Statistics Canada Underestimated Manitoba's Population

By Falk, Wilf | Winnipeg Free Press, February 7, 2014 | Go to article overview

Statistics Canada Underestimated Manitoba's Population


Falk, Wilf, Winnipeg Free Press


Over the past two months, there have been considerable media articles and commentary regarding an under-count of Manitoba's population. Manitobans should understand the issue and why it is important.

As chief statistician of Manitoba, I categorically state Statistics Canada has substantially underestimated Manitoba's population. The issue is about statistical methodology which has serious consequences for Manitobans. An under-counted population has significant negative impacts on fiscal transfers, resulting in the province not receiving its rightful share.

Every five years, Statistics Canada conducts a census. Before population estimates are finalized, they complete a follow-up study to estimate how many people were missed by the census. MBS's concern lies with that follow up study and statistically unusual results, which have led to an under-count of Manitoba's population.

Statistics Canada's new population estimates were released Sept. 26, 2013, and effectively delete approximately 18,000 Manitobans. Before September, Statistics Canada had stated Manitoba's 2011 population estimate to be 1,251,690. Now, they reduced it to 1,233,728.

The following is an overview of the situation.

Prior to Statistics Canada finalizing its population estimates in September, the Manitoba Bureau of Statistics along with other provincial and territorial statistical agencies were involved in a six-month population evaluation process with Statistics Canada.

This evaluation process occurs every five years. The latest process was to determine the new population series based on the 2011 Census counts adjusted for estimates of the number of persons not completing a Census form. Due to these discussions, Statistics Canada's preliminary estimates for Manitoba and the other provinces and territories were revised a number of times.

Statistics Canada's own evaluation analysis identified their estimates of Manitoba's counted and missed persons were statistically very unusual and stood far apart from estimates for other provinces and territories. In fact, the Manitoba results were extreme, having never occurred before for any province or in any time period.

MBS raised concerns on the statistical challenges of the Manitoba estimates at meetings of federal-provincial-territorial statistics officials. These were followed up with written position papers that identified the issue, as well as recommending options to correct the statistical "errors. …

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