Open Data in Canada

Open Data in Canada

Open Data in Canada describes the capacity for the Canadian Federal Government and other levels of government in Canada to provide online access to internal data in a standards-compliant Web 2.0 way.

Government 2.0 is a way to engage individuals and businesses in government decisionmaking and services. Integration of tools such as wikis, development of government-specific social networking sites and the use of blogs, RSS feeds and Google Maps are all helping governments provide information to people in a manner that is more immediately useful to the people concerned.[1] There are also aspects of improving Freedom of information in Canada but the main focus of Government 2.0 is citizen engagement.

A number of efforts have been made to expose data gathered by Canadian governments of all levels in ways that make it available for mashups.



Public information in Canada is the subject of the Access to Information Act and Proactive Disclosure.

The governing party in the 40th Canadian Parliament was the Conservative Party of Canada. The consultation paper for the government's Digital Economy Strategy, released May 10, 2010, included the statement that "Governments can help by making publicly-funded research data more readily available to Canadian researchers and businesses".

On September 1, 2010 Canada’s Access to Information and Privacy Commissioners issued an Open Government Resolution[2][3], but this does not have the force of law. They called for governments at all levels across Canada to endorse open government, and for them to proactively disclose information in open formats (i.e. open data).

On October 18, 2010 Charlie Angus, an NDP MP, introduced a Private Members' Motion M-587 who primary purpose is to support the use of open source in the government, but which also calls for "open access to government information".[4]

On October 21, 2010 the Liberal Party of Canada released a party platform document, the Liberal Open Government Initiative. It includes a commitment to create a national open data site / on which to "make as many government datasets as possible available".[5]

On October 25, 2010 Green Party blogger Emma Jane Hogbin raised the issue of open data[6] and on November 25, 2010 the Green Party called for a Federal Open Data Policy.[7]

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics (ETHI), 40th Parliament, 3rd Session is conducting a study of Open Government. Recorded audio (Windows Media format) and minutes of their meetings are available. Submissions and briefs on the subject of open government in Canada can be submitted to the Committee’s mailbox at


On March 17, 2011 Minister Stockwell Day announced the launch of the 12-month pilot period for Canada's national open data site,[8]

Federal department sites include:

  • GeoGratis from Natural Resources Canada - "Geospatial data available online at no cost and without restrictions"
  • Data Collections from Environment Canada


  • Currently Community Accounts covers Newfoundland only - "providing users at all levels with a reliable source of community, regional, and provincial data" but the Senate has endorsed making it Canada-wide.


British Columbia

On July 19, 2011 the Province of British Columbia launched DataBC, Canada's first provincial open data site It contains data across a broad spectrum of subjects, access to tools to analyze the data, and a blog featuring data-related posts. Previously the site had been used just to host environmental data as part of the Apps 4 Climate Action contest.

In 2007, The British Columbia government met with representatives from Google Earth on an initiative whereby the government will supply updated information about the province for Google Earth and Google Maps. They plan to supply information on such things as traffic and mineral resources, information on highway construction projects, as well as data and images banked in the 'Integrated Land and Resource Registry', which gives detailed information about all areas of the province.[9]


Toronto Life magazine reported on May 25, 2011 that Ontario’s minister of research and innovation, Glen Murray, is working on a provincial data portal.[10] Minister Murray indicates "the project is fully funded through MaRS - it is being built over the next few months".[11]

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment has a Data Downloads page.

The Revitalizing Ontario’s Infrastructure site provides information about stimulus spending, in particular the By the Numbers section provides charts and graphs of various spending areas and projects. However, the raw underlying data are not provided, this site visualises information without providing any open data.




Report was released for the February 10, 2010 Finance and Corporate Services meeting. Recommendations included "Direct Administration to pilot a public data catalog with the relaunch of City On-line expected in 2010 Q2".[12]

Site launched in late September 2010.



Edmonton is providing open data through the City of Edmonton Open Data Catalogue.



London, Ontario launched an open data catalogue (Open Data London) in September 2010.


Medicine Hat

Medicine Hat launched an open data catalogue in April 2011, there is some background information at Government/Open Data/



Mississauga has released data and will move towards providing the data sets in open formats.



The city's of Nanaimo, B.C.'s planning department has, over the past five years, steadily produced enough municipal data to warrant a Time magazine article on open-government, and been dubbed 'the capital of Google Earth'.[13] Working directly with Google, the city fed it a wealth of information about its buildings, property lines, utilities and streets. The result is, city data viewed through the Google Earth 3D mapping program.



City Council approved open data on May 12, 2010 and announced plans for a $50,000 apps contest.[14][15]

Site: (en français )

The city also offers free public access to its internal mapping data via a site called eMap.

The Apps4Ottawa contest submission period ran from September 29, 2010 to January 3, 2011 [16] followed by a voting period and awarding of prizes.



In early April 2009, Toronto's mayor, David Miller announced plans to share city data at



Windsor, Ontario provides open data. "Windsor has joined a growing number of cities employing a philosophy and practice known as Open Data".[17]



In May 2009 Vancouver passed a resolution that states, "the City of Vancouver will freely share with citizens, businesses and other jurisdictions the greatest amount of data possible while respecting privacy and security concerns."[18]


Online Tools

Note: the following sites are unofficial; they are not sites created by Canadian governments.


Canadian Parliament

Note: remains the official Parliament site; some of these sites may not be completely synchonized with it.

Information and Advocacy

  • List is where the network discusses how levels of government can & should make civic information and data accessible at no cost in open formats to their citizens.
  • is a blog, inspired by, which believes all levels of Canadian governments should make civic information and data accessible at no cost in open formats to their citizens. Data are collected using Canadian tax-payer funds, and use of those data should not be restricted to those who can afford the exorbitant fees.
  • is a Canadian non-profit that promotes online tools for government transparency.
  • There have been several ChangeCamps across Canada.
  • The Lac Carling Congress annually brings together professionals from all three levels of government in Canada with private sector companies. The event focuses on the advancement of electronic delivery of government services in Canada.
  • A collection of uses of social media in Canadian government can be found here.
  • The Campaign for Open Government is a coalition that spans the spectrum of issues, politics, and ideology
  • I Believe in Open .ca - "a national movement challenging politicians to commit to five key improvements in government transparency"
  • Let the Data Flow - a campaign to make water data open and accessible


A number of the cities use licenses that are arguably not Open Data licenses[22] as defined[23], and allow for arbitrary and retroactive banning of use. They also do not have versioning of licenses and/or datasets, which is also in conflict with the Sunlight Foundation's principle on permanence.


  1. ^ Environmental Protection Agency Web 2.0 Whitepaper
  2. ^ Open Government - Resolution of Canada’s Access to Information and Privacy Commissioners (at OIC site)
  3. ^ Open Government - Resolution of Canada’s Access to Information and Privacy Commissioners (at Privacy Commissioner site)
  4. ^ Parliament of Canada - Order Paper and Notice Paper No. 82 - October 19, 2010
  5. ^ Liberal Open Government Initiative
  6. ^ Interested in Open Data? You Should Be.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Minister Day Launches Open Data Portal
  9. ^ "Google Earth eyes partnership with B.C. governments". Retrieved 2009-08-27. 
  10. ^ Bring on the hackers
  11. ^ @Glen4TC (Glen Murray) on Twitter
  12. ^ FCS2010-05 report in response to NM2009-38 Access to City Data and Services (PDF)
  13. ^ Shaw, Rob (2008-03-10). "Postcard from Nanaimo: How Google Earth Ate Our Town". Time.,8599,1720932,00.html. Retrieved 2009-08-27. 
  14. ^ Ottawa open data site launched
  15. ^ Council approves plan to release city data, hold app contest
  16. ^ City launches $50,000 app contest
  17. ^ Open Data holds promise, city told (Nov 9, 2010)
  18. ^ "Open Government? Vancouver Leads". Retrieved 2009-08-27. 
  19. ^ Website tracks local pollution levels - Edmonton Journal - Nov 11, 2010
  20. ^ High-flying civil servants - Maclean's - August 25, 2010
  21. ^ Introducing the ExpenseVisualizer
  22. ^
  23. ^

See also

External links

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