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.

Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

Canadian 2011 Census results: Will they be controversial?

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

The Vancouver Sun reports on the 2011 Canadian Census result, tabulated by Statistics Canada, more popularly, if there such a thing as popularity within a bunch of statisticians, known as StatCan. Though Canada is not typically known for controversy the 2011 Canadian Census caused quite a stir. But here’s the nitty-gritty:

Statistics Canada has now released the first installment of the data from the 2011 Census that took place in May of last year. These data relate to population and dwelling counts. Further installments of data related to age and sex of the population, families, households and marital status will be made available through the year.

From 1971 to 2006, the census included two parts: the short form and the long form. The short form included questions of a tombstone nature with the main objective being a head count. The long form included the remaining questions that were focused on getting respondents’ socio-economic information in areas such as the labour market, income, transportation, education, disabilities, housing, citizenship and ethnicity.

For the 2011 Census, the federal government decided to eliminate the long-form census that had 53 questions while maintaining the short form with eight questions. Two questions on language that were previously in the long form were added to the short form. Still being a census, the short-form questionnaire remained mandatory. The quality of the short-form data being released starting Wednesday, therefore, should be broadly as good as that released from the previous censuses.

Wednesday’s release showed that, on average, the Canadian population over the past five years grew 5.9 per cent to reach 33,476,688. Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Yukon and Nunavut posted above-average, and all other provinces and territories below-average, growth. The sources of population growth over the past decade have been two-thirds through immigration and one-third through natural increases.

 

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

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

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.

Concern Growing in Canada Over Recent Census Decision

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

This article is worth reading because it does an excellent job of discussing the wide reaching impact of Census data (even if it is Canadian Census data):

The census can look dull or irrelevant to the average citizen, a twice-a-decade event that only policy wonks, academics and journalists really care about.

But like the foundation of a building, census data are largely invisible but crucially important, affecting the lives of any citizen who has a child, drives a car, goes to school, moves here from another country, retires, works — or loses their job — shops, gets sick, wants to live in a safe neighbourhood, needs a helping hand from a charity or wants to know the money they donate will be put to good use.

“It really does touch your life, but not until you need it or you see it do you realize it,” says Doug Norris, director general of social and demographic statistics at Statistics Canada until 2005 and now chief demographer and senior vice-president with Environics Analytics.

Since the Conservatives announced three weeks ago they’re scrapping Canada’s long-form census in 2011 and replacing it with a voluntary survey — a move they say was prompted by privacy complaints — opposition has been mounting steadily. The short-form census remains mandatory. An array of experts and organizations have panned the decision, insisting it will destroy the statistical backbone of municipalities, social programs, community organizations and private businesses that touch nearly every aspect of the lives of ordinary Canadians……

Municipalities use information gleaned from long-form questions on how people get to work and where they work to plan bridges, roads and public transportation projects and budgets, says Derek Cook, research social planner with the City of Calgary.

“We may never again get neighbourhood level statistical data and what the hell are we going to do if we don’t have neighbourhood data? How are we going to plan?” he says. “It’s like taking a carpenter’s hammer away and asking him to go continue to build the house.”

Like Cook, Brent Toderian, director of city planning for Vancouver, said census data so fundamentally underlie everything a city plans for its residents that he struggles to pinpoint a single instance.

“It’s literally the starting point of all of our work, so pick a project,” he says, mentioning school boards, new transit lines and aging neighborhoods as a handful of examples. “The tendrils of this work go all the way through every city in the country.”

Another Canadian Follow-up

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

To help Morse on his Canadian coverage, Steven Chase of The Globe and Mail once again has another update on the Canadian Census controversy. If you haven’t been following, the Conservatives in charge have scrapped a mandatory long-form census for 20% of Canadians, thereby appearing particularly small government AND giving a hard time to researchers who use the long form data for things such as social services. The Conservatives have now refused requests to reverse that decision, presumably to please the Conservative political base (who were angered by Conservatives’ recent deficit records.)

The story:

Tories refuse to reverse census decision

Steven Chase
Ottawa — From Friday’s Globe and Mail
Published on Thursday, Jul. 15, 2010 2:46PM EDT
Last updated on Thursday, Jul. 15, 2010 10:53PM EDT
They’ve been in power for four long years, but Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have found a way to cast themselves as anti-government populists once more.

The Tories are refusing to reverse a decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census questionnaire – even in the face of broadening opposition – calling it an unwarranted intrusion into Canadians’ personal lives.

The controversy has morphed into a culture war skirmish between the Harper government and critics, one that allows the Tories – despite running record deficits – to paint themselves as anti-Ottawa for the red-meat Conservative political base vital to winning elections. The most hard-core in this group were horrified when the Tories went deep into debt to finance a two-year stimulus program.

While every household must answer basic questions when the census-takers come calling, about one-fifth of Canadians have traditionally been required, under threat of fines or jail time, to respond to a lengthy list of 50-plus enquiries about their home, work lives and ethnicity.

Not any more. And those who rely on the treasure trove of data generated – from social scientists to health researchers, businesses and charities – are warning in ever-louder voices that this will severely undermine the quality and accuracy of census information.

Asked to explain why this matters to the core Conservative constituency, one senior Tory strategist said, on background: “It’s all about the nanny state. Why is it mandatory to tell the government how many bedrooms are in your house?”

The Conservatives are hard-pressed to prove Canadians are substantially concerned about the mandatory long form or have faced significant repercussions. Canada’s federal privacy watchdog says it received only three complaints about the census in the past decade: two in 2006 and one in 2001.

But Industry Minister Tony Clement said on Thursday that Canadians worried about the meddlesome arm of the state aren’t likely to bring their concerns to the Ottawa-based Office of the Privacy Commissioner. They are likely to tell their MPs.

“If you’re concerned about government intrusion, you’re not likely to complain to another organ of government,” Mr. Clement said in an interview. “They would see it as compounding the issue if they complained.”

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner is an arms-length body that is outside the control of the federal government. But Mr. Clement said this distinction is lost on many. “No offence to the Privacy Commissioner, but most people wouldn’t understand that [this] person is an independent actor.”

The concerns the Tories seek to mollify are similar to the sentiments that drove the right-wing Tea Party movement in the United States to call for a boycott of the 2010 U.S. census.

Mr. Clement dismisses the comparison. “I didn’t know about the larger trends. I have no idea what the Tea Party stands for or what they are saying.”

He rejects the idea there’s an “ideological boundary” to resentment about the mandatory long-form census. “It’s people … who just want to be left alone a little bit.”

The Industry Minister said Statistics Canada has assured him enough steps are being taken to make up for the absence of the mandatory long form and ensure the quality of the census is maintained. During the 2011 census, one third of households will receive a voluntary long-form questionnaire. Ottawa will mount an ad campaign to encourage responses.

On Thursday, the Canadian Medical Association Journal joined the protest, saying in an editorial that scrapping the mandatory long form is a case where “ideology trumps evidence.” It warned that the changes could hurt health-care planning and delivery.

Mr. Clement said the medical journal and other critics should trust Statistics Canada.

Canada’s crazy (by Canadian standards) census controversy…

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

The Canadian census soap opera continues!

The Canadian Census…

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

I will be visiting Canada this summer and I plan to spend some time in Ottawa discussing the Canadian 2011 Census and writing a more detailed report about Canada’s census operations. Though not as controversial as America’s 2010 Census, for a place that is normally so placid and non-controversial, there are some major issues that have emerged for the 2011 Census that being discussed by the National Post. Recently, it was determined that in this bi-lingual nation, the 2006 census was marred because many francophones intentionally wrote that they did not speak English (a lie) so that francophone institutions would receive more funding. And now, a long-form/short-form battle over privacy issues is heating up:

Industry Minister Tony Clement stands by his government’s controversial decision to overhaul Canada’s 2011 census without public consultation or prior notice, saying the issue didn’t warrant any more attention than it was given.

“This has received the amount of publicity that it deserves for the issue that it is dealing with. This is an issue about the census that is taking place a year from now,” said Clement, who oversees Statistics Canada. “I don’t accept the fact that every time you make a change on every matter of government business, you have to shout it from every rooftop.”

The consultation process involved speaking to MPs who’d heard from constituents complaining that the mandatory long-form census was intrusive and Statistics Canada could be “heavy-handed” about ensuring compliance with the threat of fines and jail time, he said in an interview with Canwest News Service. The Conservatives asked the statistical agency to suggest alternatives, Clement says, and from those options, his government chose to eradicate the mandatory long questionnaire and shift those questions to an optional survey.

“We’ve made plans to make sure that the data collected is valuable data and is legitimate data, and that’s the right balance in our society,” he says. “You try to limit the amount of state coercion that you have, you try to limit the intrusiveness of government activities, and that’s the balance that we’ve struck.”

Previously, 80 per cent of Canadian households completed a short census form with eight basic questions and 20 per cent received a long questionnaire with 53 additional questions on issues such as ethnicity, education, employment, income, housing and disability. Both were mandatory, but for the 2011 census, the long questionnaire has been replaced with a voluntary National Household Survey that will be distributed to one in three households.

The Census in Canada: Francophones lie about their English skills

Monday, May 31st, 2010

After reading the following article from the Montreal Gazette about francophones conspiring to reply to the 2006 census that they don’t speak English, I am thankful that the only efforts to manipulate the 2010 US Census :

OTTAWA — Thousands of francophones across Canada are believed to have lied about their ability to speak English in a seemingly co-ordinated attempt to manipulate the 2006 Census in order to guarantee federal funding of programs for French speakers.

Statistics Canada has taken the unusual step of posting a warning on its website to caution users that the data on bilingualism rates for francophones outside Quebec may not be reliable. The suspected cause is an anonymous French-language e-mail that circulated widely across Canada prior to the census encouraging francophones to say they could not speak English even if they could. The e-mail went on to say that this would ensure that the federal government would not cut services to francophones.

The resulting statistics showed for the first time an inexplicable decrease in the number of francophones outside Quebec who said they could speak English, reversing a long trend of increasing rates of bilingualism for francophones outside Quebec.

The number of bilingual francophones in Ontario, for example, has been on the rise by between one and three per cent in every census since 1991. However, in 2006 the number fell to 88.4 per cent from 89.4 per cent in 2001 — an unexpected drop of one percentage point.

Jean Pierre Corbeil, a chief specialist in the language statistics section, said they have studied the trend reversal and the e-mail appears to be the only factor that may have produced this aberration to the trend. (more…)

Solutions to the Census Bureau’s Statistic Failures…

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Last week we wrote about the Freakonomics article that questioned the Census Bureau’s methodologies for reporting statistics. Well, here are a couple of solutions to the problems as articulated by the Wall Street Journal. (In this instance, our neighbors to the North appear to have their act together better than we do…)

Lockheed Martin & The 2010 Census

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Last week, a report came out that a Canadian man, Todd Stelmach, was fined $300 for failing to participate in Canada’s 2006 Census. His reason for avoiding the surveys: His religious and antiwar beliefs made it such that he couldn’t support Lockheed Martin, the American defense technology firm that was contracted by the Canadian government to provide the services responsible for the Census.

American anti-war advocates are most likely unaware that Lockheed Martin has a contract to “develop and deploy the Decennial Response Integration System (DRIS) to carry out the 2010 Census. The Lockheed Martin Team was selected by the U.S. Census Bureau last year (2005) o implement the most technically advanced Census in the history of the United States.” Who awarded Lockheed Martin this contract? Was it a no-bid contract? What other firms sought to provide the 2010 Census with its necessary technology?

Here’s Lockheed Martin’s description of the Census services that they have provided for governments around the world:

The Lockheed Martin Census Business Practice team is a premier international provider of integrated census data collection, processing and analysis solutions. More than 10 years of unmatched experience, resources, methods, systems and commitment ensure that our census solutions are flexible, secure, accurate and cost effective.

Our Census Business Practice successes include the U.S. 2000 Census, the United Kingdom’s 2001 Census, and Canada’s 2006 Census, which was the first census in North America that allowed citizens nationwide the choice to submit their census via a secure Internet solution. The team is currently supporting the U.S. Census Bureau with the Decennial Response Integration System for the 2010 Census.

In the United States, the Corporation supported the Census 2000 with the Data Capture System (DCS). The U.S. Census 2000 was the largest, most sophisticated – and most accurate – census undertaken; encompassing 120 million forms with 98 percent accuracy. It represented the first census to use scanned optical character recognition (OCR) technology to process the handwritten forms.

For the 2001 UK Census, Lockheed Martin’s team provided data capture and coding services, including form printing, dress rehearsal services and census services for nearly 30 million forms with an accuracy rate of better than 99 percent.

Lockheed Martin provided hardware and software integration for Statistics Canada’s dress rehearsal and full 2006 census, including the first successful use of the secure Internet channel.

In every census we support, Lockheed Martin’s team strives to:

• Provide the general public with multiple, easy-to-use and secure methods of response.
• Help census authorities collect and capture the data accurately and completely.
• Employ robust processes and tools to ensure complete protection of individuals’ personal information.

Lockheed Martin’s Census Business Practice represents technology expertise that make census taking highly accurate, more automated and efficient, and easier for citizens as well as for governments to use.