Idea details: The Potential of Open Data


The Government of Canada will continue to unlock the potential of Open Data for Canadians through a series of innovative and forward-looking projects. Taking advantage of new technologies, the government will prioritize easy access to the data Canadians need.

Potential activities may include:

  • Launching an enhanced Open Government portal that incorporates interactive communities, an enhanced consultation platform, and the ability to search data from multiple departments and jurisdictions;
  • Broadening the Government of Canada’s publishing of Open Data on international aid;
  • Providing support to developing countries to advance their Open Data activities;
  • Enhancing access to Government of Canada geospatial data via; and
  • Hosting online chats with government subject-matter experts on released data.

Your collaboration will help make this proposed activity become a reality. In addition to your general comments, please let us know:

  • What do you see as the ultimate goal for this proposed activity within a two year span?
  • What are the specific actions and milestones required to meet this goal?
  • Who else should be involved in the implementation of this proposed activity?



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One of the potential activities listed is: Providing support to developing countries to advance their Open Data activities. As an international organisation that works to globally to promote transparency, CLD is a major supporter of efforts to assist developing countries in this area. However, this type of commitment does not belong in Canada’s OGP Action Plan.

Action Plan commitments are supposed to focus on improving openness and transparency within the country. The OGP does expect members to contribute to enhancing open government in other countries, but this is considered separately from the Action Plan process. The OGP documents do not explicitly prohibit countries from including foreign aid projects in their Action Plans, but it is clearly assumed that the commitments should be domestic in nature. For example, the OGP National Action Plan Template and Guidelines state that the Action Plan should discuss “why open government efforts are important for the country” and “outline the governance reform priorities for the country”. The same document states: “Successful OGP action plans focus on ambitious national open government priorities”. To our knowledge, no other government has tried to include improving open government abroad as part of its open government commitments.

Regarding the proposal to host online chats with government subject-matter experts on released data, and the idea under Open Science to publish more federally funded research - while we welcome these ideas, we note that it is important for government experts engaging with the public to be able to speak freely and offer honest opinions. As noted earlier, open government should not be conflated with public relations. Transparency will naturally improve a government’s standing with the public through enhancing trust, fostering dialogue between officials and citizens and promoting informed participation in public affairs. However, it is core to the notion of open government that citizens should be presented with information which is accurate, complete and unfiltered, especial from subject experts. Efforts to control or otherwise manage the message that the public receives seriously undermines this.

Over the past years, there have been a series of stories alleging that government employees are being “muzzled” in their interactions with the public. If efforts to facilitate greater dialogue between the public and government experts are to be successful, they need to be complemented by parallel moves to ease restrictions on government employees, and particularly government scientists, on speaking publicly. These efforts should also be implemented in a proper spirit of openness, so that government experts are not confined by restrictions on what they can and cannot say, and that the experts will not be chosen to participate in these online chats based on the likelihood that they will present a rosy picture of the current government’s achievements.

This is an excerpt from CLD's full submission to the consultation. To read the full submission, go to:

This is great, and I agree with Dawson's suggestion on adding the REST interface for developers. Also, through our work with the GoC's open data so far, you'll need people to examine the existing datasets and sanitize them. There isn't a standard format for the datasets at this point, and several of them are malformed or have formatting issues that can make them difficult to work with.

We would need to filter this info for security content, given the context of the data (business rules would need to be applied)
Chalk one up for the restful interface --yea -yea--yea
This information should be processed like any other information.

It would be nice if the data was provided via a HTTP Rest interface, rather than download endpoints. A Rest interface would allow developers (such as myself) to more easily query and use the data within an application.

I also believe that the publication of this data needs to be built into government workflow automatically, without the need for additional human labour. When data is entered by an individual working at the department of motor vehicles it should be instantly published to the Canadian Open Data services.

This is a big goal, though if it is implemented in every aspect of the government it would make transparency automatic, and would provide the people with instant access to up-to-date data. This would also remove some of the overhead of the system.

Make the Health Canada [and other] website searchable. We shouldn't have to use other agencies' sites or search engines to find what should be at our fingertips, and professionally embarrassing when other agencies ask why they can't find something on our site.

Thank you for addressing this important issue. As you may have seen, the Government of Canada has started to make a transition to a single site, In addition to creating an easier way to access content by theme, one of the major initiatives is to improve the search and discoverability of the content within the site. If you have additional feedback for, you can provide feedback through the central site,

It would be extremely nice if whoever is writing the content for this website would use the Canadian spelling of words instead of using the American spelling...

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