Pick of the Day: Canadian Census

The word “census” is derrived from the Latin censere which means “god-damned government poking its nose where it doesn’t belong!”

That’s why the Harper Conservatives, in their infinite wisdom, moved last year to dispense with the mandatory long-form census where a certain percentage of Canadians were expected to provide all sorts of information about themselves so that all sorts of municipal, provincial and federal government agencies, university researchers, social policy wonks, economic planners and whatnot could have some hard data to draw on when they were trying to analyze social trends and draft appropriate government policy.

How lame is that, right?

When the feds dropped the mandatory long-form census all sorts of progressive commentators heaped scorn on the government for its short-circuiting of what had previously been a strong instrument of public policy. Here’s a link to some piece of drivel on the topic that was produced by this very magazine last fall.

Well, it’s 2011 now. And as happens every five years, Statistics Canada is again imposing on Canadians to divulge personal information about themselves. The short-form census, which can be completed on-line or in paper format, is still mandatory. “By law, every household must complete a census questionaire” is how Stats Can oh so politely phrases it. Select households have also been flagged to complete a long-form census, only now its optional as opposed to compulsory.

Critics say this will hinder the collection of data vital to the efficient provision of public services in areas like health, education, housing and urban planning, But what do they know, right? Still, the short-form is mandated by law and it’s important to uphold the law.

The questions are all supposed to be answered as of today — May 10. So if you haven’t already, take a few minutes to do your civic duty and fill out your census form.

Author: Gregory Beatty

Greg Beatty is a crime-fighting shapeshifter who hatched from a mutagenic egg many decades ago. He likes sunny days, puppies and antique shoes. His favourite colour is not visible to your inferior human eyes. He refuses to write a bio for this website and if that means Whitworth writes one for him, so be it.

3 thoughts on “Pick of the Day: Canadian Census”

  1. I just filled out my census (short and long). I’m curious to find out whether they get enough of the voluntary long-forms back to gather enough meaningful data.

  2. Maybe some statistician can correct me if I’m wrong, but I didn’t think it’s the number of long-forms they get back that’s the problem. I think it has more to do with selection bias. They’re only going to get back census forms from the sort of people who would fill out a census form instead of from a random sampling of the public. So, regardless of how many long-forms they get back, the data will always be suspect.

  3. Greg, actually the census is due ten days after the date of the letter (May 3), which makes it due Friday May 13.

    Paul, you’re right, self-selection bias is a great concern in a “voluntary census” (add a new oxymoron to the lexicon). This type of bias is likely to be even greater when the information being collected is of a sensitive nature – like census data.

    I filled my census out today and was asked to do the Household Spending survey as well. What they did not ask me in that survey was anything to do with household spending. I know what the old survey was like, and while it was far from perfect, this new one is another shadow of its former self. Too little useful information is being collected.

    As someone who uses census and survey data in their work, I am very concerned about the quality of any analysis that can be derived from the new data.

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