households, 2.5 children and sub-urban lifestyles.

Indeed, StatsCan has never gathered enough data, in my opinion. And we are right to be outraged. But, here is the real problem. This government does not wish to make decisions based on data. Facts are not relevant to their decision-making process. If facts were relevant, the G20 would have been held practically anywhere else in Canada BUT downtown Toronto. No, this government does not wish to act on a factual basis. It wishes to act on its own assumptions and biases, on “gut-feel” and “everyone knows …”. We have public policy based on the “gut feel” of the individuals who have wound up in the power structure in parliament, and their own particular views and biases that accompany them to Ottawa.

This is akin to going shopping without any data on what you have already, or where you might find the best or cheapest items. Like flying blind in the grocery store, you wind up with too much milk and it goes off before you can use it, and you pay too much for bread, and you bring home the wrong salad dressing.  Inefficient, and a poor attempt at meeting needs.

What if we had proportional representation? Surprise – the Harper Conservatives don’t like that idea either.  Here are some charming facts from the Fair Vote Canada site:

  • 940,000 voters supporting the Green Party elected no one, while fewer Conservative voters in Alberta alone elected 27 Conservative MPs.
  • In the prairie provinces, Conservatives received roughly twice the votes of the Liberals and NDP combined, but took seven times as many seats.
  • Similar to the last election, a quarter-million Conservative voters in Toronto elected no one and neither did Conservative voters in Montreal.
  • New Democrats: The NDP attracted 1.1 million more votes than the Bloc, but the voting system gave the Bloc 49 seats, the NDP 37.

You see, if Canada had proportional representation, the census data issue would matter slightly (only slightly) less because the parliament would be comprised of elected officials who actually represented the choices made by voters on election day.  And, therefore, the issue wouldn’t come up at all – because if the people we had actually voted for were in power, in proportion to the actual vote, Stats Can would get increased funding to gather more useful data to assist in the setting of public policy.

To make reasonable decisions based on actual data, not assumptions. Like we all try to do, every day.

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