SAS supports National Policy Challenge and microdata research with Statistics Canada and CRDCN

The Canadian Research Data Centre Network’s 2022 National Policy finalists cover cannabis use in Canada, immigration policy, and more

The demand for data science talent shows no sign of slowing down, and analytics leader SAS once again teamed up with Statistics Canada and the Canadian Research Data Centre Network to help develop the next generation of data research-policy professionals. The CRDCN’s Canadian National Policy Challenge is even more critical this year in helping researchers hone their use of microdata in developing innovative, evidence-driven policy solutions.

To help researchers apply data analysis skills across policy sectors in economic, health, and social science-informed areas of study, they need both policy and data industry experts to join together to help them develop these critical skills before they graduate. The National Policy Challenge was developed with this goal in mind.

“Thanks to SAS’s long-standing relationship with Statistics Canada and the Canadian Research Data Centre Network, we have been able to create a national showcase for Canadian graduate students interested in policy, economics and the social science,” said Mark Morreale, Senior Global Academic Program Coordinator at SAS. “The National Policy Challenge is a creative and innovative event allowing students to display their analytics talent and research to potential employers.”

Policy challenge finalist winner Angèle Lucie Poirier, who is pursuing a Master of Arts in Economics at the University of Regina, centred her project on analyzing the behaviours of consumers of recreational cannabis in Canada. Given that there are two competing markets -- legal and illicit -- she determined policy could be informed by knowing which groups have a greater propensity toward legal versus illicit recreational cannabis.

“I think that this event should be mentioned in every single research data centre orientation session,” said Poirier after the challenge. “I am so lucky that this event fell shortly before my thesis defense because it was excellent preparation.”

This year’s finalists are from across Canada. They presented their policy and research data in front of a panel of judges from the CRDCN, Statistics Canada and SAS Canada:

  • Angèle Lucie Poirier, University of Regina. Her project centred on analyzing the behaviours of consumers of recreational cannabis in Canada.
  • Jennifer Frimpong, University of Manitoba. Jennifer investigated the effects of the 1995 immigration policy - which shifted focus from family reunification to economic immigration - on immigrant mothers’ labour force participation.
  • Samer Hamamji, University of Toronto. Samer analyzed the association of healthy food choices aligned with Canada’s Dietary Guidelines recommendations on cardiometabolic risk factors using the Canadian Health Measures Survey.
  • El Zahraa Majed, Queen’s University. Her project aimed to identify physical activity patterns among new and established adult immigrants in Canada, and the association between physical activity and health status (physical and mental) of the immigrant population in Canada.
  • Samantha Skinner, Western University. Using Canadian population data, Samantha’s project examined the care contexts that can give rise to positive and negative health outcomes for informal caregivers.

“I am always impressed at the breadth of topics covered by the finalists every time I have had the opportunity to serve as a judge for the National Policy Challenge,” said Hugh Cairns, Senior Analytical Consultant for Solution Delivery Services at SAS. “This year's competition examined topics that varied from the importance of grandparents, the link of healthy eating habits to the determinants of cannabis use in both the illicit and legal markets. The variety of research topics is one of the reasons why participating in the competition is so enjoyable.”

Looking for new talent?

The National Policy Challenge is just one of the ways SAS helps foster the next generation of analytics talent across Canada and beyond.

  • The annual SAS Roads competition allows participating teams to work with KSI (killed or seriously injured) incident report data from TPS, along with aggregated Geotab fleet telematics showing traffic speeds, acceleration and hard braking, road conditions, and more to derive insights and help improve road safety.
  • Cortex is an analytics simulation game developed in collaboration between SAS and HEC Montréal. Cortex has become a worldwide phenomenon, with competitions as far afield as the U.S., Thailand, Malaysia, Finland and Australia. Learn more about Cortex.

About SAS

SAS is the leader in analytics. Through innovative software and services, SAS empowers and inspires customers around the world to transform data into intelligence. SAS gives you THE POWER TO KNOW®.


The Canadian Research Data Centre Network (CRDCN) is a premier research and training platform for over 2,000 researchers in the quantitative social, economic and health sciences in Canada.

The Network provides unique secure access to Statistics Canada microdata on 33 campuses across the country to advance knowledge and inform public policy.

It is funded by SSHRC, CIHR, CFI, the FRQ, Statistics Canada and our 42 primary and affiliated partner universities. CRDCN is recognized as one of Canada’s Major Science Initiatives.

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