Saturday, December 10, 2016

"Census still vulnerable to political meddling, says former chief"


Canadian newsmagazine MacLean's hosts Jordan Press' Canadian Press article "Census still vulnerable to political meddling, says former chief". Wayne Smith warns that the Canadian census is still vulnerable to political interference, even with new legislation.

The federal government’s bid to protect Statistics Canada from political interference has a significant oversight that exposes the census to the possibility of government meddling, says Canada’s former chief statistician.

Wayne Smith, who resigned abruptly from the agency in September, said newly introduced legislation doesn’t change the parts of the Statistics Act that give cabinet control over the content of the questionnaire.

That leaves the census – used by governments to plan infrastructure and services – vulnerable to the sorts of changes the Conservatives imposed in 2011 by turning the long-form census into a voluntary survey, Smith said.

“That’s a major flaw in this bill,” he said. “The government brought this bill in because of the census, but it’s failing to deal with the census.”

Smith described the bill as a first step towards broadening the agency’s authority over how information on all types of subjects is collected, analyzed and disseminated, shifting that authority away from the minister.


Freedom, including access to public data both accurate and meaningful, is a constant struggle now, as it always has been.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

The Globe and Mail on the Syrian refugee population in Canada


In The Globe and Mail, journalist Joe Friesen's data-driven analysis "Syrian exodus to Canada: One year later, a look at who the refugees are and where they went" takes a look at how the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees resettled Canada are doing.

The initial surge of arrivals was fuelled primarily by privately sponsored refugees whose applications were already in the pipeline under the previous Conservative government. Many of them have family ties in Canada and their first year is subsidized by their sponsor group. In Quebec, where roughly half of Syrian-Canadians were believed to reside, about 80 per cent of Syrian arrivals were privately sponsored. By contras, in Saskatchewan, only a very few have been privately sponsored and the overwhelming majority are government sponsored. In the first years after arrival, privately sponsored refugees, who often have advantageous family networks and higher levels of education, tend to fare better economically, studies have shown. Government-sponsored refugees are typically selected based on humanitarian need, which will often present social and educational challenges and they tend to take longer to establish themselves.

Ontario and Quebec, Canada’s two largest provinces, took in the largest number of refugees. Alberta, where there are established networks of private sponsorship groups, including large organizations run by Catholic groups in Calgary and Edmonton, surged ahead of its larger neighbour British Columbia to take third spot. New Brunswick took in refugees at a rate far higher than its share of population, exceeding the numbers seen in more populous provinces such as Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, Canada’s three largest cities, are always magnets for immigrants, so it’s no surprise that they would see the largest influx of Syrian refugees. All three have Syrian-Canadian residents who will have helped drive sponsorships. They also have effective refugee-sponsorship organizations, such as churches and secular groups, that provide an infrastructure for the new arrivals. On a per-capita basis, it was the mid-size Canadian cities that saw the greatest proportional impact of the Syrian refugee movement. Trois-Rivières, a Quebec city of 135,000 people, had the highest per-capita rate of arrivals. Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said there is a large and well-organized Armenian-Syrian community in Quebec that has contributed to sponsoring and settling a sizable number of the new arrivals. London, Ont., a city with a sizable Muslim community, welcomed the fourth-highest total, proportionally.


Friesen goes into more detail. There are some problems which may hinder the refugees' integration into Canada, with shortfalls in education and sometimes a lack of fluency in either official language.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A brief note on the demographic prospects of Cuba


Over at my blog this evening, I posted an article reflecting on the evidence for substantial economic decline in Cuba under Castro, not only decline relative to its peers (southern and central Europe, high-income Latin America) but even, at times, of absolute decline. A country that had severe problems of inequality went on to acquire worse problems. Of all the economies in the world to be transformed into autarkic socialist states, Cuba’s highly-export dependent economy may have been among the least suited. Blogger and economist Noel Maurer has pointed to one study suggesting that Cuba's potential GDP per capita may well have been halved.

On my RSS feed this weekend, I came across Tyler Cowen's pessimistic forecast for post-Castro Cuba's economic future.

One way to approach Cuba’s economic fate is to consider the Caribbean region as a whole. For the most part, it has seen mediocre results since the financial crisis of 2008. Economic problems have plagued Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Jamaica, Haiti and Barbados, with only Jamaica seeing a real turnaround.

The core problems of the region include high debt, weak commodity prices, lack of economies of scale and an inability to upgrade tourist facilities to compete with the U.S., Mexico and further-flung locales. Cuba cannot service its foreign debt, and losing most of its support from Venezuela has been a massive fiscal problem.

Perhaps the country most like Cuba in the Caribbean, in terms of history, heritage and ethnic composition, is the Dominican Republic. Currently, it has a nominal gross domestic product of somewhat over $6,000 per capita, depending which source you prefer. That’s far from the bottom tier of developing economies, but it’s hardly a shining star. And Cuba will take a long time to attract a comparable level of multinational investment, or to develop its tourist facilities to a comparable level of sophistication. Well-functioning electricity and air conditioning cannot be taken for granted in Cuba, especially after the major decline in energy supplies from Venezuela.

[. . .]

If you are wondering, the World Bank measures Cuban GDP at over $6,000 per capita, but that is based on a planned economy and an unrealistic exchange rate. In reality, Cuba probably is richer than Nicaragua, where GDP per capital is approximately $2,000, but we don’t know by how much. Cuba does have relatively high levels of health care and education, but we’ve learned from post-Soviet reform experiences that it is easy for a nation to lose those advantages. There are already shortages of many basic health care items, including medical technology and antibiotics.

Cuba's demographic issues, including sustained sub-replacement fertility and substantial emigration, will not aid in the economic transformation of the country. If anything, they may make things more difficult, as Cubans who can leave for destinations where they think they can prosper. Might the Donald Trump presidency inadvertently aid Cuba, I wonder, by making Cuban immigration to the United States more difficult? Or would even that be enough to make things less difficult for Cuba? In a time where skilled labour is increasingly at a premium, Cubans may have their pick of destinations? For more, see this blog's past posts about Cuba's particular issues. I have to say that our pessimistic arguments seem to have good ones.