Monthly Archives: September 2015

Information Policies Under the Harper Government Part 4: Treasury Board’s Reduce Redundant Outdated and Trivial (ROT) Web Content

One Line Description: Harper Government Aiming to Delete Half the Internet (well at least half of the Government of Canada’s web presence).

Short Description: Under the guise of removing redundant, outdated and trivial web content,[1] the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat is directing government departments to remove access to 50% of departmental websites resulting in the elimination of over 1.55 million webpages.[2]

Details: While the Treasury Board’s policies aim to make government information easier to find for citizens, it also involves a massive reduction of government information available over the internet.   In many cases government web pages will be removed after two years, with some content being removed at an even quicker pace, such as Canadian Heritage’s plan to remove websites dealing with events just three months after the event has occurred. Web metrics will also determine when pages are removed, yet guidelines vary between departments and in some cases (such as the Public Health Agency of Canada) the required level of hits per month was arbitrarily changed to result in more pages being removed. Departments including Health and Justice have set even more ambitious targets by aiming to remove 60% of web pages based on Fall 2011 levels. Unsurprisingly, the source of this policy appears to be from Harper himself.[3]

[1] Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. “Reduce Redundant, Outdated and Trivial Content.” http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/ws-nw/wu-fe/rot-rid/index-eng.asp

[2] Michael McNally, Amanda Wakaruk, Danoosh Davoodi. “Rotten by Design: Shortened Expiry Dates for Government of Canada Web Content.” Presented at the 43rd Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Information Science. June 4, 2015. https://era.library.ualberta.ca/public/view/item/uuid:71d49088-22bd-469b-bb3e-d3aee5aef8a1/

[3] Michael McNally, Amanda Wakaruk, Danoosh Davoodi. “Rotten by Design: Shortened Expiry Dates for Government of Canada Web Content.” Presented at the 43rd Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Information Science. June 4, 2015. https://era.library.ualberta.ca/public/view/item/uuid:71d49088-22bd-469b-bb3e-d3aee5aef8a1/

The next PLG Meeting is tonight!

Join us tonight, Tuesday September 29th at 7pm in Rutherford South Library at the University of Alberta. Meetings last an hour. Interested information professionals, students and new members always welcome!

The room can be accessed via Henderson Hall for which there is a door in the Rutherford South Atrium.  Henderson Hall was one of the rooms used during last year’s symposium.  The doors to both 1-17B and Henderson Hall are usually locked, but will be propped open by 6:45pm until 7:10pm.

PLG Edmonton Meeting
7PM-8PM
1-17B Rutherford South, U of A Library
Edmonton, Alberta

Information Policies Under the Harper Government Part 3: Cancellation of the Long Form Census

One Line Description: Despite living in the so-called ‘information age’ the Harper Government has decided to make the Government of Canada vastly less informed on its own country by eliminating the long-form census.

Short Description: The government’s 2010 decision to eliminate the long-form census in 2011 and all subsequent censuses under the guise of strengthening privacy[1] greatly limits the ability of the government to effectively plan for programs and services such as benchmarking the Labour Force Survey and calculating regional unemployment rates for the EI program.[2] The replacement of the long-form census with the voluntary National Household Survey has introduced the pervasive risk of sampling bias and underrepresentation of minority groups into government planning.[3]

Details: The government’s claim of protecting privacy by eliminating the threat of jail time was a spurious defence at best as Canadians already face the prospect of incarceration for refusing to complete two other Census (the short form Census and the Census of Agriculture).[4] Furthermore, over the past several decades there have been only a handful of complaints to the Privacy Commissioner’s Office about the claimed intrusiveness of the survey. The elimination of the mandatory long-form census and its replacement with a voluntary survey has met near universal criticism from a wide range of Canadian individuals and organizations. Datalibre.ca has compiled a list of proponents and opponents of government’s decision. Only a handful of organizations and individuals have spoken out if favour of abandoning the long-form census including The National Citizens Coalition, The Frasier Institute and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Nearly 500 groups and individuals have gone on record against the move including three provinces (Ontario, Quebec and PEI), over 40 cities and a broad range of civil society and professional organizations.[5] Now, several years after the cancellation of the long-form census the impacts are starting to be felt most heavily. Harvey Low, manager of social research at the City of Toronto has stated that Canada’s largest city is now “less sure” about the characteristics of communities it is serving, has “huge gaps” in assessing health trends in the nation’s largest city, and ultimately ends up costing the city more for lower quality data.[6]

[1] Tony Clement. “Statement on the 2011 Census.” http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=547529

[2] Statistics Canada, Methodology of the Canadian Labour Force Survey, Statistics Canada Catalogue No. 71-526-X: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/71-526-x/71-526-x2007001-eng.pdf ;and, David A. Green and Kevin Milligan, “The Importance of the Long Form Census to Canada,” Canadian Public Policy, 36(3), (2010), 386.

[3] Ivan Fellegi, Evidence before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, 40th Parl. 3rd Sess., (27 July 2010): http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=4648017&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=40&Ses=3  

[4] Marc Garneau. Evidence before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, 40th Parl., 3rd Sess., (27 July 2010).

[5] Datalibre.ca, “Census Watch: List of Organizations Against and Supporting the Government’s Position on the cancellation of the Long Form of the 2011 Census,” (23 Dec. 2010): http://datalibre.ca/census-watch/

[6] Harvey Low, as quoted in, Tavia Grant. “Damage from Cancelled Census as Bad as Feared, Researchers Say.” The Globe and Mail, 29 Jan. 2015. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/cities-footing-the-bill-for-data-gap-after-long-form-census-scrapped/article22695286/

Information Policies Under the Harper Government Part 2: Market Forces Orientation of Telecom Policy

One-Line Description: Harper Government Believes Shareholders of Bell, Rogers, Telus, Shaw and other Media Companies should Decide Canadian Telecommunications Policy

Short Description: In 2006 the Harper Cabinet directed the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Canada’s national telecommunications regulator, to effectively not regulate and to “rely on market forces to the maximum extent feasible as the means of achieving the telecommunication policy objectives”[1]

Details: Not even a full year into its first minority mandate, the Harper Government used an Order in Council (basically a decision of Cabinet that, unlike legislation, does not have to be approved by Parliament) to direct the CRTC to rely on market forces to the maximum extent possible while using regulation “to the minimum extent necessary.”[2] In 2007, Industry Canada, which has both policy and regulatory responsibilities for the wireless sector adopted the same approach in its Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada which stated, “Market forces should be relied upon to the maximum extent feasible.”[3] While the Canadian Telecommunications Policy, contained in section 7 of the Telecommunications Act, does carve out a role for market forces, these are balanced against several other policy objectives.[4] Not only does such policy direction demonstrate a lack of leadership in a key sector (particularly for a country the size of Canada where telecommunications plays a key role in connecting Canadians and communities), it is particularly poor policy in country where the five largest companies capture 86% (or $38.5 billion) of all telecommunication sector revenues.[5] Furthermore, it does little to advance the interests of rural and remote Canadians who live in areas where market forces don’t exist since it does not encourage the deployment of high quality, affordable and reliable telecommunications services in their areas.

[1] Order Issuing a Direction to the CRTC on Implement the Canadian Telecommunications Policy Objectives.1(a)(i). SOR/2006-355. Dec 14, 2006. http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2006-355/page-1.html

[2] Order Issuing a Direction to the CRTC on Implement the Canadian Telecommunications Policy Objectives.1(a)(ii). SOR/2006-355. Dec 14, 2006. http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2006-355/page-1.html

[3] Industry Canada. Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada. p. 9. https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/vwapj/spf2007e.pdf/$FILE/spf2007e.pdf

[4] Telecommunications Act. s. 7. (S.C. 1993, c. 38). http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/t-3.4/page-2.html#h-6

[5] Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Communications Monitoring Report 2014. p. iv. http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/publications/reports/PolicyMonitoring/2014/cmr.pdf

Information Policy Under the Harper Government Part 1: Cuts to LAC/Caron’s Leadership

Cuts to LAC/Caron’s Leadership

One Line Description: Terrible Management and Significant Underfunding Crippling our National Library and Archive

Short Summary:  Through a combination of poor management (former LAC Head Daniel Caron) and significant budget cuts (from $117 million in 2012-2013 FY[1] down to $93 million in FY 2015-16[2]), the Harper Government significantly reduced LAC’s ability to play a leadership role in the Canadian library and archival communities and for the organization to carry out core functions.

Details:  In 2009 the Harper Government appointed career bureaucrat Daniel Caron to head LAC, despite the fact he held no background in either library and information science or archival studies. Caron consistently demonstrated little understanding of the two professions suggesting in 2010 that both may become irrelevant, and urging that a complete reinvention of information professionals dismissing the long and evolving history of both.[3]  Further indicating his lack of understanding, in 2012 in testimony before a Parliamentary Committee, Caron suggested that the work of cataloguing materials including archival materials had become unnecessary.[4]  Under Caron’s dismal leadership of LAC was coupled with severe budget cuts eliminating roughly 20% of the organization’s budget in 2012 and causing staffing levels to fall from 1,117 in FY 2012-13[5] to 8,67 in FY 2015-16.[6]  The budget and staff cuts have left LAC unable to carry out core functions.  50% of its digitization staff was eliminated, and one estimate suggested that it would take 300 to 700 years for the organization to digitize its holdings.[7]  In 2013, LAC was unable to make available the 1921 Census data without partnering with a private company (Ancestry.ca).[8]  If LAC can’t, on its own, make available a 90 year old Census document, how will the organization play a key role in the country’s sesquicentennial – a role the Harper Government has consistently suggested it will play.[9]

[1]  Library and Archives Canada. Report on Plans and Priorities 2012-13, p. 15. http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/rpp/2012-2013/inst/bal/bal-eng.pdf

[2]  Library and Archives Canada. Report on Plans and Priorities 2015-16. http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/about-us/report-plans-priorities/rpp-2015-2016/Pages/rpp-2015-16.aspx

[3]  Daniel Caron. “Memory Institutions in the 21st Century: The Need for Convergence and Collaboration.” http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/news/speeches/Pages/Memory-Institutions-in-the-21st-Century-The-Need-for-Convergence-and-Collaboration.aspx

[4]  Daniel Caron. Evidence before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages. 41st Parl. 1 Sess., Nov. 6, 2012.

[5]  Library and Archives Canada. Report on Plans and Priorities 2012-13, p. 15. http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/rpp/2012-2013/inst/bal/bal-eng.pdf

[6]  Library and Archives Canada. Report on Plans and Priorities 2015-16. http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/about-us/report-plans-priorities/rpp-2015-2016/Pages/rpp-2015-16.aspx

[7]  Save Library and Archives Canada. “Digitization.” http://www.savelibraryarchives.ca/issues-digitization.aspx

[8]  LAC. “Census of Canada 1921 Now Available to Researchers.” http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/news/Pages/2013/08-1921-census.aspx

[9]  LAC. Report on Plans and Priorities 2014-15. http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/about-us/report-plans-priorities/rpp-2014-2015/Pages/rpp-2014-15.aspx#_Toc378592486