Thursday, December 27, 2012

Statistics Canada -- Ugh!

For at least the last decade I have been inflicted with twice-annual Statistics Canada requirements to report on the capital expenditure plans and then actuals for my small business. The only capital expenditure that ever comes up is the decision whether to buy a new laptop, or not. Apparently the government of Canada cannot function without knowing this vital bit of data -- "2K, or not 2K -- that is the question".

Filling out the form for the most part consists of filling out innumerable zeroes in as many creative ways as possible in as many irrelevant or incomprehensible places as possible. I've pleaded with them to go find somebody else to statisticize, but, as they say, "they've got my number". My only consolation is I just know there's some Statistics Canada person sitting somewhere right now dreaming about my form and when he or she is going to get it.

My business is registered in Prince Edward Island. The letter I have in hand was sent from Edmonton and is from the Western Region and Northern Territories. Apparently they subscribe to the butterfly effect theory. A small business owner flaps his wings in PEI, goes out and buys a MacBook Air, and, voila, the economy of the Northern Territories comes to a crashing halt or, maybe, a rushing crescendo of new economic activity.

The letter gets sent from Edmonton. It's about PEI. It gets filled-out in Toronto and then mailed to Ottawa. I am a one-man national project -- without me, Canada would collapse!

And that's the way the Ball bounces.


Dave Hodson said...

I receive, on average, about 2 Stats Canada surveys per month, plus several more on a quarterly and annual basis. Asking questions about everying from energy use, to manufacturing questions, to product pricing. They are a major annoyance; particularly the annual ones, which can take many hours to assemble the necessary data to answer their questions.

The one that really confuses me, is a quarterly survey asking us to report the selling price of 3 of our of our major items. I can't even begin to imagine what useful information can come of it. We distribute thousands of different items, and the product mix changes, and the number they are asking for is not meaningful in any way. One of the items changed last year to a new pack size, double the number of units in a selling case, and therefore double the selling price. Some Stats Canada knucklehead is probably drawing some sort of stupic conclusion that this means 100% inflation, since the only thing they asked for is the price, not the pack size!

It's a complete waste of time for businesses, made worse by the fact that no useful information can come from the efforts.

One thing I have noticed with Stats Can, is that they keep bugging you until you give them the information. But, they don't really check it for accuracy. I could be completely making crap up on the surveys to get through them quickly, and they would be OK with that. The reality is that they would be better off with nothing than getting made up answers!

RkBall said...

Dave. Thank you for your comment. It's nice to know I'm not alone. Maybe we could form a club or association or something. Let me send you some forms...

With regards to "making up crap" I suspect that with you, like me, your signature on the form prevents you from doing this.

Stat on!

Anonymous said...

stats canada, a blight on a free society.

Frances said...

Rk and Dave - I too was afflicted with Stats Can surveys on behalf of a client. I categorically and openly refused to spend more than one hour doing them, on the grounds that the client could NOT afford any more. Pulled what I could, as quickly as I could, and went with it. Any errors - 'whoops, sorry'. They don't bother me any more.

Maybe those of us - and especially people like yourselves who are afflicted far more frequently about these surveys - who find this a real time- and money-waster should push the MP's and maybe even go public. Stats Can should have to show the value of the information they extract from small businesses. At the very least, the businesses should be reimbursed for the cost of having to participate in this particular idiocy.

RkBall said...

Hi Frances, Thanks for weighing in on this. It's good to know we are not alone.

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"