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 ‘Tony Clement’

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.

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.