Tell the government about your apps!

By Leslie Young

I blogged recently about an online application I built using Transport Canada’s Road Safety Recalls Database. The underlying data for my story is already available online, but was not easily available for download.

I called their media department to try to obtain a copy of the database that was powering their already public recall search tool, but was told that this was impossible. I ended up filing an ATIP request for the information. This is really overkill when the information is already public, just not in a convenient format… but it seemed the only way to get a copy of the database. 

After we released our story on vehicle recalls, I received a tweet suggesting I submit my app to the federal government’s open data portal. They have a form that lets you tell about how you used data. Here is what I wrote:

Application Name : Interactive: Vehicle recalls


Description : This is an interactive web application built using Transport Canada’s Road Safety Recalls Database. It allows users to look up and compare recall information on different vehicles. This data was not on Although a searchable version of the database is on Transport Canada’s website, I was required to file an ATIP request for a copy of the data. I would argue that this data should be made available on, as it would allow this kind of application to be constantly updated with the latest recall information, rather than just be a snapshot. There are many similar databases on GoC websites, which are public and searchable, but do not allow users to download the raw data. These should be added to the open data site.

 The next day, I received this response:

Good afternoon,

Thank you for contacting the Government of Canada’s Open Data Portal.

We would like to thank you for bringing this application to our attention. We agree that this data, as well as its application, should be made available on the Open Data Portal.

After receiving your email this morning, we contacted Transport Canada to suggest that they provide the raw data on the portal. We anticipate that this dataset will be available on the Government of Canada’s Open Data Portal in the future.

Thank you,

Open Data

Government of Canada

Based on this experience, I would suggest to people that they write the Open Data site and share their apps, and even suggest new datasets. It seems they read their email, and maybe we’ll start seeing useful data appearing on the site.

In the meantime, you can download my copy of the vehicle recalls data here.


About Leslie Young

A budding data and database geek, I try to turn numbers into stories. I've been with Global News since the spring of 2011. Find me on Twitter @leslieyoung
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