Google is Not a Synonym for Research

While I get that “Google is not a synonym for research”, I’m definitely not a research wonk either.

So, while I blame my being right-brained for my tendency to be driven by intuition rather than facts, I have also learned that the balance between spidey senses and hard data is a critical one.

That being said, I think every Canadian should be worried about the lack of emphasis our federal government appears to be placing on research and hard data, as well as their seeming propensity for ignoring it once they have it.

This month the federal government announced it is pulling $6 million in funding from the Health Council of Canada and suggests it be wound down.

The Health Council of Canada was formed in 2003 to provide accountability, oversight, planning, and national coordination for our health care system. Its achievements include lowering wait times and encouraging innovation in the public health care system to ensure access to services.

While the federal role in health care is to facilitate national approaches to health system issues and to promote a pan-Canadian adoption of best practices and innovation, the Harper government decision to terminate the Health Council of Canada is sure to put an end to common standards across the county as well as put accountability, transparency, and evidence-based health care at risk. This is especially disconcerting given that recent research from the Health Council points to a growing gap in access to healthcare across the country.

That in itself is worrisome but it doesn’t stop there because our federal government has eliminated other valuable sources of data and research over the last few years.

In 2010 the elimination of Statistics Canada’s compulsory long-form census means Canadians can no longer depend on it as a source of information for ensuring governments, non-profit organizations, and businesses make decisions based on facts rather that guesswork or idealogy. 

Since 2010 additional cuts have occurred at Statistics Canada resulting in the elimination of the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey which was critical for those developing programs and policies for Canadians living with disabilities, and Social Security Statistics: Canada and Provinces, a compilation of data from all levels of government. 

These cutbacks took place despite Statistics Canada being recognized around the world as a high quality organization with a track record of accuracy and integrity.

The budget of the National Council of Welfare (NCW) was decimated in 2012, leaving them no choice except to shut down. Established in 1962, the National Council of Welfare produced two important reports, Welfare Incomes and Poverty Profile. These reports were developed 25 years ago at the Council, and have been essential in helping not only to understand poverty in Canada, but also to find solutions. It gave non-profit groups and others trying to eliminate poverty, the facts they needed to speak credibly.

Other recent cuts have included cuts to scientific research at Environment Canada, and reductions in grants to the academic community via the National Research Council

To be fair, it might just be that Harper and his government have alternative plans for replacing the research that has been cut. If they do, I haven’t seen it.

Regardless, it is certain that by eliminating this research, Canadians are at risk for policies and programs being developed in a vacuum. And, it is likely that the inefficient and ineffective decisions that result will not only cost us more money in the long run, they will also contribute to our most vulnerable citizens being put at risk. 

As Canadians, we can and ought to do better. 

Posted on 04-28-13

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