Audit at a Glance—Chapter 8—Meeting Needs for Key Statistical Data—Statistics Canada

Audit at a Glance

Chapter 8—Meeting Needs for Key Statistical Data—Statistics Canada

What we examined (see Focus of the audit and Scope and approach)

The overall objective of the audit was to determine whether Statistics Canada ensures the quality of key socio-economic information it produces and generates this information efficiently and in response to priority user needs.

Our examination of quality and the efficient use of resources was focused on four data products:

What we found

Statistics Canada applied its quality assurance processes to obtain accurate information for the selected data products (see paragraphs 8.10-8.16)

This finding is important because according to the Agency’s 2009 quality guidelines, for a data product to be accurate, appropriate methods and tools must be used to produce the results.

Statistics Canada ensured the timeliness of the selected data products (see paragraphs 8.17-8.20)

This finding is important because, in order to be most useful, statistical information should be released as soon as possible after data collection.

Statistics Canada has made data from the selected products accessible to users (see paragraphs 8.21-8.26)

This finding is important because if users are to make use of Statistics Canada data products, they must be both aware of them and easily able to obtain the information they need.

Statistics Canada assessed the coherence of the selected data products (see paragraphs 8.27-8.30)

This finding is important because examination of coherence enables the Agency to identify discrepancies in its data that warrant further attention.

Improvements are needed to ensure the relevance of selected data products (see paragraphs 8.31-8.55)

Despite the range of feedback mechanisms used regarding the Consumer Price Index, Labour Force Survey, and Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours, we found that the Agency primarily consults with the federal, provincial, and territorial governments and less with the private sector, municipalities, and non-governmental organizations.

This finding is important because, without ongoing consultation with users, the Agency’s data may become less relevant.

Recommendation. In order to ensure the continued relevance of its data products, Statistics Canada should obtain, document, and analyze ongoing feedback from the full range of its data users.

We found that needs for data from small geographic areas and small subpopulations in specific locations are not being met. For example, reported job vacancies in Alberta could be in Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Medicine Hat, or any other community in the province. Statistics Canada estimates that reliable national data was unavailable from the National Household Survey for 3 percent of the population.

This finding is important because our interviews with a sample of users of the selected data products outside the federal government confirmed that Agency data is of limited use to them when it is not available for their locations.

Recommendation. Statistics Canada should assess the feasibility of more fully addressing user needs for data from small areas and subpopulations.

Guidance to help users interpret information from the selected data products was not comprehensive and up to date (see paragraphs 8.56-8.61)

This finding is important because if users are not given access to sufficient information to enable them to correctly interpret statistical information, they may not understand and use it properly.

Recommendation. Statistics Canada should ensure that the guidance it provides for users of its data is comprehensive and up to date, and that it supports the needs of the full range of users.

Statistics Canada is making more efficient use of resources (see paragraphs 8.62-8.65)

We noted that from the 2010–11 to the 2012–13 fiscal years, 15 of 37 planned initiatives to improve efficiency had been implemented, resulting in savings of $6.7 million according to the Agency. The remaining 22 efficiency initiatives are scheduled for later implementation.

This finding is important because Statistics Canada, like other federal departments and agencies, has been subject to requirements to reduce its costs since 2009. A key objective of this initiative is to reduce ongoing operating costs with minimal cuts to statistical and analytical programs.

Statistics Canada has a revised process to identify and implement its priorities (see paragraphs 8.66-8.68)

We found that the Agency identifies and responds to both emerging needs and needs for improvements to its existing products.

This finding is important because in order to maintain the relevance of its work, it is important for Statistics Canada to identify and respond to emerging needs for socio-economic data.

Statistics Canada did not systematically consider the need to continue cost-recovered work (see paragraphs 8.69-8.71)

We found that while the Agency has continued some previously cost-recovered statistical activities through its base funding, it does not systematically assess whether it should continue cost-recovered work when external funding ceases.

This finding is important because without such an assessment, the Agency cannot be sure that priority needs are being met.

Recommendation. Statistics Canada should systematically assess whether it should continue conducting cost-recovery work after external funding ceases to ensure that priority data needs are met.


Statistics Canada agrees with our recommendations, and has responded (see List of recommendations).

Why this audit is important

As Canada’s national statistical agency, Statistics Canada plays a fundamental role in generating information on Canada’s socio-economic conditions. The Agency’s statistical programs generate approximately 350 data products for use by governments, researchers, planners, academics, and others. These data products cover a wide range of topics intended to help Canadians know and understand their socio-economic situation.

Given the wide range of users who rely on its data, and the lack of an alternative source of comparable statistical information, it is essential that Statistics Canada operate efficiently and effectively to meet the needs of its broad client base.

Details of the audit

Report of the

Auditor General of Canada

Type of product

Performance audit


Public Service

Audited entities

Statistics Canada

Completion date

30 November 2013

Tabling date

6 May 2014

Related audits

For more information, please click here.