True test of Trudeau’s expensive data devotion will be whether he follows the numbers – Politics

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are a group that enthuses about “evidence-based policy” and “smarter decisions” and has concerned itself with “deliverology.”

And they are apparently hungry for more data.

“The challenge that we’re facing is one of — and we saw this more acutely a year ago in Vancouver — a dearth of data,” the prime minister said recently when asked about what his government might do about Toronto’s heated real estate market.

Adam Vaughan, a parliamentary secretary and Liberal MP in downtown Toronto, says there are theories about what’s happening within the city’s real estate market, but not enough is known about what’s actually going on. 

“We’ve got to … get the data,” he told CBC’s Power & Politics. “We have to manage the data so that we can understand where the problems are emerging and deal with them quickly.”

Such concerns follow a spring budget that, between the promises of jobs and roads and social assistance, included new commitments to data: tens of millions of dollars to be spent collecting new numbers on health care, housing, transportation and other concerns.

More money for more data

The Liberals have promised $39.9 million for the creation of a new “Housing Statistics Framework,” while another $241 million will go to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to, in part, “improve data collection and analytics.”

The Canadian Institute for Health Information will receive $53 million to address “health data gaps” and strengthen “reporting on health system performance,” while $13.6 million will go to Statistics Canada to “broaden tourism data collection.”

Developing a “Clean Technology Data Strategy” will cost $14.5 million and Transport Canada will receive $50 million to establish a new “Canadian Centre on Transportation Data.”

Meanwhile, the new infrastructure bank will be committed to working with other levels of government and Statistics Canada to “undertake an ambitious data initiative on Canadian infrastructure.”

A week after the budget’s release, the government announced $95 million would be spent gathering data on the availability of child care.

So what might all these numbers add up to?

It might simply give government a better understanding of what’s happening across the country. As one senior Liberal official notes, more data can also lead to the discovery of previously unrecognised problems.

Such data would then, in theory, inform and guide government decisions.

That’s an ideal of evidence-based policy, an aspiration for more rational politics that has arisen in recent years and might now be viewed as a technocratic rival to the emotional, anti-establishment populism that brought Donald Trump to the White House. Witness this month’s marches for science across the United States, which echoed a similar protest on Parliament Hill in 2012.

Marchers advance toward city hall during the March for Science Los Angeles on April 22. (Kyle Grillot/Reuters)

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