The Harper government’s plan to scrap the mandatory census long-form questionnaire and replace it with a voluntary survey may appeal to the prime minister’s libertarian roots and Tea Party folk, but it is terrible public policy.
Changing from a mandatory census to a voluntary survey has major drawbacks. The move will weaken the information we need to tell us what is happening to employment, immigration, housing, incomes and education – the very issues that beg for the most informed policy decisions as we inch our way through economic recovery.
Under Harper’s slapdash survey, more effort will be required to get responses, detailed information will not be collected and our ability to spot trends that affect our lives will be lost.
StatsCan’s chief statistician has said that the Harper plan to replace the mandatory long-form questionnaire with a voluntary version won’t work. In fact, Mr. Munir Sheikh felt so strongly about Harper’s gutting of the census that he resigned over the issue. Mr. Sheikh is not alone. A wide spectrum of individuals and groups have come out in opposition to the proposed change.
The Harper government says it’s responding to concerns about individual privacy – and that no individual should be threatened with jail for not filling out the census – but have not provided any evidence to back up these claims. In fact, never in the history of Statistics Canada has personal data ever been compromised, and the government’s own Privacy Commissioner received only two complaints after the 2006 census.
What the Harper government is doing is depriving future governments with a very important tool in making public policy decisions that benefit all Canadians.
Time is running short and we need to act against the Harper government’s plan to abandon the long-form census, and to find a compromise that ensures we continue to get the high quality data that is provided by the mandatory long-form questionnaire.
UFCW Canada members can join the campaign to save the long-form census by signing the “Keep the Canadian Census Long Form Petition” and by sharing its link on their Facebook profiles and Twitter feeds.
Vol. X No. 31 • August 9, 2010