Share the CLA Statement on Cuts to Statistics Canada

CLA: Cuts to Statistics Canada are Harming Canadians (October 23, 2014)
CLA: Cuts to Statistics Canada are Harming Canadians (October 23, 2014)

This week, in the middle of Open Access Week, the Canadian Library Association issued a statement criticizing the government cuts that have been made to Statistics Canada in recent years. This critique is strongly worded and it packs a punch; I expect it to gain traction beyond our regular librarian circles.

But getting the word out cannot happen without your help. Read the statement and share it with your colleagues and friends, especially with people outside of your typical library and archives networks.  To make the case that StatCan is not just a numbers factory but a social barometer for the nation, we must extend our voice. We must be on point, and we must persuade.

I have copied the text of the statement from the original PDF in order to help circulate this statement. When you share, please link to the original document or to www.cla.ca.

-Michael

Cuts to Statistics Canada are Harming Canadians
October 23, 2014

The Canadian Library Association / Association canadienne des bibliothèques (CLA/ACB) is the national voice for Canada’s library communities.

Canadians know that access to reliable and high quality information, from the widest variety of points of view, is critical to a prosperous, functioning and democratic society. The decisions that citizens, communities, and governments make are better informed and have the ability to be more innovative when there is a free exchange of ideas facilitated by open and equal access to information. It is with these values in mind that CLA responds to recent and ongoing changes at Statistics Canada.

Recent programme cuts and policy changes at Statistics Canada have made it more difficult than ever for Canadians to track changes to critical issues that affect their communities, such as unemployment rates or the education of our children. The replacement of the mandatory long-form census with the National Household Survey, at a significantly greater cost, and the cancellation of many social surveys has made it increasingly challenging, if not impossible, for municipalities, hospitals, schools, and government agencies to administer social programmes and to track their success. In some cases, municipalities are financing their own surveys to gather the critical data they once had access to through StatCan. StatCan cuts and changes are continuing to impede effective planning for all agencies, making future programming a costly gamble. Additionally, with all levels of government focused on social and economic innovation, it is imperative that municipalities have the ability to look back on trends in order to plan for the future with reliable data.

Statistics Canada withering on the vine
Budget cuts have affected Statistics Canada enormously, which in turn affects all Canadians and all levels of government. While StatCan extended a lifeline to surveys and tools that tracked the nation’s economy through these cuts, it did so at the great expense of its social surveys, where significant budget reductions to the agency and ill-advised policy changes to its census program created major gaps that cannot be filled.
Canadians have forever lost valuable research that affects their communities as a result of cancellations of and cuts to surveys such as:

  • The National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, which followed the development and well-being of Canadian children from birth to early childhood
  • The Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics, which provided valuable insight into the financial situation of Canadian families
  • The Workplace and Employment Survey, which examined employer and employee issues affecting the Canadian work place, such as competitiveness, technology, training, and job stability.

Canadians and their communities are now suffering the consequences of budget cuts and policy changes at Statistics Canada. Major, long-standing surveys that paint a dynamic picture of Canadian society have been eliminated, making it nearly impossible to do year-over-year comparisons and to track the changes in social data and programs over time. It is hard to imagine less responsible measures in the age of open data, open government, and evidence-based policy-making than limiting the supply of data or replacing it with inferior products.

In the context of fiscal responsibility, CLA believes that the government can be much more effective at planning and supporting sound planning. The current government is determined to balance the books and bring Canada into an environment of economic prosperity and growth. In order to plan for these outcomes, careful public spending is dependent on correct information to inform decisions. Statistics Canada has long been the core agency for Canada’s ability to plan and spend carefully at all levels of government, and within the business and not-for-profit sectors. CLA believes that without consistent and reliable data, this ability will be lost.

The CLA urges the government to return Statistics Canada to its status as one of the world’s most respected National Statistical agencies by restoring its funding and the long-form census. The CLA urges the government to provide Statistics Canada with the support it needs to collect, analyze, and publish data that has proven, longstanding value for decision-makers, communities, and Canadians alike.

The Canadian Library Association/Association canadienne des bibliothèques (CLA/ACB) is the national voice for Canada’s library communities, representing the interests of libraries, library workers, and all those concerned about enhancing the quality of life of Canadians through information and literacy. CLA/ACB represents 1410 library workers, libraries and library supporters; and Canadian libraries serve in excess of 34 million Canadians through the nation’s public, school, academic, government and special libraries.

For more information, please visit
www.cla.ca
Valoree McKay, CAE
Executive Director
vmckay@cla.ca
613-232-9625 x 306

A Political Note: Why I believe Brian Topp should not be the leader of the NDP

Why I believe Brian Topp should not be the leader of the NDP.

(Cross-posted to Google+ and to Facebook.)

1. I’m wary of anyone with no legislative experience running for the leadership of a political party. The House requires a very demanding, public lifestyle that isn’t suitable for everyone. I’m not saying that Topp doesn’t fit the type. I am saying that an Official Opposition, just like a Government, should not take on an untested legislator as their leader. It’s foolhardy to do so.

2.  I’m a little offended by the way that Brian Topp talks about wanting to continue Jack Layton’s legacy. All the candidates will want to carry on Layton’s legacy. But what makes things so troublesome regarding Topp is the way that he makes it sound like he is Jack Layton Redux. If Brian wasn’t in the room when Jack Layton thought of any great idea being considered, then it seems like he’s trying to own a policy or platform as his very own when it was either Layton’s or the NDP’s as whole. Topp shouldn’t try to win the leadership by running on our collective memories of Jack Layton – he should try to win the leadership by presenting his own unique case for the leadership.

The first point is a political matter that shows why it makes sense for me, and other concerned NDPers, to vote for some one other than Topp. The second point is a matter of character that resonates with me negatively, which pretty much confirms that my vote will move in a different direction.

Addendum:

One more thing regarding Point no 2.: So long as Topp presents himself as Layton 2.0, there will be nothing unique or individual about his campaign, his motivations for the leadership, or his actual abilities to lead. It’s hard to differentiate his platform right now from the current NDP brand, i.e., I can’t look at Topp and figure out his vision for the future of the party since his vision for the future *is* the party line. You may think this is a good thing since it suggests that his principles are aligned with the party, but I see it as a weakness since it means that his principles are also all of his competitors’ principles. There is little there that actually sets him apart from the rest of the pack. I want love and hope and optimism, but I also want to see fresh ideas that will move forward our party and the values for which it stands.

Stephen Harper doesn’t speak for you.

Excuse me for a moment while I inject a hard dose of politics into this blog about librarianship:

Stephen Harper doesn’t speak for you

And also on Slideshare:

If you’re Canadian, make sure you vote on May 2.  You have your own opinions, and they are informed and valued.  Remind our politicians that there are many more voices in Canada than they like to think.

Nova Scotia NDP Spelling FAIL

When I’m not working in the library, I’m following local politics and cringing at bad copy.   Here’s something that landed in my inbox late Friday night (click to enlarge):

NOVA SCOTIA NDP : "Anti-idoling bill will ensure the province leads by example in reducing emissions"

Note the subject line for this e-mail:

Anti-idoling bill will ensure the province leads by example in reducing emissions

 

This is a complete and utter homonym-FAIL on the part of my current government (who I otherwise appreciate).   It’s also a great example of why you shouldn’t send out PR at the end of a long week.

n.b.  I’m not so much of a grammar nerd that I care to distinguish between homonyms and homophones.  The gov’t still screwed up on this one.

========

Update:  Out of fairness, I present to you the Official Opposition’s refusal to use apostrophes in their headlines:

Headline: Nova Scotia Liberals demand to eliminate the apostrophe from official House Business

Note the headline for this news release:

MCNEILS BILL TARGETS UNFAIR TAX SYSTEM

 

Three gold stars to the reader who can submit recent bad copy from the Nova Scotia Tories…

Canadian Culture at the Library

Lately, I’ve been reading Imagining Canadian Literature, the Selected Letters of Jack McClelland. Edited by Sam Solecki, the book is a fine collection of epistles, sometimes sweet, sometimes acerbic, written to friends and colleagues of the long-time president of McLelland and Stewart. (M&S was the dominant publisher of Canadian literature throughout the 20th century.  Solecki’s text reminds us that for over a half-century Jack McLelland played a vital role in the development of CanLit as a style, genre, and industry.)

Of particular interest to Canadian LIS professionals, aside from McClelland’s insight on the book trade, is his 1957 letter to Angus Mowat that expresses his displeasure about the establishment of a National Book Week by the Canadian Library Association in conjunction with the ALA.  Ever the patriot, McClelland was concerned that Canadian culture might be overwhelmed by a dominant American promotional campaign if a Canadian book week was to be celebrated at the same time as its American counterpart.  Although McLelland’s criticism is focused on the CLA, the cultural subtext is familiar to any Canadian who has ever discussed national (and cultural) identity:

I think the CLA should recognize that we are Canadian, that we want to continue being Canadian, and that if we want to continue to be Canadian for very long we can’t follow a course of passive acceptance of everything American and everything that seems easy.  Because of the proximity of the United States, Canada, I think, stands less chance of surviving as an independent entity, politically or culturally, than almost any nation in the world . . . I think the whole thing is appalling.  I hope those in the CLA that are responsible come to their senses, and I am prepared to be quoted in the strongest possible terms on the subject. (p. 30)

The passage of time allows us to reply that Canadian literature has become strong and vibrant, of course.  Although our publishing industry isn’t in the best shape it could be, the Canadian public is still discovering fine authors with incredible literary talent.  And our National Book Week has since morphed into a Canadian Library Month, with no one less that the Governor-General herself as its patron, so we should hardly fear an American dominance in our literary scene anymore.  Nonetheless, McLelland’s 52-year-old letter reminds us that Canadian identity, even though it is not as fragile as he thought it to be, remains something worth fighting for.  Although “Canadian Culture” (or just culture in the raw) is not something that most librarians think about in our day-to-day work lives, every now and again things occur –  an author’s reading for instance, or a Canada Council grant, or even just reading a few publisher’s letters as I am doing now – which remind us that our profession is in fact part of the culture industry.  Librarians don’t necessarily create Canadian Culture, but we definitely nurture it and promote it.  Libraries stopped being mere reading rooms decades ago and are now cultural hubs in the communities they serve. Like publishers, librarians are on the ground pushing and promoting Canadian culture to the wider public.

In short, what I’m drawing from McLelland’s letter are the concerns that still resonate in Canada about identity, culture, and nationhood, and how librarians affect and are affected by them.  We may spend the brunt of our day negotiating contracts, sitting in meetings, weeding materials or developing policies, but to our patrons we often stand as cultural agents, as the people who develop cultural collections that are representative of the community and then help these communitiy members locate themselves in it.

Are these platitudes?  Perhaps.  But on the other hand, CanLit and CanCon is as strong as ever, and Canadian public libraries play an active role in the development of a Canadian cultural identity.  Librarians should remain attuned to the cultural makeup of the communities they serve so that the collection and the institution reminds representative and vibrant.

DRM, Canada, and the long arm of contract law

One of my projects at work this month has been to promote the use of e-books.  I’m of two minds on the use of electronic book formats – I think the end user will one day see an incredible benefit from them, but I also think that until e-book readers (both software and hardware) become more user-friendly, e-books will remain subordinate to print editions, especially in the humanities.

At any rate, I’ve been reading a lot of contractual fine print on account of this project.  I’m up to my ears in Terms of Services Statements, Copyright Statements, and Privacy Policies, and some of the clauses in the contracts make me cringe.  Let’s look at some parts of eBrary‘s Terms of Service as an example (there is nothing out of the ordinary with eBrary’s TOS, by the way; I’m selecting it only because it is the reader I’ve been using this week).  You can find a link to the TOS at the bottom of your eBrary e-Reader page.  These links are routed through your own institution’s proxy server, however, so I’m instead linking to the TOS as listed on the eBrary corporate site.  The link may be different, but the terms remain the same.

1. Rights, Restrictions, and Respecting Copyrights

(a) The text, images, and other materials available on this site (collectively, the “Materials”) are protected by United States copyright and other applicable laws. You may not engage in any acts inconsistent with the principles of copyright protection and fair use (see the United States Code, 17 USC Sections 106-110). For example, you may not copy, print, reproduce, distribute, transmit, modify, display, or otherwise use the Materials or copies of the Materials, except that, subject to the other terms of this Agreement:

Unless you live in the United States (and the United States is admittedly a very large market), you’ve got problems at the outset.  These terms bind the users at my institution – a Canadian undergraduate university – to copyright laws developed by another nation.  Leaving aside the fact that an interpretation of these laws will be at best imprecise and uninformed because most LIS professionals are not lawyers and most users don’t bother to read an e-book vendor’s TOS, we’ve got a jurisdictional case study that I’m sure no WIPO representative fathomed in 1967.

The eBrary case presents an interesting dilemma in Canada.   Many Canadian Knowledge Research Network consortium members use eBrary to gain access to Canadian primary materials and critical literature.  This means that the Canadian-resident students and staff I serve are accessing Canadian materials through their Canadian university (which is normally subject to Canadian statues), but are bound to a contract framed by foreign law.  How many Canadian LIS professionals are forced to operate merely on the good faith of the vendor in a situation such as this?  Although I have no reason to believe that an organization like eBrary would intentionally place an entire consortia into a situation that could end only in litigation (that would be a complete and utter relationship-destroying measure), this sort of dealing still puts the Canadian LIS professional in a very weak spot.  Although I may know a thing or two about Canadian copyright law, especially as it pertains to fair dealing and libraries, archives and museums, I certainly can’t speak much to US copyright law, and I don’t think the majority of LIS professionals in Canada could, either.

7. Disclaimer of Warranties

THIS WEB SITE IS OFFERED ON AN “AS IS” AND “AS AVAILABLE” BASIS. AS A CONDITION OF USING THIS SITE, YOU ASSUME ALL RISK OF LOSS RESULTING FROM THE USE OF, OR RELIANCE ON, THIS SITE OR ANY MATERIALS IDENTIFIED, LOCATED, OR OBTAINED BY USING THIS SITE. EBRARY AND ITS SUPPLIERS AND LICENSORS MAKE NO WARRANTY REGARDING THE ACCESSIBILITY OF THE SITE OR THE ACCURACY, COMPLETENESS OR TIMELINESS OF THE MATERIALS. EBRARY AND ITS LICENSORS AND SUPPLIERS SPECIFICALLY DISCLAIM ALL WARRANTIES INCLUDING WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, NON-INFRINGEMENT AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ALL CONDITIONS OF QUALITY. NO USER SHOULD RELY ON OR ATTEMPT TO TRY ANY INFORMATION, ACT OR OTHER EVENT PORTRAYED ON THIS SITE. AS WITH ALL INFORMATION AVAILABLE THROUGH THIS SITE, LEGAL, FINANCIAL, MEDICAL, HEALTH, AND SAFETY RELATED INFORMATION IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR ADVICE FROM A QUALIFIED PROFESSIONAL. BECAUSE SOME JURISDICTIONS DO NOT PERMIT THE EXCLUSION OF CERTAIN WARRANTIES, SOME OF THESE EXCLUSIONS MAY NOT APPLY TO YOU.

This clause should remind us that the texts we read and interact with on eBrary are not our time-worn, dog-eared Penguin’s Classics.  Despite the fact that academic libraries pay tens of thousands of dollars in annual licensing fees to accommodate access rights for their communities, the portal their users must employ to view the text – the web site – is offered “as is.”  If the web site ever crashes, eBrary will not be held responsible.  If the notes and annotations one saves in an account disappears (a slim possibility, I admit), eBrary will not be held responsible.  If one chooses to use an e-book as opposed to borrowing a similar text but the site crashes over the long weekend before a funding application is due, eBrary will not be held responsible.

But perhaps the best part of this disclaimer is the statement that, “NO USER SHOULD RELY ON . . . ANY INFORMATION . . . ON THIS SITE.”  Excuse my excessive use of all-caps for a moment, but I wanted to mimic eBrary’s demand that we acknowledge and understand its blanket concession that its main product (information) and its main service (information dissemination) can ever be relied upon.  Ever.  In an attempt to safeguard itself from ridiculous lawsuits, eBrary has warned us that we can’t trust any of its wares to ever be reliable.  If only i could have put a disclaimer like that on every essay I ever wrote.

Sigh.

[eBrary Terms of Service]