The city is weighing in on the census debate by sending a letter to the federal Minister of Industry, Tony Clement, to voice its concern about the potential negative impact the cancellation of the mandatory long-form census would have on planning in the city.
The federal government announced it is scrapping the mandatory long-form census and replacing it with an optional “national household survey,” citing privacy concerns. The head of Statistics Canada, Munir Sheikh, resigned in protest of the change on July 21.
The NDP, Liberals, and Bloc Quebecois opposition parties have voiced their concerns about the change, as have several city councils and organizations that could be affected by the changes to the census.
“The City of Greater Sudbury is a heavy user of census data,” Bill Lautenbach, general manager of growth and development, said Aug. 11. “Therefore, any changes to the type of changes to the type of census data or the manner in which it's collected will impact the accuracy of different city projections and plans that use the data.”
The information on the long form mandatory census collects data on ethnicity, immigration status, income, education, labour-force and housing status of respondents.
“We use the data from the mandatory long form for statistics at the neighbourhood level,” Lautenbach said.
“This information has been fundamental to informing policy and program planning for key social issues related to employment and income, education, immigration and ethnicity,” Fred Eisenberger, mayor of Hamilton, wrote in a letter that was presented to council in an information package.
“The same high quality data cannot be expected from the proposed national household survey that would likely result in far fewer responses (by the fact it is voluntary) and under-reports vulnerable groups,” he continued. Eisenberger noted recent immigrants and those in lower socio-economic groups would be unlikely to complete the voluntary survey. These are the groups that rely most on local level programs and services.
Changing the mandatory nature of the census would “decrease our ability to monitor trends,” Lautenbach said. “Therefore, we need to lend weight to the chorus of opposition out there.”
The request by staff for a letter to be drafted was supported unanimously by city council.