SFU statistician and economist criticize decision to scrap census long form

Two Simon Fraser University experts are decrying a federal government decision to scrap a mandatory long form used to collect census information about Canadian households.

In explaining the decision, Minister of Industry Tony Clement has citied concern the mandatory form was invasive. It will be replaced with a voluntary household survey Statistics Canada will use for the census in 2011.

But the change has been met with outrage.

“By converting the long-form census to a voluntary response survey, the quality of data used by decision makers across Canada will be seriously compromised,” says SFU statistician Carl Schwarz in a news release from the university’s public affairs department today (July 28).

“Making decisions with poor data is worse than making decisions with no data,” he adds.

Schwarz continues: “If you have no data and have to make a decision, then at least you need to be up front about your lack of knowledge and the basis for your decision.”

“On the other hand, if you have poor data, you can seriously mislead people about the information you actually have and make decisions that have the aura of confidence [...] not warranted by the faulty information.”

SFU economist Krishna Pendakur echoes the criticism of the federal government’s decision.

“The proposed changes to the census will substantially weaken Canada’s data resources of all types,” Pendakur says in the release.

“Further, the weakening of the long form [itself] will make the census a much weaker primary data source when it comes to the study of small populations in Canada, such as immigrants, ethnic and linguistic minorities, and residents of smaller cities.”



glen p robbins

Jul 29, 2010 at 3:50pm

ZEUS ROBBINS - Conservatives dead in TO - 3 out of 4 see Census issue as Unimportant.