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I've often wondered the same thing. One time when I was away from Guelph while preparing some graphs for lectures I found that I'd have to pay to download the annual Canadian unemployment rates. So I downloaded the Canadian numbers free from a US government site - the Economic Report of the President, as I recall. It's really bad in health economics - I regularly get offers of free downloads of very detailed US data from US government sites, whereas I'd have to pay a pretty hefty price for similar Canadian data, if I could access it at all.

The policy goes back to the fiscal contraction in the early 1990s, when the federal government cut budgets for all departments and agencies and asked them to find their own sources of revenue. It was an idiotic decision at the time, since if data are not public goods, then what is? But it has continued, in part, because it gives StatsCan researchers exclusive rights over the richest, most promising datasets. It's hard to know whether this is skewing results are just slowing down research, but it is a bad thing either way.

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