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No, I don’t think the long-form census should be mandatory.

July 25, 2010

Is that surprising coming from an epidemiologist?  My husband asked me which side I took in the debate over whether the long-form census should be voluntary or mandatory.  I choose voluntary.  Obviously, I understand the value of complete survey data; HOWEVER, the government should not force anyone to supply such information.  The original purpose of the census was to count the population in order to establish ridings for the election of members of parliament.  That’s it.  The census is to count people so that each province is apportioned the appropriate number of MPs.

I actually take issue with some of the questions on the short form.  The short form is very short but it doesn’t just count us.  The government also asks who lives in your house, how they are related and what language they speak.  Why?  I guess that I can understand that the relationship question could be used to reduce duplicate counting but why the language question?  (I know.  It’s critical info in Canada but still.)

The long form asks a lot of intrusive questions.

Here is the quickie version:  Farmer?  Marital status?  Relationship with other people on census form?  Activities of daily living/disability?  Birth country?  Citizenship?  Landed immigrant?  Language?  Ethnic origin (fill-in-the-blank)?  Race (check all that apply)?  Native/Indian/Etc.?  Address one year ago?  Five years ago?  Parents’ birthplace(s)?  Education?  Field of study?  Household activities?  “Labor market activities”?  Employer?!  Work transportation?  Work language?  Weeks of work?  Full/Part-time?    Income?  Release info in 92 years?  Who pays rent/mortgage?  Housing info?  Repairs needed?  Taxes?  Utilities?  Fees?

What’s with the questions about taking care of children or other family members?

33B.  “looking after one or more of this person’s own children, or  the children of others, without pay?  Some examples include: bathing or playing with young children, driving children to sports activities or helping them with homework, talking with
teens about their problems, etc.”

The next census will include questions about religion.  Why should that be mandatory?  Why does the government need that information?

Did it occur to anyone that people might be less than completely honest on an intrusive, mandatory, government questionnaire?

I hope that the Conservatives stay firm on this decision.  I’ll be interested to see what the response rate is for the voluntary survey.

And I still hope that we get the short form.

File under the “I wouldn’t be surprised” category:  Scaramouche notes future census questions.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Rob Huck permalink
    August 3, 2010 2:55 pm

    I’m totally with you. Yes, information is good for the planners and all that (I’m doubtful on the overall benefit to society, but leave that as it may); however the state’s desire for more information does not trump an individual’s right to privacy.

    The Liberal’s overzealous response to this issue is making them look more statist and elitist than ever.

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