Census-trouble?

The months-long debate over the mandatory long-form census could move forward tomorrow, as the Opposition will vote on a motion put forward by the Liberals in the Commons. According to The Globe and Mail, the motion is as follows:

“That the House calls on the Government of Canada to re-instate immediately the Long-form Census; and given that no person has ever been imprisoned for not completing the census, the House further calls on the government to introduce legislative amendments to the Statistics Act to remove completely the provision of imprisonment from Section 31 of the Act in relation to the Long-form Census, the Census of Population, and the Census of Agriculture.”

Never mind that the second clause is probably a push to quell the public’s concerns over punitive measures—I definitely think this is a step in the right direction. However, news outlets are reporting that Industry Minister Tony Clement has suggested the government will ignore the decision, which is anticipated to be supported by all three Opposition parties. The Conservatives’ opposition to the motion is, of course, perfectly legal, as the motion is non-binding; yet it would be very poor and undemocratic conduct from the Conservatives to simply ignore a statement from the Opposition, as they are supposed to keep the government in check (Political Science 101, folks!).

But this is all speculation. What are the facts? Many groups, including economists, statisticians, the ex-Chief Statistician for Statistics Canada, and all of these groups, have opposed the government’s decision to scrap the mandatory long-form.

The Conservatives say it’s intrusive. So what? Accurate, accessible data is necessary for research, decision-making and city planning. Is it really that big a deal if you tell Statistics Canada how much money you make, what ethnicity you are, or how many bedrooms are in your house? Sure, sometimes people fudge the data and state their religion as “Jedi Knight,” but the pros outweigh the cons, and for the most part, the data is statistically sound and extremely useful. It’s been said many times that switching over to the voluntary census would result in the loss of data, but the Conservatives don’t seem to mind.

An Angus Reid poll from July found that 58% of Canadians supported the mandatory long-form census, as opposed to 24% of Canadians who said it was intrusive. Let’s hope the government makes the right decision and chooses to agree with the majority of Canadians.

October 1 Update: Shortly after the motion passed on Wednesday, Clement posted on Twitter: “Lib-NDP-BQ vote on non-binding Census motion disappoints me. We have a reasonable solution which would treat Cdns with respect.”

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Posted on September 28, 2010, in Canadian Politics, Census, Conservatives, Liberals, Stephen Harper and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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