29 June 2011

On trashing the long form census—Stats Can on my tail

Shortly before the Canada Post lockout, Statistics Canada mailed me a copy of the 2011 National Household Survey, formerly known as the long form census, to dutifully fill out. I promptly trashed it.

But Stats Can was not finished with me. Yesterday, with Canada Post back in business, I opened my mailbox looking forward to some overdue magazines, but to my considerable disappointment all I found was a brown envelope from Stats Can reminding me to fill out its form. And as if that wasn't enough, later in the afternoon I received a phone call with yet another request that I fulfill this pointless exercise.

Don't get me wrong. I am a strong believer in the long form census. It is, or was, an important resource for a host of individuals and organizations—business, labour, religious, educational, charitable, etc.—and of course for government itself. I would be delighted to assist in the gathering of information that will result in a better understanding of and better policy-making for my country.

But the information provided by a census is only valid if it is gathered in a controlled manner and that means filling out the form must be mandatory. That, unfortunately, is no longer the case. Filling out the form is now voluntary which renders the information gathered useless or worse. I have no intention of wasting my time filling out a 40-page form to provide information that may present an inaccurate, even deceptive, portrait of Canadians.

I will wait until the government regains its senses, listens to the advice offered from almost every corner of Canadian society and returns to the mandatory long form. Then, if I'm still around, I will do my duty as a citizen and fill out the form with enthusiasm.

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