07/08/2010

All orders of governments use Statistics Canada’s Census data to inform their policy decision making and program/service implementation as we all rely on the reliability and validity of this information.
All orders of governments use Statistics Canada’s Census data to inform their policy decision making and program/service implementation as we all rely on the reliability and validity of this information. The data we use is generally extracted and analyzed from the mandatory “long form” questionnaire which asked one-fifth of Canadian households questions on issues such as work, education, housing, income, child care, migration, ethnicity and family life. Business, non-profit organizations and universities also heavily use this data for their respective purposes.

The Federal Government quietly eliminated the mandatory nature of the “long form” of the upcoming 2011 Census. Notice was provided in the June 26th Canada Gazette that this change had occurred through an Order in Council. Although such changes to well-established government operations are generally consulted upon prior to decision-making, there is no consultation process on this matter currently.

AMO is quite concerned with this federal direction given its significant potential negative impact to our collective capacity to conduct reliable, accurate analysis of municipal issues on a longitudinal basis to say nothing of all the municipal, provincial and federal government programs/services driven by the Census data. Issues and programs/services in areas such as municipal funding, social assistance, immigration, health, poverty, economic development, training, education, housing, child care and employment could all be affected by this announcement.

A survey methodology that relies on voluntary responses will compromise the efficacy of the data as the evidence indicates that aboriginal people, recent immigrants and those who are in the lower socio-economic populations will be underrepresented. This will result in these populations being under-counted and therefore the programs/services for these hard-to-serve people could be underfunded. Although the 2011 long form will be sent to more households to complete (from one-fifth to one-third), the voluntary nature will make the data size and response unreliable and not to the accuracy required to ensure efficient and effective program delivery. Although some may not wish to complete a mandatory long-form survey (individual’s concerns), the argument for the public good of the data seems to have been lost in the balance. Further it should be known that all StatsCan data is available in aggregate form with no personal indicators, therefore the privacy issue is a bit of a red herring in that the personal information underlying each Census is only released 92 years after its collection.

AMO is currently raising our concerns with the Ontario government so that they can also engage in this discussion with the Federal government. AMO will be sending a letter shortly to the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, to ask him to reconsider this decision given its implications for municipal programs and services. We are also working with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) to ensure that our work is integrated at the national level.

We encourage members to contact your local MP, MPPs and the Industry Minister to inform them as to how this decision will affect municipal programs and services and ultimately your communities. For the benefit of all, we are asking that this decision be reconsidered and reversed.