Minister of Families

Minister of Families

Liberals reinstating long-form census survey

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

  • Nov. 5, 2015 5:00 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

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Curl B.C. chairperson Teri Palynchuk is this year’s winner of the Janette Robbins Award for leadership. Palynchuk is pictured here with the Curling Canada Foundation Cup along with past chairperson Peter Muir, left, and Curl B.C. CEO Scott Braley. (Photo courtesy Curl B.C.)
Nanaimo curling exec wins Curl B.C. leadership award

Teri Palynchuk receives Janette Robbins Award

(Black Press file photo)
RCMP: Air ambulance called to Whiskey Creek after crash involving 2 motorbikes

Both riders taken to hospital with serious injuries

Vancouver courthouse. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man loses bid to appeal conviction for 1999 rape at Abbotsford music festival

James Redden, 53, formerly of Nanaimo, was found guilty in 2019 following six-day trial

Nanaimo author B.S. Thompson has released his debut novel, ‘The Book of Nodd.’ (Photo courtesy Nora Funk)
Nanaimo author invites readers into dangerous world of dreams in debut novel

B.S. Thompson unveils ‘The Book of Nodd’ with online launch June 20

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

CVSAR search the Puntledge River following a report of an abandoned kayak. Photo, CVSAR Facebook page
Comox Valley Search and Rescue spends four hours searching for no one

Overturned kayak a reminder for public to contact officials if they have to abandon a watercraft

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers tested more than 230 commonly used cosmetics and found that 56% of foundations and eye products, 48% of lip products and 47% of mascaras contained high levels of fluorine

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada, speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on June 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul facing no-confidence motion from party brass

move follows months of internal strife and the defection of MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberals

Potters Virginia Dunseith and Ruth Porter present their joint exhibit ‘Dig It’ at Art 10 Gallery until the end of June. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
Potters show pieces for home and garden at Nanaimo’s Art 10 Gallery

Virginia Dunseith and Ruth Porter’s show ‘Dig It’ on display until end of June

Emergency crews on scene of a two-car crash at the intersection of Cranberry Avenue and the Trans-Canada Highway on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Crash blocks Cranberry intersection in Nanaimo, no one injured

Incident blocks both southbound lanes of Trans-Canada Highway

Most Read