Cities to weigh loss of long-form census for community planning

Yet another group weighing in on the ongoing implications and costs associated with replacing the Census with the National Household Survey:

Across the country, cities are feeling the impact of the census changes, said Brad Woodside, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and mayor of Fredericton.

“We’ve heard from our members that the change to the new National Household Survey is impacting their ability to effectively plan and monitor the changing needs of their communities,” he said in an e-mailed statement to The Globe. “We support all efforts to increase the reliability of the data from the census.”

Local governments rely on this information to understand the changing needs of communities, and make a range of decisions, “from where to establish new bus routes, build affordable housing and provide programs for new Canadians, he said. “We continue to call on Statistics Canada to work with municipalities to provide communities of all sizes the most reliable information from the available data.”

Mr. Tory said he will raise the issue with the mayors of the country’s largest cities when they meet in Toronto later this week. The topic is not on the agenda for the gathering, which begins Wednesday evening, but he said he can bring it up in informal discussions.

“I believe you really should try to have the best possible evidence in front of you when you are making important decisions,” he said Tuesday. “I can ask if this is a problem they are facing.”

Cities to weigh loss of long-form census for community planning – The Globe and Mail.

Globe editorial makes the same point but equally unlikely to have much effect:

There is now incontrovertible evidence the Conservative government’s 2010 decision to scrap the mandatory census questionnaire, which quantified everything from family income to ethnicity to regional demographics, was an unalloyed catastrophe.

Opposition has come from think-tanks of every political persuasion, business leaders, charities, public administrators and basically anyone with a PhD. Thanks to a deliberately sabotaged census, we know less about Canada in 2011 than we did about Canada in 2006. Who thinks that’s a good idea?

What’s more, conducting a halfwitted census turned out to be more expensive. The 2011 voluntary household survey increased errors, reduced accuracy, chopped the response rate by 30 per cent – and cost an extra $22-million. Congratulations: The Harper government figured out how to spend more for less.

The decision to kneecap the census was transparently ideological, a rash exercise in partisan narrow-casting, and was quickly exposed as such.

Dozens of experts predicted the damage that would be wrought. It’s time for the Conservative government to finally acknowledge how right they were.

The next opportunity for the House to revisit the Census Act will come next month via another private member’s bill – this one tabled by Conservative backbencher Joe Preston.

It would remove two aspects that are problematic to some Conservatives: jail for refusal to complete the form, and automatic public disclosure after 92 years.

There is still resistance in Mr. Preston’s party to bringing back the mandatory long form. We hope that removing the central justifications for killing it represents an evolving mindset.

Some mistakes are easy to reverse. It may be too late to restore a proper census in 2016, but a return in 2021 should be inevitable.

The census: Little knowledge is a dangerous thing – The Globe and Mail

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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