Posted: Wednesday, 14 July 2010
Discontinuing the long-form census and replacing it with a new voluntary questionnaire known as the National Household Survey is a mistake that will make it more difficult to develop public policy responses to changing demographic conditions.
“Like the majority of nations, our population is undergoing tremendous demographic, economic and social changes – failing to monitor these changes via the long-form census is like driving on a major highway with your eyes wide shut,” says Hassan Yussuff, Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).
“Credible information is essential to improving on public policy, like knowing who is working and who is not. The information Canadians and policy makers had access to via the long-form census helps to discern how different groups are fairing. Equity-seeking groups, such as Aboriginal communities, racialized workers, recent newcomers, and low-income households are likely going to be counted out… again by this move,” remarked Yussuff. “The result will be an incomplete picture of the country, the workforce and our communities.”
Shifting from a mandatory census to a voluntary questionnaire has major drawbacks. More effort will be required to get responses; detailed information will not likely be collected; comparative analysis with previous years that provide important insights into trends will be lost; and particular communities will be less inclined to respond.
Other changes made within Statistics Canada add to our concerns. Excellent surveys on immigrants to Canada have been axed and analysis of the implications of our aging population are also gone.
Yussuff further noted, “The argument being made by Minister Clement’s office that this change was ‘made to reasonably limit an intrusion of personal privacy’ is questionable.”
This same government recently proposed amendments to the Aeronautics Act that would require airlines to communicate passenger information to ‘a foreign state’ for flights over that country even if the flights are not landing in that country. That means that if Bill C-42 passes, airlines would be forced to disclose passengers' names, birth dates and genders to screening by U.S. Homeland Security, on flights that fly anywhere into U.S. airspace.
This government has no difficulty sharing travellers' private information with foreign states they are merely flying over, yet deems the long-form census, that provides vital demographic information key to making evidence-based public policy decisions an unreasonable intrusion into personal privacy.”
A country that is 80% reliant on immigration for net labour force growth and with 8 million Canadians within 10 years of retirement age – out of a workforce of 17 million, knowing how we as a nation are faring is critically important information. Fundamentally changing the way in which valuable and needed demographic data is collected is absolute blindness.
The CLC urges its members to contact their Member of Parliament and Industry Minister Tony Clement who is responsible for the census, and urge the government to reverse this decision. An online petition has been set up and everyone is encouraged to sign on. Check out http://www.gopetition.com/online/37527.html
Read Ken Georgetti's letter to Tony Clement urging the government to reverse its decision and reinstate the census long-form questionnaire.