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Government of Manitoba Opens Doors to Spatial Data

By GeoCommunity Staff - Feb. 25, 2003

The Manitoba government has gone against tradition and opened the doors to it's data repository, something Canadians have been requesting for many years. In a radical departure from previous business models, Manitoba is providing all of its geospatial data free of charge for unrestricted use. Enter the Manitoba Land Initiative (, a web portal developed for GIS users and non-users enabling online access to geospatial data and metadata. The data warehouse has been developed under the Manitoba Land Initiative (MLI) which is an interdepartmental committee of data producing departments.

Users are required to register and accept a user agreement prior to gaining access to the repository. A simple registration is required where users must provide their name, contact information, and establish a username and password.

Hartley Pokrant, Director Information Technology Services Branch has informed GeoCommunity that the data repository contains Provincial GIS data holdings including topographic data, base maps, soils maps, land use mapping, cadastral data, forest inventory, digital imagery, geology maps, community base maps, all administrative boundaries, quarter section grids, geographical names, water resource mapping, road maps, and other layers. All data files are supported with two popular download formats along with complete FGDC meta data files. In the near future, we will also be releasing our interactive map servers covering various interactive data themes.

Using my account, a quick look through the data holdings reveals that 1:20,000 topos can be easily accessed and downloaded in DXF or SHP format. Metadata is provided in a MS Word document and as a bonus, a sample GIF format is provided for viewing prior to download.

Free access to Manitoba's geographic land related data is intended to improve resource management and decision making, and economic development opportunities for businesses, the general public, and academic institutions who can be hindered by high costs and restrictive use rules for spatial data. Complex licensing requirements and fees have been eliminated and substituted with a simple online registration process where the customer acknowledges the data disclaimer and user agreement.

The Canadian geospatial industry, particularly from the private sector, is likely going to embrace this effort as it will surely serve as a catalyst for change in policy in other provinces. Myself having first hand experience working in British Columbia, I can attest to the fact that accessing large-scale, free vector data and basemaps is no easy feat. Some time ago the Province of B.C. made available all of its 1:20,000 TRIM data as downloadable PDFs, a step in the right direction, however, falling short of what is required by the GIS user community. Experienced users and consultants familiar with Ministry websites, particularly those providing FTP access, can often "stumble" on to valuable data products. As a rule though, Provincial base mapping products are not publicly available. Perhaps the MLI will start a trend! At the National scale, Numerous data products are accessible via the popular GeoGratis website ( Vector mapping data is available from GeoGratis in scales ranging from 1:50 000 to 1:30 000 000

Do you have any comments concerning this topic? Send em to Glenn

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