My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

More shocking news from North of the 49th parallel as StatCan chief resigns

From Canada’s The Globe and Mail:

By Steven Chase

Ottawa — Globe and Mail Update Published on Wednesday, Jul. 21, 2010 1:20PM EDT Last updated on Wednesday, Jul. 21, 2010 10:38PM EDT

It’s not clear what he is referring to but The Globe and Mail ran an interview Wednesday with Industry Minister Tony Clement where the minister said Statscan is not an independent agency.

 

The embattled head of Statistics Canada has resigned over the Harper government’s plan to scrap the mandatory long-form census, saying the replacement they propose for this will not work.

In a letter on the Statscan website, Munir Sheikh refused to say what advice he gave the Conservatives when they asked him to make these changes.

But he made it clear he cannot accept the scheme the Tories say is a perfectly adequate replacement for a compulsory long-form questionairre.

“I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion,” Mr. Sheikh wrote.

“This relates to the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census. It cannot,” he said.

“Under the circumstances, I have tendered my resignation to the prime minister.”

In a statement, Industry Minister Tony Clement said he acknowledges Mr. Sheikh’s resignation “with regret.”

However, Mr. Clement stood by the Conservatives’ plans to abolish the mandatory long-form survey.

“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.”

This isn’t the first time a government has sought to tamper with the census. In November, 1984, Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government announced it intended to save money by cancelling the 1986 census. There was an immediate protest from the business community – which said the census data were needed to plan marketing strategies – and Mr. Mulroney’s finance minister, Michael Wilson, reversed the decision the following month.

At the same time, the government also responded to complaints that some of the information sought on the long form was too personal. It eliminated, for example, a question about the number of household bathrooms.

Wayne Smith, assistant chief statistician for business and trade statistics, will fill the post on an interim basis, until a permanent successor to Mr. Sheikh is found.

Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Sheikh sent an e-mail to staff that cancelled a planned town-hall meeting where he was to address employee concerns. He said he would have more to say shortly.

“In light of today’s media coverage, I am cancelling the scheduled town hall meeting,” Mr. Sheikh said in a mass e-mail to Statscan staff.

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