Canadian journalism is in trouble. In the last fifteen years, 468 media outlets have closed. Over 2,000 full-time jobs are gone. The overall number of newspaper articles published every year has dropped by almost half, while the number on civic affairs is down by a third.
Fewer journalists means less government accountability, less accurate information, and, ultimately, a decline in public trust. Fewer journalists means Canadian democracy is weaker.
The Investigative Journalism Foundation (IJF) is launching to help change all that. Our goal is to expand the breadth, depth, and long-term financial sustainability of investigative journalism in Canada. We will feature investigative reporting and constantly update public interest databases on topics like political donations, lobbying, and money the government gives to companies.
We’re building a new journalism model. Data-driven. Radically transparent. Laser-focused on serving the public and speaking truth to power.
Our goal is to strengthen all Canadian media outlets and everyone who cares about Canadian democracy by giving everyone access to free public interest databases. Those databases allow anyone to answer questions like: Who donates the most money to my member of parliament or premier? Which lobbyists get the most meetings with cabinet ministers? Which companies get the most money from the government?
Together we can strengthen democracy through public interest data and journalism. We’re excited by the prospect of collaboration and support from our audience. Want to help us? The biggest thing you can do is subscribe here:
We have an amazing board of directors, including Brent Jolly, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists; Karyn Pugliese, editor-in-chief of Canada’s National Observer; Sadia Zaman, CEO of the Inspirit Foundation; and John Ruffolo, the founder and managing partner of Maverix Private Equity.
We’ve raised $789,541.11 from visionary funders without whom none of this would be possible. Our generous supporters include the Balsillie Family Foundation, the Trottier Family Foundation, the McConnell Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the University of Toronto Scarborough, and John Campbell & Denise Fujiwara. You can see all of our supporters and exactly how much they’ve given here.
Our staff includes some of Canada’s best data and investigative journalists, as well as top-notch developers. You can read detailed bios for all our staff here. We’re also proud to have 84 people who have volunteered to help us build public interest databases. Our volunteers have spent the past year helping us collect data from government websites, clean it and analyze it. And none of this would be possible without the intellectual leadership of our academic partners, who have been studying these data for decades.
Together, our community has spent the past two years compiling several public interest databases. We’re launching today with eight:
- Lobbying Registrations: We have data on the laws lobbyists want changed and government funding they’re asking for at the federal and provincial levels. Users will be able to search by lobbyist name and keyword (e.g. electric school bus, pipelines, solar panels, wealth inequality, etc.)
- Revolving Door: Every lobbyist who used to work for the government at the federal level and in Saskatchewan, Ontario and British Columbia. Users can search by company (e.g. Suncor or TD Bank), by department (e.g. Environment, Finance), or by individual lobbyist name.
- Lobbyist Meetings: Which lobbyists are meeting with which politicians.
- Government Funding: All money received by lobbyists from provincial, territorial, municipal, federal and international governments. Users can search by company, dollar amount, and government program.
- Political Donations: All donations to politicians at the federal level and in every province and territory from 1993 to the present. Users can search by donor name and recipient name. They can also refine the search by location, amount, political party and donor type (e.g. Union, Corporation, Individual).
- Charity Tax Returns: The tax returns for all Canadian charities from 1990 to the present, searchable by revenue, expenses and programs of interest. Users can compare charities on revenue increases or expense-to-revenue ratios.
- Grant Recipients: How much money foundations give to each charity they support. Users can search by donor, recipient, amount, region, and topic area (e.g. the largest funders of environmental charities, the largest funders of poverty-alleviation charities, etc.)
- Charity Employee Salaries: The salary ranges for senior charity staff throughout time. This will show how much top-paid employees make.
All eight databases will be updated in real-time. Because this project aims to enhance democracy, simple searches will be free. Organizations seeking to make money off the databases with complex searches or those that want to get real-time alerts when new data is added will be charged a subscription fee.
These databases are just the beginning. With your support, we will roll out dozens of public interest databases in the coming years.
We will marry the databases to high-quality data-driven investigations focused on revealing waste and corruption in Canada. We believe in a collaborative journalism model and are proud to partner with leading media outlets. Today we’re publishing a story in partnership with The Walrus about Canada’s crumbling public housing system. In the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing stories in partnership with Canada’s National Observer and the Local News Data Hub, the latter of which will appear in the Canadian Press and Village Media.
We're also publishing a few pieces today that represent the fearless kind of journalism you can expect from the IJF. These stories include:
- Justin Trudeau is selling a record number of weapons to human rights abusers, according to an in-depth data analysis by the IJF. Reporter Kate Schneider found that Trudeau exports an average of $1.3 billion annually to authoritarian countries compared to Stephen Harper’s $161 million.
- The Liberals are quietly allowing lobbyists to attend cash-for-access fundraisers despite promising to stop. In 2017, the federal Liberals promised to stop hosting cash-for-access fundraisers where lobbyists pay to talk to ministers they want to meet with. IJF reporter Roberto Rocha has found that Canada’s top political leaders, including Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland, have quietly been meeting with lobbyists paying for the privilege.
- Who gets access to Canada’s most powerful politicians? Roberto analyzed the registrations of 15,000 lobbyist groups to determine who gets the most access to federal cabinet ministers. Read his detailed feature here and play around with the interactive that lets you explore who gets the most access per cabinet minister.
- Staggering rents and stagnant incomes are pricing Canadians out of stable housing, Julia-Simone Rutgers reports. Julia-Simone and Roberto have done a deep dive into Canada’s crumbling public-housing system, what caused it and what can be done to make things better. The article is a co-publication of The Walrus and the Investigative Journalism Foundation.
Want to see more of this kind of journalism? The best thing you can do is subscribe here:
Want to spread the word? Create an account to receive email updates and help spread the word about our launch on social media.
We believe that radical transparency increases trust. We demand it from the powerful every day. We post who they take money from, meet with, and give money to. We do this so we can hold them accountable for their choices. We want our readers to do the same with us. You can find information on our staff and board of directors here. We are supported by individuals who believe in the importance of public interest journalism. You can see who has donated to us, down to the penny, here. Our editorial policies can be found here.
As a non-profit, nonpartisan media outlet, our primary purpose is to serve the public. We do this by publishing in-depth investigative journalism that speaks truth to power. We also want our databases to be used by other journalists, academics, policymakers and individuals seeking to increase transparency and strengthen Canadian democracy.
We believe in a collaborative model and are proud to partner with other media outlets, post-secondary institutions, non-profits, and other organizations, to ensure our journalism has as wide a reach as possible. Want to work together? Please email me.
Our team has been working towards this day for the past two years. We’re united by a shared belief that sunshine is the best disinfectant. By making it easy for everyone to see the data underlying Canadian democracy, we can build a country that’s more transparent, more democratic and a better place for everyone. We hope you’ll join us.