Resolution 2015.05 Reinstatement of the Mandatory Long-Form Census

August 27, 2015

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Legislation
Ontario Provincial Council

2015.05 Reinstatement of the Mandatory Long-Form Census

Whereas, In 2010, the federal government replaced the mandatory long-form census
with a voluntary National Household Survey; and

Whereas, The response rate between the mandatory long-form census and the voluntary National Household Survey dropped 24.2%, weakening the quality and availability of data in the areas of employment, housing, education, immigration and income; and

Whereas, Businesses, governments, educational institutions, health services, non-profits and charities use geographic statistics for allocating money and resources; therefore, be it

Resolved, That national council of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada, in 95th annual national convention assembled, urge the federal government to amend the Statistics Act to reinstate the mandatory long-form census.

Brief: Reinstatement of the Mandatory Long-Form Census

The federal government cancelled Canada’s mandatory long-form census in 2010, citing concerns around personal freedoms, and implemented the voluntary National Household Survey (NHS) in 2011 (Kermalli). At least 370 organizations from a wide cross-section of Canadian society have expressed their objections to the voluntary NHS (Sheikh). Statistics Canada has long been regarded as one of the top statistical agencies in the world and now cautions of the use of the NHS (Sheikh). The mandatory long-form census of 2006 had a response rate of 93.5% and the voluntary NHS in 2011 had a response rate of 69.3% or 21% of Canadians participating (Statistics Canada).

The voluntary nature of the NHS data collection leads to a non-response bias, particularly among “… a number of geographic areas and groups, including aboriginals, languages, immigrants and visible minorities” (Fekete). Hence, their status is under-represented, and the data is less reliable (ibid). The diminished response to the voluntary NHS weakens the quality and availability of data in the areas of employment, housing, education, immigration and income (Yalnizyan). Accurate predictions cannot be made when data is unreliable and when it cannot be compared to data from previous census questionnaires (Statistics Canada).

In order for organizations to assess the effectiveness of their programs, corresponding data must be compared over time and geographic areas (Taillon). For example, using reliable data, educators can see where money is most needed and if it brings results over time (CSBA). “The integrity of Statistics Canada’s long-form census data is paramount in ensuring all levels of government maximize the effectiveness of their resource allocations to meet the needs of Canadians” (CPHA). Good data collection is necessary for good governance, policy formulation and effective allocation of public funds.

The mandatory long-form census has allowed Canada to fulfil its international obligation at the United Nations as evidence of progress in human rights (Barreau du Quebec). Reliable statistics and data quality are essential for making comparisons between towns, counties, regions, and for allocating funds and resources where they are needed (Jacobson). Most organizations at the local level, including businesses, governments, educational institutions, health services, non-profits and charities, rely heavily on geographic statistics for allocating money and resources (Adams).

Despite bad reviews, the government will continue with the voluntary National Household Survey for 2016 (Kilpatrick).

Private Member’s Bill C-626, An Act to Amend the Statistics Act, was defeated at second reading on February 4, 2015 (LEGISinfo). A voluntary survey cannot become a substitute for a mandatory census (Sheikh). For these reasons, this resolution seeks to reinstate the mandatory long-form census.

Works Cited

1. Adams, Michael. Policy Options. “From compulsory to voluntary census: What we stand to lose”. Nov. 2010.
http://policyoptions.irpp.org/issues/afghanistan/from-compulsory-to-voluntary-long-form-census-what-we-stand-to-lose/

2. Barreau de Quebec. Letter from the President of the Bar to the Canadian Minister of Labour, Mr. Tony Clement. Sept 2010.
https://www.barreau.qc.ca/pdf/medias/positions/2010/20100921-recensement.pdf

3. Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA). “The Impact of Cancelling the Mandatory Long-Form Census on Health, Health Equity and Public Health”. Nov. 18, 2010. Web. http://www.cpha.ca/uploads/briefs/longformcensus_e.pdf

4. Canadian School Boards Association (CSBA). “The Census Debate: How Will the Elimination of the Long-Form Census Affect Education Canada?” 2010.
http://cdnsba.org/all/advocacy/the-census-debate-how-will-the-elimination-of-the-long-form-census-affect-education-in-canada

5. Fekete, Jason. Postmedia News. “Data gaps mark National Household Survey, Statistics Canada warns”. May 8, 2013. Web.
http://www.canada.com/Data+gaps+mark+National+Household+Survey+Statistics+Canada+ warns/8354096/story.html

6. Kermalli, Shenaz. CBC News. “Why Canada still needs census in an age of data mining”. August 15, 2013. Web.
http://www.cbc.ca/m/touch/news/story/1.1383200

7. Jacobson, Paul. The Globe and Mail. “Policy making suffering in Canada without the long-form census”. Nov. 5, 2014 Web.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/its-time-policy-makers-return-to-the-long-form-census/article21462343/

8. LEGISinfo (2015) Private Member’s Bill C-626 (42–2). April 25, 2015. http://www.parl.gc.ca/LEGISInfo/BillDetails.aspx?billId=6695099&Language=E&Mode=1

9. Sheikh, Munir A. Academic Matters. “Good government and Statistics Canada: The need for true independence”. May, 2013. Web.
http://www.academicmatters.ca/2013/05/good-government-and-statistics-canada-the-need-for-true-independence/

10. Statistics Canada. 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) and 2006 Census long-form response rates. 2012.
http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/fc-rf/reports-rapports/r2_table-tableau_3-eng.cfm

11. Taillon, Peggy. Canadian Council on Social Development (CCSD). Letter Submitted to 2016 Census Program content consultation. 2012.
http://communitydata.ca/content/letter- submitted-2016-census-program-content-consultation

12. Yalnizyan, Armine. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). Open letter to the Honourable Tony clement, Ministry of Industry and Minister Responsible for Statistics Canada and Munir Sheikh, Chief Statistician, Statistics Canada. July 2, 2010.
https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/commentary/statistics-canadas-senseless- census-decision

Action Plan

1. Write to the prime minister, the minister of finance and local members of parliament, urging the federal government to reinstate the mandatory long-form census.
2. Educate members on the role of the mandatory long-form census in collecting reliable data to inform decision-making.
3. Generate questions for members to bring forward to candidates in the federal election, asking their position on reinstating of the long-form census.
4. Monitor the government’s response to the request contained in this resolution.