The Conservative government has made an unfortunate error in judgment by deciding to get rid of the mandatory long-form census. This decision, made without any public consultation and without regard for its impact on Canadians, will deprive governments, businesses and non-profit organizations of sound, reliable statistics on which to base policy decisions. The census is used by governments and businesses to provide emergency services, health care, jobless benefits, schools, services for seniors and new Canadians, transportation, job training centres and much more.
For this reason, Halifax Regional Municipality, Feed Nova Scotia, The Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers and the Health Association of Nova Scotia have strongly urged the government to keep the long-form census.
But the Conservatives refuse to listen to the voices of these Canadians. Instead, they plan to move to a new voluntary survey that will cost taxpayers $30 million more to administer, and which will provide seriously flawed data that will under-represent certain groups in society. A voluntary survey will inevitably mean a lower response rate from low-income Canadians, immigrants, Aboriginals and other disadvantaged groups. This will undermine the accuracy of the data and negatively impact the ability of governments, businesses and organizations to make well-informed decisions.
The Harper government prefers to base government policy on ideology rather than sound information. Rather than listening to concerns raised by provincial and municipal governments, statistical experts, business groups and community organizations, the Harper government has made ridiculous claims about privacy concerns and jail time for those who refuse to complete the census in order to justify this decision. No Canadian has ever been jailed for not completing the census. Liberals believe a reasonable compromise can be made to preserve the mandatory long-form by removing the threat of jail time from all census forms.
I have written to industry minister Tony Clement asking that the decision to eliminate the mandatory long-form be reversed. Unless the Harper government reconsiders this unfortunate plan, Liberals will seek to change the Statistics Act to restore the mandatory long census. —Geoff Regan, MP for Halifax West