Open Letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper: Reinstate the long-form census

Last week, I sent the following open letter to the Prime Minister, asking him to support my private member’s bill, Bill C-626, which reinstates the mandatory long-form census:

census 2011

Open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Reinstate the Long-Form Census

 

By Ted Hsu, Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands

October 30, 2014

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

 

“…vital statistics are critical. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”[1]

 

You said those words as you spoke to the United Nations about Canada’s commitment to mothers and infants in less-developed countries.

I ask you today to support my private member’s Bill C-626, which strengthens the independence of the Chief Statistician and restores the mandatory long-form census to the extent that the quality and continuity of our national statistics are not compromised.

Our goal should be to safeguard the integrity and quality of fundamental information about the people of Canada whom we aspire to serve. Is that not what we seek when we pray at the beginning of each day in the House of Commons, “Grant us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to preserve the blessings of this country for the benefit of all and to make good laws and wise decisions.”?

The quality of national statistics has been compromised. Researchers have publicly called the voluntary National Household Survey, which replaced and cost more than the 2011 long-form census, “worthless”[2]. Just this past summer, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution calling for the restoration of the mandatory long-form census.

Your government claims to be concerned about the intrusiveness of the long-form census. But filling out the long-form census is a civic duty, a duty like filing a tax return, serving jury duty, obeying the law or voting. Your government should understand the importance of having the reliable information needed to keep Canadians safe — to ensure peace and order. Reliable information is also needed for good government. Filling out the long-form census has been a civic duty for several decades and, all that time, Statistics Canada has done an excellent job of protecting the privacy of individual Canadians.

Indeed the long-form census is less of a threat to privacy than some other data gathering systems. Your government is seriously examining the implementation of a “virtual census”[3], following the lead of the European countries which have no census and obtain data in other ways without bothering people so much. However, a Statistics Canada report noted that, “…this approach requires both a population register and a universal personal identification number. Neither exists in Canada…”. I believe most Canadians would agree with Statistics Canada that there are enormous privacy implications of an approach where all your vital information is tethered for life to a universal government ID.

Again, you said, “…vital statistics are critical. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

Indeed, I agree with you, Mr. Harper. The government needs reliable information about Canada to manage the economy, a central focus for your party. It is our duty to ensure that no government is without that information.

For the sake of good government in Canada, I ask you to support Bill C-626.

[1] http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2014/09/25/pm-addresses-united-nations-general-assembly-new-york-city

[2] D. Hulchanski, R. Murdie, A. Walks, and L. Bourne, “Canada’s voluntary census is worthless: Here’s why”, Globe and Mail, Oct. 4, 2013.

[3] http://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/statscan-considering-virtual-census-to-replace-head-count

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[…] it with the inaccurate National Household Survey.  Liberal MP Ted Hsu has even put forth a private member’s bill to try and revive it.  But passing this bill would require the Harper Government to admit it made […]