Ending the long-form census makes it harder to plan how to reduce traffic jams

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.

Employment Projections

The results of the last few Censuses and the NHS are used to develop population projections to determine future demand for different types of housing. This information is critical to assessing the ability of the City to accommodate the population growth forecasted by the Provincial Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Varying response rates across the City through the National Household Survey makes it difficult to ensure that the complete range and demand for housing is identified. The Census and the NHS are used to estimate potential ridership for new transit services such as the Eglinton Crosstown LRT and to plan and implement new transit infrastructure as part of Metrolinx’s Big Move transportation strategy. The differences in survey methodology and response rates between the voluntary NHS and the mandatory Census greatly complicate these efforts. Without a consistent methodology for counting all of the people, households, workers, jobs and their characteristics, it becomes very difficult to develop reliable time-series information which is the basis of long-range public sector planning.

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.