Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tory Heartland Hit the Hardest with Loss of Long-Form Census Data

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tory Heartland Hit the Hardest with Loss of Long-Form Census Data

Article excerpt

Loss of census hits data in Tory heartland


OTTAWA - The federal government's decision to axe the long-form census has left parts of the Conservative heartland in western and rural Canada without some of the newest data on how its population is changing.

Statistics Canada released the first results Wednesday from the 2011 voluntary National Household Survey, the replacement for the long census. The data covered such topics as religion, visible minorities, aboriginals and immigration.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government in 2010 eliminated the mandatory long-form census, citing concerns over personal freedoms.

It boosted the number of households set to receive the new National Household Survey, but the response rate of 68 per cent fell well below the 94 per cent anticipated by Statistics Canada for a mandatory long-form census.

Certain types of Canadians -- aboriginals or the poor, for example -- are less likely to respond when given the choice, introducing a potential bias in the numbers.

The agency said it achieved a high quality of results at a national level for a voluntary survey. But it cautioned that the numbers were less reliable when zeroing in on areas with fewer than 25,000 people.

Because of low response rates, Statistics Canada chose to withhold all data on a quarter of Canadian municipalities, or 1,128, compared with the 200 that were suppressed after the 2006 long-form census. Most of those are in rural and First Nations communities.

"The estimates for such areas have such a high level of error that they should not be released under most circumstances," the agency said.

Saskatchewan had the worst results, with information not published on 43 per cent, or more than 500, of its communities. The Conservatives hold all but one of the seats in that province, and have traditionally found support in Canada's rural areas.

Some of the towns and cities excluded across the country include Bonavista, Nfld., Pictou, N.S., Sackville, N.B., Dauphin, Man., Vulcan, Alta., and Tofino, B.C.

"By not having one quarter of municipalities as part of that database, I think there's information that's missing, both for the federal government as well as for the provincial," said Karen Leibovici, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. …

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