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Gender: Female
Hometown: Los Angeles
Current location: Toronto
Member since: Mon Oct 13, 2008, 11:26 AM
Number of posts: 602

Journal Archives

Vanishing Canada: Why we’re all losers in Ottawa’s war on data (Maclean's)

This is absolutely chilling. I'd heard isolated stories of the government destroying public records, but I'm completely horrified by the extent. There's no rational excuse for this, which just reinforces my belief that Harper is insane, evil, or both.

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. A months-long Maclean’s 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. “Our survey data pixelates—it’s a big blur. And the small data, we don’t know if it’s right.” 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. Austerity measures, ironically, have resulted in an inability to keep track of the changes: StatsCan used to provide detailed, comprehensive data on salaries and employment at all levels of government; now we can’t tell where, or how deep, the cuts have been.
Less discussed, however, is how data erasure also threatens the economy, industry, the arts, and the country’s ability to compete internationally. The 2013 report “Information management in the Canadian federal government” is a title not likely to attract the non-librarian reader. But the conclusions drawn by its authors, a librarian at Carleton University and an information-management consultant, are chilling. Isla Jordan and Ulla de Stricker describe a country “without access to large parts of its institutional memory, and leaders without access to the information needed for strategic decision-making.” Toni Samek, a professor at the school of library and information studies at the University of Alberta, puts it more succinctly. Canada is facing a “national amnesia,” she says, a condition that will block its ability to keep government accountable, remember its past and plan its future.


Designers Release Latest Harperbot(R)

The ongoing effort to humanize the Harperbot(R) Remote-controlled Synthetic Politician reached a new level last night, when Harperbot(R) 8.0 debuted at the Globe & Mail leaders’ debate. Gone are the slumped shoulders, disheveled thinning hair, pouty lips, and sallow complexion. In their place was a dazzling display of contoured cheekbones, exacting posture, casual hand gestures, and an almost lifelike smile. The newest model, noticeably slimmer and with a Trudeauesque mane of silky silver locks, came closer than ever to achieving the designers’ ultimate goal of replacing all world leaders with undetectable robot replicas that can be remotely controlled from a small number of secure locations within the United States and Europe.

The only visible glitch in the new design was apparent early on, when the Harperbot(R) attempted to convey empathy by referencing a trending news story involving the loss of human life, and expanding that reference into an expression of concern for the family involved. While the effort initially appeared to be an improvement over past models, the current Harperbot(R) moved too quickly onto the next topic — the economy, which admittedly consumes most of its programming — and the transition came across as insincere and inelegant. The designers made what many consider a rookie mistake in their “smile transition” program, failing to provide a sufficient time lag between “sad topic” and “happy topic” transitions. No doubt this will be corrected in Harperbot(R) 9.0, or possibly sooner should world events necessitate a Harperbot(R) 8.1 revision.
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