Daycares need good data

Ted Hsu
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I recently reached out to the City Manager’s Office at the City of Toronto to try to get a better understanding of how they use census data. Toronto is the most populous city in the country, and my hope was that the city would be able to give me insight into the importance of the census for municipalities.

I will be publishing some of the ways that the City of Toronto uses census data leading up to the second hour of debate for my private member’s bill, Bill C-626, which seeks to reinstate the mandatory long-form census. If you would like to share your experience with using census data, please email me at [email protected].


The City of Toronto relies upon the data generated by Statistics Canada as part of the core data sets that guide the City’s program planning for a variety of services and supports, in order to maximize its resource allocations to meet the changing needs of Torontonians. One of the main impacts of the shift to the NHS is the ability to examine trends over time. A change in statistical collection methodology precludes direct statistical comparison of data gathered before and after the change. Previously, Statistics Canada’s adherence to the same statistical collection methodology for 35 years has allowed for accurate data comparison and invaluable trend analysis.

While some areas in the City continue to use and report on NHS data, release of such data comes with cautionary notations. The City of Toronto is continuing in its exploration on the use of NHS data, while using alternative sources where necessary and available.

Children’s Services

The City has only enough funding to offer a certain number of child care fee subsidies to Toronto families. Due to the limited number of fee subsidies and a growing waiting list, Toronto City Council approved an equitable distribution whereby each City ward receives a portion of the 24,932 subsidies based on the ward’s share of Toronto’s low-income children (for example, if the ward has 5% of Toronto’s low-income children they are entitled to 5% of the available subsidies). Data sources for the low income data have historically been the NHS.

When Children’s Services is planning for early learning and child care service, a variety of indicators at a ward, neighbourhood and census tract level are explored. The number/proportion of low-income children is one of the most important indicators used to decide whether or not to invest in programs and services in a particular area, in order to maximize the allocation of limited resources to more targeted vulnerable communities.

The shift to a voluntary census data collection model presents challenges for the City of Toronto’s place-based service delivery planning and community investment mechanisms across a range of services areas.