How do you feel about the Conservatives’ decision to eliminate the mandatory long-form census? -

How do you feel about the Conservatives’ decision to eliminate the mandatory long-form census?


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How do you feel about the Conservatives’ decision to eliminate the mandatory long-form census?

  1. Scientific value? That's quite a stretch.

    Perhaps the opposition would like to explain why they think its okay to arrest and/or intimidate those Canadians who don't want to fill in the form?

    • How many Canadians have been arrested in the last 30 years that this statute has been in effect, Ron? For that matter, how many Canadians have been fined since the Statistics Act was enacted in 1870?

      That's a red herring argument, which I'm not surprised Conservatives are attempting to use.

      • Slight correction for you, Scott: the Statistics Act was 1970. The 1870 act was the Census Act.

        (Not that it changes your argument, as the rest is correct.)

      • If no one is getting arrested for not complying and very few people fined. Why have such legal punishments on the books?

        • Because the threat of them gets people who would otherwise not fill out the census to do so?

          • Those who made the law knew the importance of having those who were randomly selected to fill it out to keep the data more accurate. Obviously, there were enough people in power convinced/educated on how statistics work to realize this very important requirement.

          • Now, obviously, there are enough Conservatives (who don't understand some very basic concepts of statistical random sampling) who are going to undo the gathering of some really important information on our society. Information that's good for all of us to know, not just government.

          • The response-rate of the census is the issue. Assumptions are that the current penalties (by which we consider the census to be "mandatory") are responsible for maintaining a high response-rate, which in turn ensure the accuracy of the random sampling. (I have to assume that the response-rate is actually high, since I can't find the exact number).

            But I think we can all agree that 95% of Canadians would be hard pressed to describe what sort of penalties might in fact await them should they fail to properly file their long-form census.

            In view of this ignorance, can it really be the *specific* penalties that drive compliance?

            And, thus, perhaps we could reasonably discuss changes to these penalties – but maybe not eliminating them – to reflect a refined balance between individual freedom and social need. Jail time could be removed (I understand that this provision has not been used), and a renewed focus on assessing and collecting fines.

            Perhaps a balance of carrot, along with the revised stick, might also prompt high response-rates.

          • I understand the principles of statistical sampling. I just disagree with your premise that good data is worth bad laws.

          • So the government isn't actually in the business of enforcing laws, it's in the business of being vaguely menacing. Good to know.

      • Scott, you are right in that few, if any, Canadians have ever been prosecuted for failing to comply with the census. This, however, leads to an interesting question about the long form. If in fact no one is being prosecuted for declining to fill it out, then how can its defenders claim they are getting pristine, perfectly random data from it? The reality is that they aren't.

        Ask anyone who has ever worked the census "on the ground". When one household balked at the long form, they just quietly slid it to another place in the hopes of finding someone else willing to fill it out. They got their quota of long forms, but in no way, shape or form was it as perfectly random as those at the centre proclaimed it to be. I am anxious for someone to tell me how the previous practical application of the long form is all that different from the government's proposed reform.

        • Sea Otter, I'm not sure what sort of "on the ground" experience you have with the Census, but the notion of just "sliding" the long form from one household to another until you find someone who would answer it simply is not possible if you know anything about how the Census is conducted. The households designated to receive the long form are assigned based on a random start within the ennumeration area to ensure that the 20% sample is achieved. Those selected households must complete the long form and it cannot be re-assigned to another. The government's proposal to use a voluntary survey would definitely result in typically hard to ennumerate households (i.e. those containing young persons only, the elderly, persons in lower and higher income brackets, immigrants, disabled, aboriginals, etc.) not responding in a disproportionatly higher level, resulting in under estimates of their numbers in the population. This would then have a direct impact on funding for programs aimed at assisting these groups in whatever way our society feels is in its overall best interest.

        • Those who refuse to complete the form initially are generally provided with additional information to help them to understand the value of their information in helping all levels of government carry out their responsibilities at which point the vast majority agree to complete the form. Only as a last resort are some chosen to be prosecuted in order to establish that the government is prepared to exercise the authority of the law in order to get the information it needs, and even then less than a handful eventually pay the fine.

          As citizens of the country, we are all asked to do things which some feel are an imposition on their personal freedoms, but which the vast majority are prepared to obey because they recognize the overall benefit to everyone. Examples such as getting a driving license, paying taxes, respecting drinking and driving regulations, etc. We don't listen to the few who reject these requirements and disgard valid programs just to appease them, and I think maintaining the need for a mandatory long census form is just one of those necessary evils.

      • So your argument is that it's okay to have bad laws on the books, because the government doesn't actually enforce the law. Poor government that ignores the whole concept of the rule of law – it's win-win!

    • Intimidate? I assume by initmidate you mean "tell them they have to do it?" Because it's the law. Perhaps the government would like to explain why they think its okay to arrest and/or intimidate those Canadians who drive faster than the government likes, or perhaps the government would like to explain why they think its okay to arrest and/or intimidate those Canadians who who don't fill out the short form census?

    • Apparently 64 people have been charged for not filling out the 2006 census ( No word on convictions though.

      Of course, this being Canada, most of them appear to be anti-war activists proving that someone in Ottawa has a peculiar sense of humour.

    • For the same reasons that this government still believes that filing a tax return, serving on a jury, registering a birth or death, or doing any number of things which might be viewed by some as an invasion of privacy should be legally mandatory of all citizens.

      All governments require both general and specific information about its citizens to provide services to its citizens.

      If you really think that providing some basic information to the government is a major invasion of privacy try asking StatsCan or CRA if you can see the information your neighbour gave them.

  2. The census is an intrusion into our lives, regardless of party. It proves that we are owned by the government or those who own the government, provincial and federal. They see us as property. That's how William the Conqueror felt when he made up his Domesday Book of England. We're property. That's why they impose everything else on us or more and more as every week goes by. Body scanners. Surveillance cameras. Same with fintrac monitoring of financial transactions. Same with the use of cattle-prods they call tasers. Same with mass arrests at the G20 where they're negotiating world government without our input. Same with bank bailouts. Same with the wars they make us fund. Same when they shut down parliament. Same with the value of the money they impose on us. Same when they try to control altnerative health products. The subsidies to corporations and research facilities prove this too. The government – or the international banks – think they own us and control us.

    • That's why the revolutionaries put a census in the US constitution right?

      • If Alan Mercer is property than I want a refund.

      • A basic census is used to enumerate people, for splitting up districts in a rep-by-pop system of government. That's legit. All the other stuff they throw in isn't.

  3. anyone know by chance what the penalty is for refusal to pay taxes?

    • If you owe them enough money, you get to negotiate a settlement.

      • wrong. it is jail.

        • So, Brian Mulroney should be in jail?

          • right, because a lack of equal and full application of the law, means that those segments of the law do not exist right? brilliant contribution, btw.

          • Hey s&m,I'm wondering if your new diet in Holland is somehow including more lemons? Just observing that you seem a bit sour, more than I recall from my early days here.

          • apologies if i have offended Phil. the dutch diet is quite enjoyable (as it most everything here), so i cannot blame anyone but myself. I suspect that i a combination of two things. first, because my quantity of posting has decreased dramatically, I find that i tend to only post when I feel quite strongly – positively or negatively – about a piece of new, its implications or comments on either. given the news the last few weeks it has mostly been negative.

            second, i am increasingly impatient with the trolls. so i have increasingly taken to confronting posts like George's that makes no effort at a good faith exchange of positions/ideas/etc in making their point. i should ignore them, and will a better effort to do so.

          • Hey s&m…I wasn't really offended, just a little confused since your higher level of "directness" seemed a bit out of character.

            As you may have deduced from my posts over the months, in general terms I share your goal of a good faith exchange of ideas, etc. Achieving that goal is difficult, especially without using some of the same "techniques" that we are trying to discourage.

  4. Don't know what Canadians are afraid of—the Government knows all about our affairs–as is– our income– they have it when we fill out our income tax—pass ports & such– show our ethinic & other info –& so on. Statistics are good for deciding what the country needs –what type of goods are best 2 trade for- etc. Anyhow– one can't hide!!!

    • What is the penalty for not telling the truth on these long forms? I am sure not all is accurate and forced to fill in the "blanks" can result in inaccuarate stats.

      • The penalty for not telling the truth is the same as the penalty for not filling it out:

        31. Every person who, without lawful excuse,

        (a) refuses or neglects to answer, or wilfully answers falsely, any question requisite for obtaining any information sought in respect of the objects of this Act or pertinent thereto that has been asked of him by any person employed or deemed to be employed under this Act, or

        (b) refuses or neglects to furnish any information or to fill in to the best of his knowledge and belief any schedule or form that the person has been required to fill in, and to return the same when and as required of him pursuant to this Act, or knowingly gives false or misleading information or practises any other deception thereunder

        is, for every refusal or neglect, or false answer or deception, guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to both.

        From the current text of the Statistics Act:

      • How can they prove you lied?
        Serve a warrant to enter your house and count your bedrooms?
        Hire a private detective to find out how you get to work and who really does the vacuuming?
        Follow you to church?

      • Answers can only be accurate if questions and choices are clear/sensible and if data/ documents/information are at hand, otherwise, people are forced to guess. Can mandatory census assure 100% exact and accurate data? People wished, but if they are honest about it, the answer is actually no. By the way, can one go to jail for guessing(wrongly) the answer? I believe that there are other options to get data other than census and may even be more reliable. But the question should be, is Stat Can willing to think outside the box in getting the data they need for their work?

    • I heartily agree, and forgot to mention this in my response a minute or two ago.

  5. Along with Kinsella and Greg Weston two of my extended family have been threatened/fined for refusing the long form version since 1998 by the CensusGendarmes.

    Currently vast numbers of people are not concerned with their privacy on social networking sites, gaming sites, census initiatives…until they are targetted for real or by accident by nosy cross platform bureaucrats or good old fashioned cyber criminals.

    • What do the forms–going by mail– have 2 do with all that!!!!! Of course–if one disobeys the law– U will be charged!!

  6. I am surprised and disappointed that Macleans is resorting to publishing the same inaccuracies as the rest of the MSM. I really thought they were better than that. The Conservatives are not in fact "eliminating" the long form census they are in fact expanding it by sending it to 1 in 3 households as opposed to 1 in 5. They are however making voluntary, Now with Canadians being Canadians I am sure most of us can agree that the vast majority of Canadians who receive the long form will still fill it out.

    • "How do you feel about the Conservatives' decision to eliminate the mandatory long-form census?"

      I've highlighted the relevant word in the poll question, which you appear to have missed.

      • Most Canadians have never wanted to have government butting into their private home life. Most Canadians will be most happy to learn that we have a government that cares about our private sanctity. Only those groups that wish to impose their demands on Canadians will now be feeling their loss of monopoly on forcing us to pay for our own private information through taxes and given freely to businesses and service entities that provide only what they want us to use.

        • I'll be blunt: your post is factually incorrect, and quite easily verified as being so.

          The only data you can get for free is a very general set of tables that's on StatsCan's website. This represents only a subset of the questions asked; many are only available by paying to access them. Even for the data made freely available, you must must pay if you wish it broken down to anything but the most general levels. This is required of everyone who wishes access to these tables, including other government departments.

          This has been reported on repeatedly in both the comments and in Macleans blog posts themselves, and is present on StatsCan's webpage for anyone who wishes to look. It's not like it's some big secret that nobody knew about.

          I suggest that you educate yourself on just what you're talking about before spouting off. Either that or think about changing your nickname; exactitude is not a quality you're currently exhibiting.

        • And the United Church has chimed in, against the government objective, on the side of citizens being forced by threat of jail/fine to fill in the forms.

          What possible difference could it make to the United Church, if citizens voluntarily answered personal questions about their religion?

        • You don't speak for us

  7. what's all the fuzz about??? I worked for the census and was, many times, told to hit the road with my long form… and not always in very nice terms either! I think it's a good idea to have it going to 1 out of 3 households, rather then 1 in 5….
    The liberals, who are trying to make hay out of this issue, are desperate to be heard or seen… enough already! let's concentrade on more important issues please!

  8. History has proven that we need to know where we’ve been and where we are to know where we are going

    • And how much time we spend on housework getting there.

  9. The only argument against the mandatory long form is the privacy issue.
    Statistically speaking, a voluntary long form will generate worthless data so the money will be wasted, no matter how many of the forms you send out.
    If the government is not going to make the long form mandatory, it should simply be scrapped, rather than spending even more money sending out more of them.

    • Whether voluntary or mandatory, under your thinking, the money is wasted as the data generated is going to be worthless! Who says the anwers given are going to be more accurate if the census is compulsory? As you must know, the current wisdom is that any answers given under torture must be suspect!

      • I agree with skyroamer. Who says that a voluntary form is not statistically as accurate as a mandatory form. The Ipsos-Reid surveys are based on a sample of 2000-3000 and purported to be be accurate within 3% 19 times out of 20. 3000 people are supposed to reflect the opinion of but if we get 700,000 long forms returned voluntarily (out of a possible 2,000,000 it will be scientifically inaccurate? Statisticians with that amount of data can normalize the results provided that the demographic information is also collected. What, you mean those who voluntarily send in the form will with hold age, sex, marital status, income, etc. (and all that other intrusive stuff?). Who says there is only one way to conduct the census? By all appearances the head statistician resigned to make a stink about the way a politician has stood up to him.

        • Who says that a voluntary form is not statistically as accurate as a mandatory form. ????????????

          Try all professional Statisticians or anyone who has even a basic understanding of statistics! Sheesh!

  10. We elect a government to serve us and respond to our needs. How are they suppose to know what those needs are? The census has proven itself to be a valuable tool to gage the needs of Canadians not only for the government but for other agencies that are there to serve us. It is not intrusive, but only ask those questions that are needed to determine needs and trends. What would happen when you went to buy a mattress and found out Queen size mattresses were no longer available because the government assumed that everyone slept on double size only? If we want service then the servers need to know our wants and needs.

    • I Agree!

    • You actually do not need stat can for that, just common sense. You see the trend of people sizes when you go out and look at people's sizes. If you see people getting fatter, double size would be too small for a couple. If a businessman/men do not know that nor have the proper instinct (law of supply and demand), then he/they will not last long in business. Trend (and people sizes) changes quickly, to depend on a four year census will be catastrophic. Oh! that is probably why the world is having serious problem right now.

  11. If we let the PM Harper do that, it will actually make us uninformed, and that is precisely what the conservatives want. They take responsibility from us and thus, they can then feed us what the conservatives think is good for us. So, they prefer us to become sheep and he and his watch dogs will guide us. The Germans have a word for that ." Dummenverkauf" (it means selling us for stupid)

  12. Who is mostly relying on the statistical data from the long-form census?

    It's mostly social organizations, various ethnic societies, researchers of all kinds, medical corps and other such groups that normally rely on government handouts and subsidies to do their so called "work".

    Well, by eliminating this long-form census, the government will be able to say that their demands are unsubstantiated and thereby refuse the subsidies. In my view it's a good reason to eliminate the long-form census.

  13. It appears as if thwo-thirds of Maclean's readers who voted understand the need for reliable data to support evidence-based policy making and demographic and economic information to plan educational and health needs. The government has not provided any reason to believe that reliable data will not be lost (such as parallel tests of the two systems). The irony is that those who are unaware of the proper uses of Census data are those most likely to benefit from well structured social policy. Perhaps the objective is a self-fulfilling prophecy of dysfunctional government with no evidence base.

  14. Even with TWO questions in your questionnaire encouraging negatively-minded voters to support Stephen Harper in this monkey business – the 3rd 'couldn't care less' column implies 'get lost, you eggheads and pinheads who are wasting my time', your poll still is nixing the decision 62%-38%. Slams the door on the escapade quite noisily, I'd say.

  15. It is slowly coming to me MacLeans must be a left wing rag as it is readily apparent the bulk of their readership are loons.

  16. The same leftist lemmings who slavishly follow socialist countries in their demand for more and more government intrusion in their lives, (always supposedly for everyone's "good") are way behind their trend setters. Scandinavian countries ended their mandatory census taking a decade or so ago. Maybe everyone here should ask them why. It certainly wasn't because of government intrusion, which is still welcomed there. It was because of lack of efficacy for stated purposes. They've switched to data mining techniques instead.

    Therefore those here who are playing melodramatic death scenes over the demise of coercion in the long form Canadian census are either woefully behind the times, just picking up any piece of wood to flog Conservatives or it's the coercion of their fellow citizens that they love. Probably it's all three.

  17. Well the CPC sure control you yet you have no objection or are you too blind to see how controlled you Con supporters really are/

  18. If measuring didn't matter, why did the Conservative Party invest so heavily to develop its closely-guarded database, CIMS (Constituent Information Management System) when the party was founded in 2004. .

    In Oct 2006, CP reporter Alexander Panetta stated 2m names were already on the CIMS list, upon which psychographics and geodemographics techniques were used to profile ridings.

    Panetta reports: “Data is drawn from the census, public-opinion polls, and information bought from ad agencies, private companies, and organizations like Air Miles which compile consumer data.”

    Where society is managed to create consumers instead of learners, the patterns of behaviour become more stratified, so … we miss the boat on the knowledge-based economy at the same time as social institutions make uninformed decisions to manage economic units who are destined, by lack of learning, to be even less productive.

    I will vote for that. NOT !!

    • FYI, Elections Canada gives every party a complete list of every eligible voter in the country. They have for decades. Putting it into a database isn't exactly a new idea – it started in the mid-90s, though not at the Canadian federal level.

      • your point … ?

        • My point is that it's not like the Conservatives are doing all the data collection, and it's not like they're the only ones who have this data.

  19. Why does everyone seem to think that those who fill out the long form provide accurate information? I have never filled it out in my life, and if I absolutely had to (eg at the point of a gun) would ensure that every single answer was completely wrong. Given human nature, it would not surprise me in the least if 50% of the answers on the long form are fiction.

    • Well, fortunately, the number of incurrate data provided can be statistically quantified when the census is mandatory. So, they can throw out your bs answers and not affect the accuracy and quality of the survey.

      • Nonsense. If there's no source of information more accurate than the census, there's nothing you can use to correct the census. If there is a better source of information, what's everyone whining about?

  20. Why would a democratic country threaten their citizens with jail time for refusing to fill out a 15 page census form exposing private details of their lives? We don't impose jail for neglecting to vote, which is certainly a more important civic duty. The media is creating a tempest in a teapot.

  21. Who cares about this issue, really? Those who use it to attack the government would otherwise support it if another party brought it forward. Data is gathered all the time, Stats Can can buy it from Airmiles. The largest complainers I see are Not for Profit groups like religion and charities who used the data, we do not pay taxes for Stats Can to collect more info to let these telemarketing organizations hit us harder. If people want to provide input, buy a political party membership and get involved in policy building.

  22. The census is important. It provides much needed data that can be used to determine the needs for products and services by Canadians. Statistics Canada should take the time to explain how they use Census data, rather than let some Canadians' imaginations run amok. The census is not about divulging private details. As one commentator indicated, details about our private affairs are available via other channels…

    • How about we let companies determine the demand for their products, instead of using the force of law to do it for them?

  23. Who really benefits from the extra information gathered by the census? Are we supporting the private sector by providing research that by rights businesses should be paying for themselves? Can we trust the privare sector to use the data we provide via the census to our benefit or are we providing more fuel for the marketing industry to sell us more things we don't really need?

  24. Ten bucks says that the same people who are whining about the census' invasion of their privacy have their entire lives documented on Facebook.

  25. The cons. govt. is doing thr right thing. I have not had a long form since the 60's but I have heard from many friends who have rec'd the long form and they have responded with "none of their buisness", I just plugged in some numbers because I am not going to give them any personal information"" and other similar responses.
    So why spend the money and threaten people when the info provided is not actual fact.

  26. Since when did any government use this information to do what they should?

  27. To MTB: People who are on Facebook give information FREELY, i.e. no one is threatening them with prosecution. THAT is the difference! And it's a HUGE difference. Only Canadians would go on and on ad nauseam about this nonsense. To all those of you who object to the elimination of the long form, I say go ahead and fill in the voluntary National Household Survey. But respect the views of those who don't share your love of the inane! The 2011 Census in England is going to be the last Census there. As a British person, I say thank goodness. It's absurd to think that someone hired temporarily by Statistics Canada can come to your door to harass you. Tell them to get a life and bugger off!