Information blackout

Posted on July 11, 2010 in Governance Debates

Source: — Authors: , , – Opinions/Letters
July 9 , 2010.

The long form of the census is the source of the most accurate information about the rate and depth of poverty in Canada. This is especially true of after-tax poverty measures, estimates for particular population groups and for small provinces and municipalities. This information is essential evidence for policy development. Is the government trying to hide information about poverty?

Sid Frankel, Winnipeg


Rolling power outages aren’t the only worry this summer. An equally devastating information blackout is under way (Ottawa Should Come To Its Census – July 8).

André Picard identifies three national surveys that have been cut in addition to the census long form. Unfortunately, there are more: In 2011, the federal government will not be mounting the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey, the major source of national information on persons with disabilities. Ottawa claims to be designing a new strategy for this population but no one knows whether it will be as information-rich as the existing survey.

Canada and Provinces is another treasure trove that has quietly bitten the dust: It hasn’t been updated since 2002-03. Data on program beneficiaries and expenditures is essential for policy planning and cost estimates.

Cuts to national sources of information are a form of social policy by stealth. They are made quietly under the radar screen but their impact can be irreparable. For example, only a shocking 40 per cent of first nations students on reserve complete high school and the results are slightly better off reserve. Without the census long form, there is no way to determine whether aboriginal education results are improving. So much for evidence-based policy.

Ken Battle, president, Caledon Institute of Social Policy


Industry Minister Tony Clement is misguided in his assertion that the voluntary survey will have a larger response. The U.S. Census Bureau in 2003 compared the response rates for the mandatory American Community Survey by sending a portion of the respondents the same survey but indicating that their response was voluntary. The change from mandatory to voluntary survey resulted in a huge 20.7 per cent decline in response rate.

Canadians will be well-served if Mr. Clement would come to his senses and leave the census as is.

Murtaza Haider, Toronto

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