Brian Bancroft

A Snapshot of Open Data in Canada

January 01, 2017 | 10 Minute Read

This isn’t the first attempt at throwing all the data together in one location for all of Canada. First, the Government of Canada has thrown their hat into the ring sometime ago with the Open Government Programs in Canada Map as part of their Federal Government Webpage overhaul. The map on the page is excellent at letting individuals know which parts of the country support Open Data, and it has a calendar for events. The downside is that both that it relies on user input, and the openlayers map prevents you from selecting communities which are adjacent to each other. Watch below as I fail to reach surrey in the same time it takes another user to google “Open Data Surrey”.

image that displays my frustration with obtaining surrey No that is as far as you can zoom in…

There are two other notable aggregators. One worth mention is Data Libre - By Civic Access. It’s a blog that offers not only the data, but resources that encourage of dissemination, resources on how to use various bits of data, and examples of this data being used. The second aggregator is another global open data map that is decently-designed, but isn’t always curated. Open Data Inception(Global).

National-Level things!

Geogratis - A maze of federal government data. Unlocking the ability to navigate through this site (or more recently, just using the geospatial extraction tool) unlocks all the basic data you need to start on that nice mapping project. Alternatively, learning the National Topographic System (NTS) and using this well-curated FTP site is an easy way to get to the data you need. [Geobase] (http://geobase.ca) - This was once a multi-agency organization that assembled, and maintained various national-level datasets. As Geogratis stepped up (real source for Geobase Data), it’s become less clear what GeoBase provisions.

At the province and below!

At this point, we should all know that Canada is but a federation of provinces that play their own game according to their own situation. As a result, there are provinces which are very open about their data (BC and Ontario), there are provinces that are using it to support both community and industry (Alberta), there are provinces that are starting, holding off, or walking away from the open data game. Here’s a list of all the provinces and their data holdings:

British Columbia - data

BC has a older system that processes its data. While some of the UI may be difficult to understand at the start, they have a decent customer service team and dedicated individuals who are part of the community. In addition to the provincial government, many communities boast an open data portal as well as the only Aborginal nation in Canada! The following is a list:

GTFS Feeds

Regions/Towns/Cities/Etc

Unlike other large cities, Victoria and Vancouver aren’t amalgamated. This means that the data which is covered in the city’s open data portal doesn’t cover the entire metropolitan area.

Alberta 1 - 2 - 3

Alberta, like BC, supports the distribution of open data for social issues as well as mapping, but also boasts of having high-end datasets which includes some of the most precise digital elevation you could obtain for free in Canada! Unlike the rest of Canada, Alberta appears unique in using private industry to deal with open data through a partnership culminated in AltaLIS.

GTFS Feeds

Regions/Towns/Cities/Etc

Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan contains open data resources provided by myriad provincial authorities, but it isn’t aggregated except at sites such as Open Data Saskatchewan, an advocacy which hasn’t updated its list within the last two years.

Regions/Towns/Cities/Etc

Manitoba Data

There appears to be an open data site, but it hasn’t been updated since 2014. Not only has it been recently neglected, but it’s very old and broken. To get to the data, you must register. The registration process doesn’t verify your email address. Once you’re in, the browser warns you of a lack of a security certificate, and it’s clear the CSS is gone. I’ve been told that the government is rebuilding their website, so there might be a big change in the data landscape for 2017.

GTFS Feeds

Regions/Towns/Cities/Etc

Ontario Data

Ontario has a well-developed open data catalogue and a strong community that promotes the use and critique of open data. The province holds most of its open geodata on their catalogue.

GTFS Feeds

Initiatives

Regions/Towns/Cities/Etc

Québec - Données

While not as strong as Ontario, Alberta or Britsh Columbia’s open data sites, Québec has a strong offering, a growing culture and many towns which are growing their own data programs.

GTFS Feeds

Régions/Villes/Etc

New Brunswick - Data

This past April, the Premier of New Brunswick News Release. You can see their young data catalogue is at its starting stages. With luck it will flourish as time goes by. I need to be bilingual here as well.

Nova Scotia - 1 - 2

Nova Scotia’s Treasury Board Manual indicates that the government is pushing the public sector towards an “open by default” setting in publishing data.

GTFS Feeds

Regions/Cities/Etc

Prince Edward Island - Data

Prince Edward Island provides open data since as early as 2001, when it had a civic addressing system which offers geographic data on the location of all its addresses. At the same time NB embraced open data, PEI quietly went to an open-by-default and has also removed any licensing requirement before each download.

Addresses

Newfoundland and Labrador - Data

Newfoundland and Labrador also are new to the open data world. They’ve only been active for two years press release and spout a decent site, despite all the troubles that are ongoing in the eastern province.

Regions/Cities/Etc

Yukon Territory - Data

Northwest Territory

As of right now, there appears to be no territorial agency responsible for the dissemenation of open data. In the intern, NT Geoscience has offered a large portion of their geological data and findings in support of the mining industry. Also, a small group of civic hackers have collected some non-geospatial data and have assembled it here

Nunavit

As of right now, there appears to be no collection of data for nunavit in the open held by a provincial agency or below

All of Canada, from outside Canada or by the best of Canada

There are some stellar sources of data which exists outside of Canada with a global reach. I enjoy using this data and so can you!

  1. First, there’s NASA’s Earth Explorer USGS Earth Explorer. Unlike the Canadian open data offerings, there are series of individual scenes from the entire Landsat catalogue, digital elevation by map selection as opposed to NTS Tile, and some older orthophotography if you live close to the US Border. It requires an account, but is entirely worth it.
  2. Geofabrik. This is a site that allows you to download data from OpenStreetMap, the map which you can (and should!) edit.
  3. Remote Pixel by Vincent Sarago Twitter
  4. Transit Land. This is a community-based group that seeks to offer data for all metropolitan transit services in easilly-consumed formats.
  5. Transitfeeds. This is another community-driven site that seeks to offer transit data across the world, but in GTFS format.
  6. Public Sector Digest Rankings of Open Municipalities

The end

This is just a snapshot of the data I was able to capture that exists at the end of 2016. There’s a good chance a lot of this data will no longer be at the link by the time you attempt to access it. Websites evolve, scopes evolve and so do agencies. If you feel like you want to carry the torch, you’re very welome to pick up where I’ve stopped. This article was drafted on a Github Repo and breaking this article apart is simple as forking the repository and making this into your own thing. I’d be happy for anyone to carry the torch, or just copy all my links into their own website or map.

Thanks to all contributors!

Making lists is a long process. There’s a few people who took their time and offered a few links and hints. They are (in no particular order):

CC0
To the extent possible under law, Brian Bancroft has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to An aggregation of open data links across canada. This work is published from: Canada.