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The Statistics Canada building stands in Ottawa on July 3, 2019.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Canada’s national statistical agency says it will no longer provide details about its labour force survey to government officials ahead of time, after key information was leaked before the official release on Friday.

“There will be no pre-release of LFS information until further notice,” Statistics Canada said in a statement.

Citing “a person familiar with the matter,” Bloomberg News reported key numbers from Friday’s employment report more than half an hour before the 8:30 EDT release time. The Finance Minister’s office said leaks of this nature are “unacceptable,” and Statscan said it is investigating the matter. The LFS is one of the most important economic – and market-moving - indicators of the month.

In recent years, Statscan has granted pre-release access to the LFS to designated officials in Finance, Employment and Social Development Canada and the Privy Council Office.

In April of this year, early access to the survey was expanded to include the Bank of Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

Statscan grants this access with the authorization of the Privy Council. Officials who receive protected data must sign a statement agreeing to adhere to confidentiality requirements, and the information is sent through secure channels, the agency said.

“Statistics Canada continues its internal investigation and will take appropriate action going forward,” its statement said. The agency didn’t immediately respond to follow-up questions on how many people are privy to this information and when the results of the investigation will be released.

Statscan’s long-standing policy on official releases says that if an employee at the agency violates its policy, the employee could be dismissed or face prosecution under the Statistics Act. If an outside official or organization receiving protected information doesn’t comply, advance-release agreements could be terminated.

“Our government takes this very seriously, and we will put the necessary processes in place to ensure this does not happen again,” said Véronique Simard, spokesperson for Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains.

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