All about us
The news was swift. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will reinstate the mandatory long-form census. It was a firm election promise. But the fact it was announced one day after Trudeau’s swearing-in shows how important the new government feels this survey is.
“As we said throughout the election campaign, we are committed to making evidence-based decisions on programs and policies and to providing better and more timely services to Canadians,” Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains said in a news release last Thursday.
“With the 2016 Census of Population program, communities will once again have access to the high-quality data they require to make decisions that will truly reflect the needs of their people, businesses, institutions and organizations.”
To those who are randomly chosen to fill it out, the long-form census is a nuisance.
When Stephen Harper scrapped it ahead of the 2011 Census, many applauded the move.
Some argued it was too invasive, even though privacy protocols were always strictly followed.
Others insisted there were numerous other sources for statistics, when in reality the longform census was a crucial source of demographic data for governments and other institutions across the country.
The Conservatives replaced it with an optional household survey for the 2011 Census.
It bombed, with compliance dropping from about 95 per cent to 68 per cent.
The absence of information left a gaping hole for those trying to make sound policy decisions based on reliable statistics.
In October, a group of more than 60 policy analysts and other experts made an election issue out of the controversy.
“Response rates (in 2011) plummeted, and nearly a quarter of Canadian municipalities are missing data for 2011,” they wrote in an open letter.
“What’s more, the 2011 data cannot be compared with those of previous years, and many groups, including aboriginal, low-income and immigrant communities, are poorly represented.”
In commending Minister Bain’s announcement Thursday, one group pointed out that even businesses were left cold by a black hole of marketing data.
“Public and corporate decision-making must be based on accurate and comprehensive data, if we are to have a solid grasp on the true nature of the issues we face as a democratic society,” said Stephen Toope, president of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. This was never really a matter of cost. It was always a matter of ideology. After 2016, Canadians will once again know a lot more about themselves.