No compromise on the census

Ted Hsu
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Update: June 25, 2015, very welcome support from The National Post!

This weekend, Canadian Press reported that the Conservative government has opted against adding any new questions to the mandatory short-form census in 2016. This is disappointing for Canada. I’ve explained some of the many reasons we need census data, and I introduced legislation that would have brought back the mandatory long-form census, but it was voted down by all but one Conservative MP.

In fact, after my bill was defeated, I suggested a compromise to the office of James Moore, the Minister of Industry.


I suggested adding just a few more questions that would provide StatsCan with data that would significantly reduce the sampling bias in the voluntary National Household Survey which replaced the long-form census. Sampling bias is the error that comes from certain types of people not answering questions. One very important thing about the mandatory long-form census is that it served as the bar used to calibrate and minimize sampling bias in all other data sets.

Unfortunately, the Conservatives refused the compromise.

I think it would have allowed the Conservatives to save face: they wouldn’t have had to reverse their policy cancelling the long-form census but, with only a small number of additional mandatory questions, they could have done a lot to improve the quality of data that Canadians rely on in many different ways.