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A months-long investigation, which includes interviews with dozens of academics, scientists, statisticians, economists and librarians, has found that the federal government’s “austerity” program, which resulted in staff cuts and library closures (16 libraries since 2012)—as well as arbitrary changes to policy, when it comes to data—has led to a systematic erosion of government records far deeper than most realize, with the data and data-gathering capability we do have severely compromised as a result.
Statistics Canada no longer provides a clear snapshot of the country, says John Stapleton, a Toronto-based social policy consultant.
The edict to eliminate information deemed “redundant, outdated and trivial” (known as “ROT”) gives federal managers licence to decide what data should be cut and what kept, says Li, the U of T librarian. LAC is updating its “technical infrastructure,” a spokesperson told , LAC head Guy Berthiaume spoke of making LAC a “client-driven organization,” developing a three-year plan and digitizing a quarter of its archives.
“There is no transparency, oversight, or published criteria for the decision-making process,” she says. But the organization has suffered a 50 per cent cut in its digital staff, and received no additional funding in the 2015 budget.
(One example: In October 2012, the word “environment” disappeared entirely from the section of the Transport Canada website discussing the Navigable Waters Protection Act.) Stories about government data and historical records being deleted, burned—even tossed into Dumpsters—have become so common in recent years that many Canadians may feel inured to them.
But such accounts are only the tip of a rapidly melting iceberg.
Canada’s closed-data stance is taking root at the very moment “open data” and “knowledge economy” are global mantras. Food and Drug Administration launched open FDA to provide easy public access. “I do big-picture ecology, where we think across countries and continents.
Physicist Raymond Hoff, who published more than 50 reports on air pollution in transport and toxic chemicals in the Great Lakes—including pioneering work on acid rain—at Environment Canada between 19, doesn’t seem to exist, either.
How many Canadians live in poverty now, compared to 2011?
We don’t know; changes in income-data collection has made it impossible to track.
Yet elsewhere in government, claims of “digitization” can be a precursor to brick-and-mortar closures.
Last month, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), the union representing some 15,000 federal scientists, claimed that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Lethbridge Research Centre, created in 1906, had been closed quietly.