You may think that, as a Canadian, you’ve already bought data about your country with your tax dollars. But you are wrong. Here’s a contrast between Canada and the USA regarding availability of digital geographic names data:
Ironically, you can get some Canadian data from the USA. For free.
The United States government has an enviable tradition of free access both to raw data and their interpretation of it. When people used to get in touch with me looking for information on how to sympathetically renovate their historic properties, I often pointed them in the direction of free (and very well researched) American government sources. The Canadian equivalents were either non-existent or quite expensive.
Where the Canadian model becomes farcical is when one branch of government charges other branches of government for the use of information they’ve gathered. The old saw that there’s only one tax payer may be a bit simplistic, but the notion that departments try to balance their budgets on the backs of other departments is absurd.
Free Canadian GIS data isn’t a complete lost cause. Check out Geobase.ca. In fact, it has (at least some) geonames information available at http://www.geobase.ca/geobase/…. I’m hopeful that more data will show up there eventually but who knows.
Nah — you just have to know the right people with the feds and province and just end up getting the data for free.