Bring Back the Census

Published on January 29, 2015 in Buzz, News

A private members’ bill to bring back the long-form census and to expand the authority of the Chief Statistician of Canada was brought before parliament by Liberal MP Ted Hsu this past September and will be going for its second hour of debate on January 29, 2015.

Serious concern has been expressed by the Canadian Evaluation Society (CES), researchers, policymakers, companies, non-profit organizations, and private citizens across Canada about the 2011 decision by the federal government to eliminate the mandatory long-form census and replace it with the Voluntary National Household Survey (NHS).

It’s not surprising that the mandatory long-form census leads to higher and more consistent response rates. This means that the results from each long-form census adequately represent the total Canadian population, and are comparable to previous Census results. The results of the voluntary NHS, in contrast, are not representative and not comparable.

Why is this a problem? Because reliable census data plays a critical role in evaluating how well Canada’s social programs are performing. As Benoît Gauthier, President of the CES said in his letter on December 2, 2014 to the Prime Minister of Canada,

One of the most critical aspects of evaluation is measurement of actual program outcomes. Politicians and policy-makers expect evaluation studies to rigorously assess the extent to which public programs are achieving their expected results for Canadians. In order to do this evaluators must rely on data that systematically and consistently monitor social and economic changes. Nothing captures as many critical dimensions of societal changes as the Census when administered with the combined short-form and long-form questionnaires.”

Way to go Benoît! We couldn’t agree more. We value the data that the long-form census provided. We’ll be watching this debate closely as it moves forward.