Give us the data!

Give us the data!

Journalists aren't just passionate about words. At the Bureau of Investigation, we have several who are also passionate … about numbers.

A talented member of our research team once told me, quite seriously, that she loves Excel tables. Music to my ears, you can imagine.

The numbers help us keep you better informed, especially during a crisis like COVID-19. We use it to publish graphs that help you understand the evolution of the pandemic.

In which region has the increase in cases been the most marked in the past week? Is the famous curve flattened? Did the government make the right decision by allowing the bars to reopen?

To do this, we frequently use government data, whether in health, education or economics.

The Mystery of the Schools

Unfortunately, Quebec sometimes lags behind. Just think of the cases of COVID-19 in Quebec schools.

After providing for a few days a very incomplete list of schools struggling with at least one case, the ministry suddenly removed this list from its website on September 10. He said he had to make “adjustments” to this system “recently implemented”.

We had to wait until Tuesday to get new information. This allowed us, in our Wednesday edition, to publish a large map with region-by-region data.

And yet, Quebec is still unable to say how many cases there are in each school. A single positive student? Or five?

The system had so many failures that a Montreal father, Olivier Drouin, had the brilliant idea of setting up his own website to voluntarily identify cases across Quebec.

In 2020, school boards, oops, I mean school service centers, should be able to easily transmit a simple electronic form to the Ministry of Education in real time.

Fax in 2020

This example is unfortunately not unique. At the height of the crisis, the government was for a long time unable to transmit reliable statistics on the number of seniors who died in each CHSLD.

My colleague Éric Yvan Lemay even told us that at that time, Quebec was still counting deaths by fax and by mail! Embarrassed, Prime Minister François Legault promised that a national computerized form would be created in a week. What was done … but not in all establishments.

In other cases, it is more encouraging. The National Institute of Public Health of Quebec updates daily a host of interesting statistics on the pandemic.

In terms of disclosure of figures, since the start of the pandemic, the Legault government therefore deserves a good mention for the effort. But in terms of results, there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Count on us to tirelessly ask the public authorities for ever more complete and transparent figures.

Jean-Louis Fortin, Director of the Bureau of Investigation

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