This guest blog post is provided by Statistics Canada who is responsible for producing statistics that help Canadians better understand their country — its population, resources, economy, society and culture.

You have seen how CANSIM can help you find the data you need for your business plan. Another way CANSIM can help your business is by data mining.

Now that Statistics Canada's comprehensive database of economic and social statistics is available free online, it's easy to mine information from some 350 Statistics Canada surveys. If you own a small or medium-sized business, CANSIM can help you see your markets more clearly and make better business decisions.

CANSIM is the database that economists and large firms look to for insight on major national issues. You may not have data-mining specialists on your team, and CANSIM might seem daunting at first, but its newly designed interface will guide you.

Let's imagine you're a home heating entrepreneur with small fleets of trucks in Montréal and Toronto, and you need data on average fuel costs in those cities from June 2010 to June 2012.

  1. Go to CANSIM. In the Search box, type “gasoline prices.”
  2. On the Search Results page, click on Table 326-0009.
  3. There are five tabs located above the data table: Data table (you are by default in this selection), Add/Remove data (to narrow your filtering/search), Manipulate (time series), Download (to save the data), and Related information (other useful links), and Help.
  4. Click the Add/Remove data tab to narrow your search. There are selections that can be chosen to narrow the search, such as geography, time series, etc.
  5. In Step 1, check Toronto and Montréal.
  6. In Step 2, select the type of fuel.
  7. In Step 3, select your time frame – June 2010 to June 2012.
  8. In Step 4, select HTML table—time as rows.
  9. Click and see the results.

This simple example shows how you can find precisely the CANSIM data you need. For more on customizing CANSIM tables, see the video tutorial (link no longer valid).

If you've tried a query or two, and still haven't found what you're looking for, contact a Statistics Canada agent at 1-800-263-1136 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or email anytime: