ARCHIVED – Speaking notes for The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism

At the Launch of the Next Generation Open Data Portal and Open Government Licence

Surrey, British Columbia
June 18, 2013

As delivered

I’m delighted to be, for the first time, at SUCCESS in Surrey.

I’ve been to SUCCESS in Burnaby, in Vancouver and many other venues and know the brilliant work that it does in helping to create success stories for new Canadians from all around the world. Thank you to the board chair and all the staff for their great work. I have to say, as an Albertan, I’m very proud that SUCCESS selected Queenie Choo, an Albertan, as their new CEO.

Bringing a little bit of Albertan common sense here to the west coast and I know you’re doing a great job and we wish you well, Queenie. Today, ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to make an interesting announcement about openness in government and allowing Canadians to access important data and information that’s important to them. This is, actually, very important for immigrants for reasons that I will explain.

Right now in Northern Ireland Prime Minister Harper is meeting with world leaders at the 39th G8 Summit. This year they are focusing on the development of open economies, open governments and open societies. Today, they have endorsed a new G8 open data charter which the government of Canada has promoted and fully supports.

As the Prime Minister announced today, we’ve endorsed this and we are glad that other countries have accepted the commitment to create greater openness and transparency, which we believe is important, in part, to help prevent the kinds of unforeseen crises in the world economy like what we saw in 2008 and 2009. This charter will not only strengthen government accountability to citizens around the globe, but also ensure that all released data is easy to use.

It will also make it easier to compare and connect data. Here in Canada, our government’s Action Plan on Open Government highlighted three streams of activity, which include open information, open dialogue and open data. In terms of open data, Canadians can already find data sets from over 20 federal departments and agencies at data.gc.ca, which was originally launched in March of 2011.

This portal is a one-stop shop for federal government data that can be downloaded free of charge by Canadians or frankly anyone else. Remarkably, the data from my Ministry, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, has always been the top downloaded data set since the portal was first launched, with immigration data the most sought information on the portal.

In fact, CIC has the six most downloaded data sets on the portal. I don’t find that entirely surprising, because CIC’s website is the most visited in the Government of Canada and we get about 35,000 calls in our call centre every day. These data sets include information about Canada’s immigrants’ countries of origin, preferred immigration programs, settlement patterns as well as application inventories and processing times.  The settlement patterns will be very useful to you at SUCCESS.

This is because of the importance of immigration to our economy and our country. The Government of Canada is focused on building a stronger country, which includes creating economic growth and long term prosperity. Immigration, of course, plays a key role in that, which is why we are planning on welcoming yet again over a quarter of a million new permanent residents this year, maintaining the highest sustained levels of immigration in our history and the highest per capita levels in the developed world.

In fact, immigrants now account for more than 20 percent of our total population, as demonstrated by the recent census data. It’s not surprising, then, that Canadians are interested in information about where new Canadians are coming from, our preferred immigration programs, etc. This information is of great value to researchers and academics who use it for their research purposes. But it’s also invaluable to different levels of government, especially those involved in planning.

For example, provinces can use our data to determine the need for social services such as healthcare. Likewise, city planners and municipalities can use it to project housing needs and the demand for schools and libraries in their communities. To help newcomers integrate into our communities and succeed in Canada’s labour market, we have to ensure that they have access to quality settlement and integration services like language training and job search skills, such as the programs offered here at SUCCESS and other groups.

Our data helps us to assess whether communities have sufficient resources to help newcomers successfully integrate into our society. Moreover, through this revamped open data portal, Canadians will be able to trace over time the impacts of the big immigration reforms that we are making to create a smarter immigration system, one that is fast, fair and flexible.

They will see the progress in the reduction of immigration backlogs and shorter processing times, the huge improvements in our refugee determination system and the benefits to Canada’s economy as we reform the Federal Skilled Worker Program; as we launch the Startup Visa; the new Skilled Trades Program; the new Canadian Experience Program and, of course, the new criteria for the Federal Skilled Worker Program.

All of these transformational changes to immigration will help newcomers to succeed and fuel our future prosperity. As I mentioned previously, CIC’s data sets are the most downloaded of all departments and we plan to make even more of our data available online in the near future. Today, the government is launching a next generation open data portal which you can also find at data.gc.ca.

This portal takes things to the next level, because it’s based on leading-edge, open source software called the Open Government Platform. It includes new interactive features and search capabilities that will make finding and using government data easier and a lot more user friendly. These tools will provide unprecedented access to government data and the right to use it.

For example, we’re creating a new automatic open government license which will give people a license to use this data and, I understand, the province of British Columbia and other provinces are cooperating with us to make this a common open license because some of the data sets are overlapping between federal and provincial governments. 

This basically means that, if people want to get that information and use it, maybe repost it or publish it, they don’t have to read through endless, complicated legal texts and give their consent, and so forth. There’s just an implicit open license, which really makes this a whole lot easier. This means that people will be able to use data for everyday applications.

For example, apps based on data from the Border Services Agency means that people will be able to check on wait times at the Canada/US border on their smart phone. I’m sure by the end of today someone will have an app out there for wait times at the border. Similarly, recalls and safety application will deliver up to date and reliable health and safety information right to your mobile phone.

Let’s say you’re running a grocery store and you want to get the minute to minute information on recalls of food products. Boom, it will be delivered right to your smart phone if you register. Another good example would be Parks Canada, who will be using this, an app called the heritage gourmet food app. I don’t know what that does, exactly, but it sounds interesting.

There’ll be lots of ways that this information will be used in a very practical day to day way by Canadians. Look, government moves typically a lot more slowly than the private sector. We’re always a few years behind the curve on using technology, but the good news today is we’re catching up. We are putting all of this information at the disposal of the public.

With the new portal at data.gc.ca and the new license, we’re taking action to enable Canadians to leverage government data like never before. These announcements are consistent with the open government partnership which we joined in 2012 and the commitments we made at the open government action plan. I’m very happy to make this announcement. 

I’ll be actually doing a Google chat with Minister Clement, the Minister for the Treasury Board who’s responsible for this announcement, following this press conference. I believe that Minister Kent is doing something with Parks Canada in Alberta today, Minister MacKay with the Department of National Defence and their application of this new data portal out on the east coast.

Right across the country we’re going to be demonstrating to people online, from coast to coast to coast, just how the government is becoming more open and accessible. 

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