It only took the Liberals two days in office to announce the reinstatement of the long-form census.
Navdeep Bain, new Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development came out on November 5th to announce the move stating that they want Canada to have “reliable good quality data” about their population.
In 2010 Harper’s Conservative government axed the mandatory long-form census for a voluntary ‘National Household Survey’ that was used in place of Canada’s 2011 census. The Conservative government cited privacy concerns and costs, when explaining the cut.
The results weren’t great either. The decision was met with a lot of criticism from researchers and planners who rely on census data to inform them of demographics throughout the country.
Anne Kingston’s piece “Vanishing Canada” in Maclean’s magazine in September took a critical look the conservative government’s aversion to data openness, their silencing of scientists and in larger sense their anti-intellectual thinking.
In that article, Kingston writes the story of Melville, Sask. a town of 4,500 residents, of which only around 500 residents responded to the voluntary survey sent out in 2011.
Leaving very little to be known about Melville’s population, other than how many of them there are. Melville, Kingston, goes on to say is far from an anomaly among Canadian towns and response rate to the survey.
Experts say smaller communities – areas on the countryside, small towns and neighbourhoods in cities were hardest hit as researchers could lose all specific knowledge about the people living in a locale by just a couple hundred people not responding to the survey in 2011.
Navdeep Bain claimed when releasing the Liberal plan for reinstatement that the long-form census that the Conservative voluntary version actually cost more than the long-form census.
The claim makes sense too, the ‘National Household Survey’ was 8 questions long and sent out to 1 in 3 Canadian households, while the long-form census has been 61 questions long, but only sent out 1 in 5 households.
The wording of mandatory on the long-form census versus the voluntary survey made a significant difference in compliance even though the census was longer and asked more personal questions.
According to the Toronto Star there was a 68.6 per cent a response rate for the 2011 National Household Survey compared in 2006 when 93.5 per cent censuses were returned.
For those averse to revealing too much personal information, in the past, the law has been lenient on those refusing to respond to the survey.
Justin Trudeau promised a reinstatement of the long-form census for 2016 as campaign promise and it seems he intends keep it.