Managing public data for whose benefit?: a case study analysis of accessing land titles in the Canadian prairies

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Funk, Laura E.
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In Canada, land registries fall within provincial governments’ jurisdiction and therefore, approaches to management vary across the country. A trend of privatization has occurred in some provinces, marking changes in how governments approach the management of their land registries. Research on land administration and management of public services has not included thorough examination of the levels of accessibility of land registry data to the public. While there are some members of the general public who can efficiently access data, others face challenges when seeking to acquire data for various public interest purposes. This multiple case study analysis centres on the Canadian prairies where provincial governments’ decisions regarding land registries are developing within a context of modernizing public services. Through semi-structured interviews with 21 individuals and document analysis of various resources including Hansard records, I seek to explore the political economy of land registry management and the inclusion of the private sector in modernization and service delivery. I highlight the streamlining of services according to lawyer-centric systems and products, which have developed based on an orientation towards creating, improving and marketing services towards professionals in legal, real estate and financial sectors. I connect this trend to the evolving commercialization and marketization of land registries occurring in cases where private sector service providers (in partnership with provincial governments) are leveraging data to generate capital for shareholders and owners. In doing so, the “public” nature of land registry data is challenged and compromised. Based on these developments, I usefully discuss the implications of lawyer-centric systems on the accessibility of data to members of the public who do not fit within the mainstream category of clientele, but maintain a right and hold valid interests in accessing public land registry data.
Land administration, land-titling data, privatization, marketization, political economy