Damage from cancelled census as bad as feared, researchers say

By Tavia Grant, The Globe and Mail, 29. Jan. 2015

The cancellation of the mandatory long-form census has damaged research in key areas, from how immigrants are doing in the labour market to how the middle class is faring, while making it more difficult for cities to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely, planners and researchers say.

Statistics Canada developed a voluntary survey after Ottawa cancelled the long-form census in 2010. Many had warned that the switch would mean lower response rates and policies based on an eroded understanding of important trends. Now researchers – from city planners to public health units – say they have sifted through the 2011 data and found it lacking.

Their comments come as a private member’s bill to reinstate the mandatory long-form census will be debated in the House of Commons Thursday. The bill, expected to be voted on next week, has slim odds of passing, given the Conservative majority. But it is drawing attention to the impact of the switch, which has created difficulties in determining income-inequality trends, housing needs and whether low-income families are getting adequate services. (...)

Some researchers – such as those working on a sweeping long-term study on income polarization in Canadian cities – are choosing to abandon using the NHS altogether. They may be settling for less-detailed tax-filer data, while others, such as some public health units, are still using outdated 2006 census data.

In Canada’s largest city, “it has definitely had an impact in the way we plan for services” for people such as seniors, single parents, youth and immigrants, says Harvey Low, manager of social research at the City of Toronto. “We are less sure ” about the characteristics of people served in communities. (...)

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Image: Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail