Canadians Oppose Government Changes to Census

Canadians Oppose Government Changes to Census

(Angus Reid Global Monitor) – Half of people in Canada reject recent changes to the national census survey introduced by the federal government, according to a poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion. 50 per cent of respondents share this view, up three points since July.

Statistics Canada—an agency of the Canadian federal government—conducts a nationwide census every five years. Canadians are compelled by law to respond to the census and face penalties if they fail to do so. In previous years, the census included a short form mailed to 80 per cent of Canadian households, and a longer, more detailed form mailed to the remaining households.

In June, the federal government led by Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper decided to eliminate the mandatory long form census and replace it with a voluntary survey that will be mailed to one-in-three Canadian households beginning next year. Every Canadian household will still receive the short form.

On Jul. 13, Canadian industry minister Tony Clement defended the controversial decision, saying, “The government does not think it is necessary for Canadians to provide Statistics Canada with the number of bedrooms in their home, or what time of day they leave for work or how long it takes them to get there. The government does not believe it is appropriate to force Canadians to divulge detailed personal information under threat of prosecution.”

On Jul. 21, Statistics Canada head Munir A. Sheikh tendered his resignation through a statement, which read: “I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion. This relates to the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census. It can not.”

In late July, during a committee hearing in Ottawa, Clement once again defended the decision, saying, “Of course, I am aware that Statistics Canada recommended the status quo. It is true and it is important to acknowledge it. But our government chose an approach directed at striking a fair balance between the burden placed on Canadians and the needs of data users. In my opinion, it is a fine balance.”

Polling Data

As you may know, every five years Statistics Canada conducts a nationwide census. Canadians are compelled by law to respond to the census and face penalties if they fail to do so. In previous years, the census included a short form mailed to 80 per cent of Canadian households, and a longer, more detailed form mailed to the remaining households. In June, the federal government decided to eliminate the mandatory long form census and replace it with a voluntary survey that will be mailed to one-in-three Canadian households beginning next year. Every Canadian household will still receive the short form. For what you have seen, read or heard about this issue, do you support or oppose the federal government’s decision to scrap the mandatory long form census?

Aug. 2010  Jul. 2010 
Support  35%  38% 
Oppose  50%  47% 
Not sure  14%  14% 

 

Source: Angus Reid Public Opinion
Methodology: Online interviews with 1,017 Canadian adults, conducted on Aug. 12 and Aug. 13, 2010. Margin of error is 3.1 per cent.

 

Complete Poll (PDF)

 

 

 


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