Letters & Editorials
Long Form Census Letter to Minister Clement
July 28, 2010
The Honourable Tony Clement, P.C., M.P.
Minister Responsible for Statistics Canada
On behalf of the membership of the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce I am writing you to express the serious concerns of the business community with the government’s decision to replace the long form census with a new voluntary National Household Survey.
I want to highlight 4 issues that will be impacted by discontinuing the long form census, and stress that a voluntary survey will be unable to replace what will be lost.
Having dependable and quality data which achieves a high response rate to questions covered by the long form is vital for business analysis and policy development. Businesses, regardless of size and sector, base their planning and decisions on dependable census data. This determines how they will develop initiatives and allocate resources to remain successful.
The census also informs the development of policy within business, community, regional and provincial organizations, not to mention levels of government. All of this is made possible by the long form census being compulsory and providing a sample that is representative of the entire population across diverse cultural and socio-economic groups. This not only creates the information on which so much is based, but also establishes a foundation for comparison between other studies and surveys. Voluntary surveys are invariably weighted towards different issues or social groups, and do not provide the same level of assurance or dependability of the census. Businesses, communities, governments and organizations at all levels will suffer with the loss of reliable data.
Privacy is one of the factors cited for removing the long form census. Statistics Canada imposes a number of safeguards around the release of information to the public, and does not expose the anonymity or personal information of any individuals participating in a census. Since personal information is protected, regardless of the survey type or report released, privacy concerns are not compromised and should not be an issue.
The increased cost of abandoning the long form census to the Federal Government, BC and Canadian business is another reason to keep it. Administering a voluntary survey which achieves an adequate level of quality and an appropriate response rate will almost certainly cost more than what is currently invested into the compulsory long form. For the businesses which can afford to develop their own sources of data, the financial burden of doing so would detract from expansion and job creation. Many small businesses will not have the resources to do this, however, and the impact of losing the census data will have the greatest impact on this group.
The sector that may be the most negatively affected by the removal of the long form census are small and medium sized businesses (SMEs). Representing the vast majority of businesses in BC and Canada, they employ over half the workforce for both. SMEs have anywhere from 1 to 50 employees, and simply do not have the resources necessary to replace the data that will be lost to them by the removal of the long form census. Consequently, future business decisions and planning will be made without the reliable information SMEs have come to depend upon. Reducing the ability of such a large part of the economy to contribute to growth and success in BC and Canada will almost certainly impact the economic recovery that business and government have invested so much in creating.
For these reasons, I strongly urge you not to replace the long form census.
President & CEO
BC Chamber of Commerce