Statistics Canada head abruptly quits over loss of independence

Fri Sep 16, 2016 6:02pm EDT
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By Leah Schnurr

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The head of Canada's statistics agency resigned in a surprising move on Friday over concerns that the agency's independence is being compromised, making him the second top statistician to quit in recent years.

In an email sent to the members of an independent advisory board, Wayne Smith said he was stepping down as head of Statistics Canada because of concerns around changes to the agency's data infrastructure.

Statistics Canada is responsible for producing major economic reports on everything from jobs to international trade.

In an arrangement under the previous Conservative government, responsibility for StatCan's informatics infrastructure was transferred to a department that oversees information technology services across the government.

Smith said in his email that Shared Services Canada now holds an effective veto over many of the agency's decisions, including the collection, analysis and dissemination of data.

"This loss of independence and control is not only an apprehension, but an effective reality today," Smith wrote in the email seen by Reuters, adding that StatCan is increasingly hobbled by the ineffective and slow services being provided.

"I do not wish to preside over the decline of what is still, but cannot remain in these circumstances, a world leading statistical office."

Concerns about confidentiality and efficiency had troubled Smith for some time, said Ian McKinnon, chair of the National Statistics Council advisory board.   Continued...