Long-form census allows planners to invest in services that best serve the community

Ted Hsu
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I recently reached out to the City Manager’s Office at the City of Toronto to try to get a better understanding of how they use census data. Toronto is the most populous city in the country, and my hope was that the city would be able to give me insight into the importance of the census for municipalities.

I will be publishing some of the ways that the City of Toronto uses census data leading up to the second hour of debate for my private member’s bill, Bill C-626, which seeks to reinstate the mandatory long-form census. If you would like to share your experience with using census data, please email me at [email protected].


The City of Toronto relies upon the data generated by Statistics Canada as part of the core data sets that guide the City’s program planning for a variety of services and supports, in order to maximize its resource allocations to meet the changing needs of Torontonians. One of the main impacts of the shift to the NHS is the ability to examine trends over time. A change in statistical collection methodology precludes direct statistical comparison of data gathered before and after the change. Previously, Statistics Canada’s adherence to the same statistical collection methodology for 35 years has allowed for accurate data comparison and invaluable trend analysis.

While some areas in the City continue to use and report on NHS data, release of such data comes with cautionary notations. The City of Toronto is continuing in its exploration on the use of NHS data, while using alternative sources where necessary and available.

Social Place-Based Planning and Investments in Communities

The City of Toronto does a lot of social development, aimed at facilitating service provision to newcomers, seniors, youth and residents of all City neighbourhoods.

The City’s targeted, placed-based approach to service coordination and investment is predicated on the City’s ability to observe and understand demographic trends at the local neighbourhood-level. Data profiles from both the short-form and previous long-form surveys previously supported this work. As a result of the City’s access to reliable local long-form census data, strategic approaches to community development such as the City’s Strong Neighbourhood Strategy 2020 have been able to better target limited resources towards areas of potential intervention and need.

The shift to a voluntary census data collection model presents challenges for the City of Toronto’s place-based service delivery planning and community investment mechanisms across a range of services areas.