'Absolute blindness' to abandon detailed census data collection when the country is going through massive demographic changes, CLC says.
Ottawa (21 July 2010) - Discontinuing the long-form census and replacing it with a new voluntary questionnaire known as the National Household Survey is a mistake that will make it more difficult to develop public policy responses to changing demographic conditions, says the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).
The national labour body is urging members and Canadians to sign an online petition supporting retention of the existing census form.
“Like the majority of nations, our population is undergoing tremendous demographic, economic and social changes – failing to monitor these changes via the long-form census is like driving on a major highway with your eyes wide shut,” the congress says.
“Credible information is essential to improving on public policy, like knowing who is working and who is not. The information Canadians and policy makers had access to via the long-form census helps to discern how different groups are fairing. Equity-seeking groups, such as Aboriginal communities, racialized workers, recent newcomers, and low-income households are likely going to be counted out… again by this move. The result will be an incomplete picture of the country, the workforce and our communities.”
The congress says shifting from a mandatory census to a voluntary questionnaire has major drawbacks.
"More effort will be required to get responses; detailed information will not likely be collected; comparative analysis with previous years that provide important insights into trends will be lost; and particular communities will be less inclined to respond."
The Harper Conservatives announced the census changes recently to take "personal privacy" issues into account. Yet as the congress notes the same government was running roughshod over privacy concerns by proposing Aeronautics Act changes requiring airlines to communicate passenger information to ‘a foreign state’ for flights over its territory.
The result, if the changes (Bill C-42) are passed, would force airlines to disclose passengers' names, birth dates and gender to screening by U.S. Homeland Security in the case of flights that fly anywhere into U.S. airspace.
"This government has no difficulty sharing travellers' private information with foreign states they are merely flying over, yet deems the long-form census, that provides vital demographic information key to making evidence-based public policy decisions an unreasonable intrusion into personal privacy,” the CLC notes.
It is "absolute blindness" for the Conservatives to abandon the way demographic data is collected at a time when Canada is 80% reliant on immigration for net labour force growth and when eight million Canadians are within 10 years of retirement age in a workforce of 17 million.
Along with signing the petition, the CLC urges its members and the public to contact their Member of Parliament and Industry Minister Tony Clement, the cabinet member responsible for the census, asking the government to reverse this decision.