Minister of Families

Liberals reinstating long-form census survey

New Liberal government reinstating long-form census, but vague on penalties

  • Nov. 5, 2015 2:00 p.m.

By Jennifer Ditchburn, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – The new Liberal government is making good on a promise to resurrect the mandatory, long-form census killed off by the Conservatives, but is vague on the details of how it plans to persuade Canadians to fill it out.

The long-form component of the 2011 questionnaire was axed by Stephen Harper’s government, which called it intrusive to threaten people with fines and jail time for not answering personal questions — a nod to the party’s libertarian base.

The Conservatives replaced the long-form census with the National Household Survey. The response rate declined from 93.5 per cent in 2006 to 68.6 per cent in 2011.

The new Liberal government, however, is giving priority to evidence-based decision-making instead of ideology, said Navdeep Bains, the minister of innovation, science and economic development.

“Today, Canadians are reclaiming their right to accurate and more reliable information,” Bains told a news conference.

“Communities will once again have access to high-quality data they require to make decisions that will truly reflect the needs of the people, businesses, institutions and organizations.”

But neither Bains nor Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos would discuss specific consequences or penalties which might be imposed to ensure the mandatory questionnaire is filled out.

Some groups have been shown to be less likely to fill out the forms, including indigenous Canadians and low-income earners.

“The law is the law” and the law has not changed, said Bains. He said the government plans to roll out a “robust communications plan” to ensure people know it’s no longer an option to choose not to fill out the form.

The Statistics Act refers to a census of population and to a $500 fine or three-month jail term (or both) if a person refuses to fill in forms they are required to complete. In 2014, Toronto resident Janet Churnin was given a conditional discharge and 50 hours of community service for refusing to fill out the 2011 short form.

The decision to do away with the mandatory long-form census met a wave of criticism in 2010, from a wide range of voices. Religious groups, municipal planners, economists, the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities and aboriginal organizations were among those who petitioned for its return.

“Municipal governments — big and small, urban and rural — rely on the Canadian census and Statistics Canada data to effectively respond to and monitor the changing needs of our cities and communities,” said Raymond Louie, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

“The loss of the long-form census resulted in the loss of vital data about some of our most vulnerable populations and left significant gaps in access to data for Canada’s rural and remote communities.”

Former chief statistician Munir Sheikh resigned over the census debacle, after then-industry minister Tony Clement publicly suggested that bureaucrats supported the idea of a voluntary survey as an adequate replacement for the mandatory questionnaire.

On Thursday, Clement said that in hindsight, a more thorough examination of how to reform the census process might have been prudent. Other countries are looking at data collection on a broader scale — the United Kingdom is currently undertaking a massive analysis of how to do things differently.

“Looking back on it, I would say that it would have been better to have a much broader review of data collection in our country and come up with a better system,” Clement said.

Such a system, he continued, would look at “how data capture can happen in a seamless way and in a way that protects the privacy and security of people.”

Just Posted

UPDATE: Police continue to investigate two bomb threats at Clearbrook Library

No explosives found in incidents on Thursday and Saturday in Abbotsford

Cascades basketball game cancelled

California team no longer travelling to B.C. due to air quality concerns

Fraser Valley Express doubles weekend and holiday bus service

Four new round trips to be added, starting Sept. 4

No smoke delays for Abbotsford Airport

Local facility has avoided impact of B.C. wildfires

Harry Manocha announces plans to run for Abbotsford council

Quality of life, homelessness and school violence among his concerns

VIDEO & SLIDESHOW: Abbotsford Car Show

13th annual Historic Downtown Abbotsford Car Show returns

B.C. team stays alive in Little League World Series after another nail-biter

Surrey-based squad scored a 6-4 win over Mexico reps in Williamsport on Monday

Kids, seniors at risk as smoke from distant fires hangs over parts of B.C.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control says children’s lungs don’t fully develop until about age 10

B.C. mother charged in 7-year-old daughter’s death appears in court

The 36-year-old mother, of Langley’s Aaliyah Rosa, has been charged with second-degree murder

VIDEO: Teen soccer phenomenon Alphonso Davies to visit B.C. kids camp

The 17-year-old Vancouver Whitecap player is one of the youngest players in MLS history

New plan to lift more than two million people past the poverty line

Anti-poverty strategy will aim for 50 per cent cut in low-income rates: source

Liberals scrap lottery system for reuniting immigrants with their parents

Lottery for parent sponsorship to be replaced, more applications to be accepted

More bus trips coming to Metro Vancouver this fall

TransLink touts improvements when fall service changes take effect Sept. 34

Bear kills off-leash dog in North Vancouver park

There have been nearly 200 pet or livestock and bear encounters so far this year

Most Read