As the UN proclaimed World Statistics Day on Wednesday, criticism of the federal government’s axing of the mandatory long-form census continued.
The contributions and achievements of official statistics were recognized at events around the world as the UN celebrated the day for the very first time.
But many Canadians have been thinking about the importance of statistics for a while.
About four months ago, the federal Conservative government eliminated Statistics Canada’s 2011 mandatory long census form in favour of a voluntary long census and people worry about the quality of data from a voluntary census.
Canada’s chief statistician, Munir Sheikh, resigned over the government’s decision.
Communities rely on the data from the Statistics Canada census.
Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling said the change in data collection is “a little bit suspect” that could lead to decisions being made “just on a whim with no validity, no rationale.”
“Whenever a government goes to do anything they usually say our data shows, our survey shows, our count shows. If you don’t have that data, how do you build those plans?” Flewwelling said on Wednesday.
“We’ll be making decisions on which we either have gaps or no data. That’s my concern.”
The mandatory long census, with more than 50 questions, was replaced with a voluntary survey that will go out to 30 per cent of Canadian households.
Since the long form’s inception 35 years ago, 20 per cent of households were required to fill it out. It has give municipalities information on issues like ethnicity
Red Deer and District Community Foundation uses Statistics Canada census data in its Vital Signs report, a collection of statistics on issues facing Red Deer.
Foundation CEO Janice Wing said the census helps identify trends.
“We’re such a huge geographical place. It’s easy to lose sight of how important it is to understand those trends,” Wing said.
“At the community level, we need to understand that decisions that are made in Ottawa or decisions that are made in Edmonton that are relative to our community, that impact us at a very local level, are made by accessing some of that data.”
The federal government is potentially impacting Canadian communities by hindering decision-making at a variety of levels, she said.
Red Deer MP Earl Dreeshen said mathematicians and statisticians understand the types of demographics that exist and he has a lot of faith in Statistics Canada to check the validity of census information collected from the voluntary form.
“Once they realize the new sets of rules they’re going to work with, then I think it will be much ado about nothing,” Dreeshen said.