Voluntary and unanswered


Jennifer Ditchburn checks on the progress of the National Household Survey.

Under the previous system, census workers would call up a household that had not filled out its mandatory long questionnaire, and then pay a visit — or even several — to make sure it was completed. Now Statistics Canada is accepting incomplete forms — called partial responses — and there is no followup…

One census enumerator, who spoke to The Canadian Press on condition of anonymity, said workers had been instructed to accept the long forms with as few as 10 of 84 questions answered. They can also declare somebody has given them a “total refusal” simply by speaking to them on the phone.


Voluntary and unanswered

  1. Why would a StatsCan enumerator speak to a citizen on the phone if the long-form is totally voluntary?

    • For the symbolic act of polishing a turd?

    • Voluntary does not mean unimportant, and enumerators are expected to do their best to encourage people to fill it out, such as by providing the list of reasons the government looks for the long-form information, etc.

  2. I was a refusenik. 

    • I completed mine but now I’m scared.  I guess fear is a disease that spreads.  My husband, you see, declared that he leaves home for work everyday at 6:30 a.m.  However, he is always late – he never leaves before 7:15!  So now I’m worried that the government will sue him for making a false declaration and I nag him every day for a good hour, first thing in morning, with plenty of coffee to help. He says that if ever we are asked to complete the long-form, and chances are greater than before, he will abstain.  Can you blame him?

      • LOL well they know I’m not gay from the short form….but at least  I don’t have to worry about work times eh?

        I meant to add the gay questions were on the mandatory short form….one of the major things the Cons complained about, so it made me laugh

  3. There is noting in long form census that Fed or Prov Government doesn’t already know about people. Long census would not have been scrapped if Government would be deprived of vital information. 

    Long form census was only introduced in 1971, and yet our ancestors somehow managed to build hospitals, bridges and roads without too much trouble. 

    Why kerfuffle now? Technocrats have taken over. 

    • Building things is easy, Tony.  Getting them in the right place. takes some information – unless you plan on building things merely in order to secure political support.

      • What Tony is saying is that it’s okay to spend billions or tens of billions more than we have to as a result of inefficient infrastructure allocation just so some people are not compelled to say how far they drive to work. Deeply private stuff, that.

        • Our superior planners at work. Can’t project five years of enrollment with long form census data. How is it going to get worse? 

          Census data makes pols think they are more clever than they actually are and bureaucrats are just as incompetent as always. 

          From local paper:

          “The proposed new junior kindergarten to Grade 6 dual-track school would relieve enrolment pressures on Ken Danby school, which opened in 2008 as the only public school on the city’s eastern outskirts …. Ken Danby school was built to accommodate 506 full-time students, but it is facing serious enrolment pressures. A recent report by school board staff said the school’s enrolment could balloon to over 800 students in the next five years if current trends continue …”


          • Isn’t that just anecdotal evidence? How is having less demographic information supposed to improve resource deployment? I have a sneaking suspicion that your solution is no public schools, for instance. Unfortunately (for you, at least), that is not the consensus position in Canada. So kindly refrain from schemes to saboutage society.

          • Expect quotes championing the virtues of home schooling.

          • Anecdotes are kinda his thing. He seems to actually think they serve as useful evidence.

    • Our ancestors who built hospitals, bridges and road had information obtained from census.  The first census was in 1666, and we’ve always had census since.

      • The Roman Republic, Han China, Pharonic Egypt, the Caliphates, the Incas, et al, held censuses.

    • Agreed. We should go back to building hospitals and bridges the way we did over 50 years ago.

    • “Long census would not have been scrapped if Government would be deprived of vital information.”

      Right – the government wouldn’t have done it if there was going to be a negative consequence.

      I wish I shared your faith in politicians.

    • I suppose that depends entirely on what you think is “vital”.

      Personally, I think information that people can use to see if a government program is working or not is vital.

      I mean, sure, if you’re the government, having that kind of information only opens up cans of worms, so I can understand why Harper et al didn’t think it was vital either.

    • Actually you are wrong on many fronts there Tony. The Short Form was introduced in 1971. The long form has existed since the country was formed and it has always been mandatory.
      Second, there is lots of information that the long form collected that the government does not have at all. And almost all of what Stats Can collected, Stats Can does not have and has no ability to obtain (eg. data that Revenue Canada has and does not and should not share).
      Third, some of the best and most useful information is the combination. Knowing that it is this family of 5 with one primary income earner that has to commute for over 90 minutes to get to work and has one senior living with them is vital data that you cannot get anywhere else.  

  4. Data can get in the way of ideology. Data could destroy our precious economy. Look Russians!

  5. Munir Sheik’s principles (in resigning his post rather than presiding over this mess) impress me more and more as this unfolds.

  6. They might as well be consistent with their ideology and can this farce of a ‘survey’ I hear you can run a Facebook poll for much less than what this is costing, and it should be as statistically valid.

  7. What’s most interesting about this whole thing is when you think of who’s most likely to not complete the long form.

    It’s some 60 questions or so, and the language used can get a bit complex.  So if English or French isn’t one of your main languages, are you likely to complete it?  And so when they send out an enumerator who doesn’t speak your native language, how likely is he/she going to be to try to press the importance of completing it on you?

    This will of course play very nicely to those who have pre-conceived viewpoints of what it is to be Canadian, and how necessary various services might be in languages other than English or French.

    But hey, the gov’ts looking to save money anyway, right? Why be all welcoming and inclusive when we can be cheap?

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