Just a tad…
It’s letter writing week. I guess a few people had to let of some steam.
This the statement sent out by Tony last night
I acknowledge with regret the resignation of Munir A. Sheikh the Chief Statistician of Canada.
There has been considerable commentary about the federal government’s decision to replace the 2011 mandatory census long form with the voluntary National Household Survey.
The Government took this decision because we do not believe Canadians should be forced, under threat of fines, jail, or both, to divulge extensive private and personal information. We believe it is not appropriate to compel citizens to divulge how many bedrooms they have in their houses, or what time they leave for work in the morning. The Government’s approach is about finding a better balance between collecting necessary data and protecting the privacy rights of Canadians.
As I have noted previously, Statistics Canada’s preferred approach would have been to maintain the mandatory long form census. However, after the Government’s decision to replace the mandatory long form census Statistics Canada was asked to provide options for conducting a voluntary survey of households. One of the options provided – the voluntary National Household Survey – was chosen.
A voluntary long form survey offers challenges that do not exist in the case of a census that uses coercion to compel completion. Nonetheless, by working together with the professionals at Statistics Canada I believe we can compensate for these challenges and offer data-users high quality and accurate information.
I have relied throughout this process on the frank and open advice of Statistics Canada and the Chief Statistician. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all employees of Statistics Canada for the hard work and dedication that has made Statistics Canada one of the best national statistical organizations in the world.
Until a permanent successor can be found Wayne Smith, Assistant Chief Statistician, Business and Trade Statistics, will act on an interim basis.
Now from the PMO’s office
From: “Alerte-Info-Alert” <Alerte-Info-Alert@pmo-cpm.gc.ca>
Date: Wed, 21 Jul 2010
Resignation of the Chief Statisti cian / Démission d u statisticien en chef
Resignation of the Chief Statistician
Today, Minister Clement acknowledged, with regret, the resignation of Munir Sheikh, the Chief Statistician of Canada.
Our reasons for replacing the mandatory census long form with a voluntary national survey are clear:
We do not believe Canadians should be forced, under threat of fines, jail, or both, to divulge extensive private and personal information. It is not appropriate to compel citizens to divulge how many bedrooms they have in their houses, or what time they leave for work in the morning.
Our approach is about finding a better balance between collecting necessary data and protecting the privacy rights of Canadians. It is unfortunate that Mr. Sheikh did not share these objectives.
Until a permanent successor to Mr. Sheikh is chosen, Wayne Smith, Assistant Chief Statistician, Business and Trade Statistics, will act on an interim basis.
We are confident that Statistics Canada’s employees will continue the hard work and dedication that has made Statistics Canada one of the best national statistical organizations in the world.
And finally a statement from National Statistics Council
(with permission from Andrew Nicholson, president ACMLA)
The Honorable Tony Clement, MP Minister of Industry House of Commons Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6
Dear Minister Clement
As President of the Association of Canadian Map Libraries and Archives (ACMLA) (http://www.acmla.org/), I am writing to you to express the surprise and disappointment of our membership in the Government’s decision to cancel the mandatory Long-Form Questionnaire for the 2011 Census. The information gathered from the Long-Form census has contributed greatly to the education and research activities of Canadians over many decades. Its replacement by a voluntary National Household Survey raises many concerns from our membership.
We are an active Association with over 70 members from across Canada who play a pivotal role as geographical information providers and educators. We find the information provided by the Long-Form census is vital for providing a greater understanding of Canada and its diverse regions to our users. For example, determining accurate levels of income or immigration patterns is possible with data collected from the Long-Form Census questionnaire. Moreover, as geographical information professionals, we map and visualize the data, and provide mapping/visualization capabilities to our researchers so they are able to analyze the data for research purposes. The results and impact of such research are then carried forward into other public and private endeavours for the benefit of all Canadians.
Part of the value of the Long-Form Census was its mandatory requirement that 20% of the population complete it. While this may have seemed an onerous task for a few participants, most gladly participated knowing that everyone else selected in the 20% sample is equally obligated to fill out the Long-Form as part of their civic duty. Moreover, the value and long term benefit for the whole population, including educators and policy makers, has been immense. Replacing the mandatory Long-Form with a voluntary National Household Survey form just raises more issues especially concerning the validity and value of the data collected. For example, will many people take the time to voluntarily fill in a 50+ question form? If there is a low participation rate, how can anyone really rely on the data as being an accurate snapshot of the Canadian population? Though it has also been argued that the Long-Form is intrusive and raises issues of confidentially, this is completely untrue as Statistics Canada has been meticulous in anonymizing census data to protect the confidentially of all participants. This has worked very well in the past for both Census participants and the users of Census data.
As geographic information professionals and providers/curators of geospatial information, we are also concerned by the lack of information pertaining to the future dissemination of Census and National Household Survey data at smaller geographic levels such as Census Tracts and Dissemination Areas. On Statistics Canada’s website, it states that the National Household Survey “will conduct and release the results of this survey applying the same methods and standards used for all of its surveys”. Most of Statistics Canada’s other survey data is only available at a provincial or Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) at best. This will not be acceptable for users who rely on such data at a neighbourhood level to conduct research or make important decisions and recommendations. Mapping employment numbers at a provincial or CMA level will be especially limiting for educational and research purposes.
The mandatory Long-Form questionnaire has been a cornerstone of census data collection for decades and its value should not be discounted. The rich datasets that have been produced have been vital components in almost every area and activity of Canadian society. The decision to abolish it and replace it with a voluntary survey has simply not been well thought out and will only hinder decision-makers at all levels of government, not to mention the research and innovation pursuits of our students and academics.
We respectfully recommend that you reconsider this decision and implement the mandatory Census Long-Form Questionnaire in time for the 2011 Census.
Andrew Nicholson, President, ACMLA
Hazel McCallion Academic Learning Centre
University of Toronto Mississauga
3359 Mississauga Road North
This is the text of a letter sent to Industry Minister Tony Clement on behalf of the Executive Council of the Canadian Economics Association.
Michael R. Veall
Department of Economics, McMaster University
Hamilton ON L8S 4M4
July 6, 2010
The Honourable Tony Clement, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Industry
House of Commons Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6
Dear Minister Clement,
The Executive Council of the Canadian Economics Association has asked me to write to you to express its concerns at reports that you have decided to replace the mandatory long form in the Census with a voluntary survey.
Important and reliable data have been collected by the Census long form for over a century: for example occupation and school attendance were first collected in 1871, wages and salaries in 1901, working weeks in 1911 and highest level of schooling and the number of rooms in dwellings in 1941. The Census is thus a precious record of our progress as a nation. The proposed change jeopardizes this legacy by risking the quality of the data. For example, it may be impossible to determine whether a new trend in the 2011 data is the consequence of real change or just the different method of collection. The 2011 Census could be costly failure.
We understand that this is a complex issue given the participation resistance from some individuals. (We address this in the attached memo.) But the purpose of the Census is to ensure that public policy is based on the best possible knowledge. Many firms also depend upon the reliable, detailed, small area data provided by the census long form. Therefore, we ask that there be an opportunity for consultation, open to both users and the general public. The discussions would seek to balance the benefits of the data with privacy concerns. If there is inadequate time for such consultation, our view is that the risk of losing the embedded value in the Census is too great, and that the change should be delayed. A number of intermediate measures are possible, including running the new survey in parallel on a smaller sample as a test.
Making this change without consultation will damage Statistics Canada’s currently outstanding reputation inside and outside of Canada and will leave Canada with a Census that is significantly less useful than those of the countries that Canada compares itself against. Please provide an opportunity for consultation. The Canadian Economics Association would be pleased to assist in any way it can.
Michael R. Veall, President-Elect, Canadian Economics Association
cc/ Office of the Prime Minister,
Dr. Munir Sheikh, Chief Statistician of Canada
Here is the text of the memo referred to in the letter:
Eliminating the Mandatory Census Long Form: Why It is Important to Consult
Canadian Economics Association Executive Council, July, 2010
1. We understand that the reason for the elimination of the mandatory long form was objection from those who did not wish to participate. Some such objections are principled (although there are principled objections to many requirements of modern society, such as paying taxes). But we are concerned that some resistance has been fuelled by untruths that Statistics Canada does not respect data confidentiality and that serious penalties for nonparticipation are widespread. Indeed, perhaps the potential fine should be reduced and the possibility of a jail sentence should be eliminated given that these just give targets for those who wish to register protest. Perhaps also the penalties for confidentiality breech could be increased.
2. One reason to keep the Census completely mandatory is that it provides Statistics Canada with the internal mandate to ensure everyone is included. Without the mandatory provision, data for the lower and higher income groups in particular tend to become unreliable, as there is often significant underreporting*. This is a huge information gap. If we miss the top end, we won’t know much about those who pay the most taxes and make some of the most important contributions to our society. But perhaps missing the bottom end of the income distribution is even more important. This includes some of the most vulnerable. They tend to have disproportionate interaction with government: with the health care system, the criminal justice system, the immigration system and the social assistance system. How can we know how policies are working if we do not have a data tool for use in assessment? Crucially, the long form also provides fine geographical detail for local policy analysis including things like city, school and hospital planning, as well as for private sector use. This is at risk.
3. Estimates from Statistics Canada surveys such as the Labour Force Survey depend upon information from the Census. The data quality issues are broader than just the Census.
4. We understand the privacy concerns. But much of the information is already reported to various levels of government (e.g. local property tax assessors, the Canada Revenue Agency). However, the Census collects the data consistently and at once, so that it is possible to examine relationships between variables such as education and income.
5. A consultation would allow the costs and benefits of potential changes to be considered. As our letter emphasizes, the current Census data is an asset of tremendous value because it allows long-term analysis of Canadian trends and can be compared internationally to the Census of the United States and to those of other countries. If this change goes through, it is possible much of the value will be lost. Certainly if this change is made without consultation, the damage to Statistics Canada’s reputation nationally and internationally will be significant: the perception will be that there was no weight given to data quality in the decision making process.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 13, 2010
Broad coalition calls on government to reverse census decision
Representatives from business and finance, health and social services and other levels of government say the long form is vital to the country’s health and wellbeing
TORONTO—A surprising coalition of diverse voices came together today and called on the federal government to maintain the long form census. The group was comprised of representatives from a number of organizations — from Canadian banks to community-based organizations — as well as policy think tanks and other concerned groups.
Don Drummond, former Chief Economist of TD Bank, urged the government to keep the long form database, which is essential to ensuring decisions made by policy makers, businesses and all levels of government are well-informed and based on evidence.
“This is a key tool for tracking how Canadians are doing over time,” Drummond said.
“Scrapping the long form means we will no longer have a reliable picture of the makeup of our country — and will waste years of data tracking important trends related to the health and wellbeing of Canadians.”
Today’s call follows an announcement that the government will eliminate the long form census in 2011, which contains comprehensive information about Canadians like education level, income, employment, ethnicity and language.
“We simply could not plan vital public health services — like our H1N1 response strategy — without understanding our city at a neighbourhood level,” said Carol Timmings, the Director of Planning and Policy at Toronto Public Health.
The significance of having reliable census data at a local level was echoed by Gillian Mason, Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Community Partnerships at United Way Toronto. “Information obtained from the long form census is imperative to United Way’s work in the community,” Mason said. “Without this detailed information we will not be able to adequately identify and respond to the needs of our community.”
Mel Cappe with the Institute for Research on Public Policy called on the government to reconsider its position in the interest of sound public policy, saying the decision will make Canada a poorer country — unable to understand who we are, what our problems are and what policies are necessary to make Canada a better place.
“This government has demonstrated a willingness to listen and change their mind when it’s in the best interests of the country,” Cappe said. “I urge the government to reconsider — there is so much at stake.”
A Letter to Tony from the masses ~ An Open Letter From
Craig Alexander – President, Canadian Association for Business Economics and Chief Economist, TD Bank
Rachel Bard – CEO, Canadian Nurses Association
Ken Battle – President, Caledon Institute of Social Policy
Marni Cappe – President, Canadian Institute of Planners
Mel Cappe – President and CEO, Institute for Research onPublic Policy, and former Clerk of the Privy Council
Debbie Douglas – Executive Director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Don Drummond – Donald Matthews Fellow and Distinguished Visiting Scholar, School of PolicyStudies, Queen’s University, former Chief Economist of the TD Bankand former ADM of Finance
Nicholas Gazzard – Executive Director, Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada
Ken Georgetti – President, Canadian Labour Congress
Roger Gibbins – President and CEO, Canada West Foundation
Al Hatton – President and CEO,United Way of Canada –Centraide Canada
Alex Himelfarb – Director, Glendon School of Public and International Affairs, and former Clerk of the Privy Council
Dr. Matthew Hodge – President,National Specialty Society for Community Medicine
Jan Kestle – President, Environics Analytics
Frances Lankin – President and CEO, United Way Toronto
Roger Martin – Dean, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
Nik Nanos – President and CEO, Nanos Research
Dr. Cordell Neudorf – Chair, Canadian Public Health Association
Mark Stabile – Director, School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Toronto
Penni Stewart – President, Canadian Association of University Teachers
Peggy Taillon – Executive Director, Canadian Council on Social Development
Mike Veall – President Elect,Canadian Economic Association
Carol Wilding – President andCEO, Toronto Board of Trade
… these are PDF’s so just click on the hyperlink
34551711-Census A Census letter from James Rajotte, MP from Edmonton-Leduc
Clement Census Letter ~ Charles Stolte Chair, Canadian Urban Transit Association
keeping_canadians_in_the_dark ~ Charles Stolte Chair, Canadian Urban Transit Association