Auditor General: StatsCan can't get the data we need

Ted Hsu
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When the Conservative government cut the long-form census in 2011, we knew that there would be lots of consequences. We use the data collected in lots of ways: the data shapes city planning, school board decisions, public transit lines, and it is the best source of information about Aboriginal communities.

 

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The government assured Canadians that the National Household Survey (NHS) would be a fine replacement. Given that the NHS costs $22 million more than the long-form census, it really should be a much better replacement. But the voluntary NHS only goes to 30% of households, and its findings come with an official warning from StatsCan: “users should use caution when comparing income estimates from the NHS to other household income surveys, administrative data or 2006 Census data or earlier censuses.” An op-ed in the Globe and Mail goes so far as to call the NHS “worthless.

 

The lack of available data is really starting to catch up with us now. Last week, the Auditor General’s Spring Report found that StatsCan couldn’t adequately collect and analyze data from smaller towns across the country. This means that people who monitor Canada’s economic health, who look to StatsCan for information about job vacancies, won’t be able to tell if reported job vacancies in Alberta are from Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Medicine Hat, or somewhere else. The Auditor General did interviews and found that the “data is of limited use to them when it is not available for their locations.” I know that jobs are scarce, and the government needs to use all available tools to help connect Canadians with appropriate jobs. StatsCan is one of our best tools: it’s time to use it.

 

This is why I put forward my private member’s bill, Bill C-562, which amends the Statistics Act to restore the long-form census, and to expand the authority and political independence of the Chief Statistician, so that we can have the data required to develop the evidence-based policies our country needs.