The Canadian government relaunched the data.gc.ca Open Data portal on Tuesday, together with a new version of the Open Government Licence. The licence is an improvement; among other things they have removed some inapplicable language inherited from the British licence it was based on. (Teresa Cassa’s post here has more information on the legal aspects.) Canada also signed the G8 Open Data Charter.
A striking amount of main page real estate space seems to be taken up by government promotional material – that’s become a feature on most sites under this government, but these seem especially large. The search function may have improved, though I didn’t use the old one heavily enough to be certain. Main page navigation / browsing is still lacking, though you can do a reasonable approximation of a subject browse using search filters. Tracey Lauriault of datalibre.ca spent some time looking around, so I’ll link you to her evaluation here.
Over all, I think the existence of an improved open data portal and licence constitutes a positive step, looked at separately from all this government’s other actions relating to data – something which I have trouble doing. (This article from the CBC has quotes from open government veterans Tracey Lauriault and David Eaves that encapsulate this unease better than I could.)
I think the G8 Charter has promise, however. I have doubts about what our current government will choose to release (or collect, or keep), and this doesn’t really alleviate them, though the commitment to release “high value data” (Annex 6.2) is worth noting. (Among other things, no apparent provision for archiving.) What it does do is lay out some guidelines for how data should be released, once the decision has been made to release them. The Technical Annex has some good language on open, machine-readable formats, APIs, documentation and metadata mapping.
This post from David Eaves goes into some more detail on the potential impact of those high value release commitments, and is definitely worth a read.