The federal government is seeking to modernize and expand Statistics Canada’s (StatsCan) role as the go-to source for data that form the foundation of government policy-making.

The government is promising funding in this year’s federal budget to shore up and expand StatsCan’s work on several fronts, including the provision of more than $800 million to finance its planned census-taking activities in 2021.

Specifically, Budget 2018 calls for StatsCan to receive $767.3 million over 10 years, starting in fiscal 2018–19, to conduct the 2021 long-form census, and another $49.4 million over six years (also starting in fiscal 2018–19) for the 2021 agriculture census.

The government says in the budget documents that the return of the long-form census in 2016 “improved the accessibility, accuracy and coherence of statistical information.” In particular, it reports that the government was able to collect better data on small communities in 2016.

Looking ahead, and in line with the gender-equality theme that pervades this year’s budget, the government indicates that it will now be tweaking the census in an effort to collect “more inclusive data on sex and gender.” Notably, Ottawa says that the next census will allow for a broader range of gender identities, which “will provide critical information to help understand and meet the needs of LGBTQ2 Canadians.”

The government is also funding better data collection involving gender, with a pledge of $6.7 million over five years (and $600,000 ongoing) to create a new Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics by StatsCan.

“The Centre will work to address gaps in the availability of disaggregated data on gender, race and other intersecting identities to enrich our understanding of social, economic, financial and environmental issues,” the budget documents state.

The ultimate aim is to provide policy-makers with a better understanding of “the barriers different groups face and how best to support them with evidence-based policy,” the budget documents note.

In addition, the government will provide another $1.5 million over five years (and $200,000 annually) to the Department of Finance Canada so that it can develop a set of metrics (along with StatsCan and the new federal Department of Status of Women) to measure progress on “shared growth and gender equality objectives.”

Along the effort to modernize StatsCan’s approach to the census and gender-specific data, the government also is pledging $41 million over five years (starting in fiscal 2018-19 and an additional $4.4 million annually) to modernize the agency’s collection, use, and sharing of data in general. Ottawa also says it will consider legislative amendments to “ensure Statistics Canada can respond to data needs of the 21st century.

“Better data will contribute to the government’s commitment to produce high-quality information that is accessible and relevant to interested Canadians and will support its commitment to evidence-based policy-making,” the budget documents state.