Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Bring Back Compulsory Census

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Bring Back Compulsory Census

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Bring back compulsory census

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An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published Sept. 24:

The picture painted by Statistics Canada's 2011 census and the new national household survey -- a second-rate stand-in for the former mandatory long-form questionnaire axed by the Harper government -- is clear, to a degree. Almost 15 per cent of Canadians, for example, are living on after-tax low incomes -- less than $39,000 for a family of four. And, almost 70 per cent of households owned their home.

But sorting through what that means -- who are they, exactly where are they living -- gets tough the further one tries to drill down in a province, city, town or neighbourhood. Some neighbourhoods don't even show up.

That's because the voluntary survey, which was sent to a third of Canadian households last year, had some really low response rates and was unreliable in spots.

Income is just one of many characteristics of the population measured by the national statistics bureau every five years. The comparisons of repeated censuses have shown how the country has grown and changed, in religion, distribution of income, education, employment and ethnicity. The wealth of data drawn from the short form, which everyone must fill out on the same day of the year taken, and the long-form, sent to one-fifth of households in 2006, allowed Statistics Canada to draw broad conclusions about Canadians -- those of higher income were more likely to have post-secondary educations, for example. The rise of immigrant populations mirrored the relative fall of some previously "mainstream" religions in this country.

This came from solid data collected in big enough numbers to support observations. Standardized questionnaires -- asking the same question in the same way -- meant census results could be compared over time, indicating how populations were shifting and how the labour force or languages were changing as Canada's demographics were influenced by education, immigration, generational integration and migration from towns to cities.

The Harper government in 2010 eliminated the mandatory long-form questionnaire, citing concerns about privacy that were never well illustrated. …

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