Richard J. Brennan Ottawa Bureau
OTTAWA—The Conservative government listened to only a relative handful of Canadians — including conspiracy theorists afraid the government was going to round them up — before scrapping the mandatory long-form census, according to documents obtained by the Toronto Star.
Canadians were unhappy with so-called intrusive questions, the aggravation of filling it out and even a few were convinced the census was part of a government plot, according to Statistics Canada documents obtained under Access to Information.
But there is virtually no overwhelming evidence in the Statistics Canada documents to support the government’s contention of widespread privacy concerns — the very argument it used this summer to kill the mandatory long-form census.
The Toronto Star had requested all complaints to Statistics Canada with respect to the 2006 long-form census after cabinet ministers claimed they scuttled the long-form census after being flooded with complaints.
But according to the information provided to the Toronto Star, less than 100 complaints were lodged with StatsCan, even though about 20 per cent of Canadian households received the long form.
The Conservative government decision, said Liberal Marc Garneau, remains “a triumph of ignorance over common sense.
“Hundreds of well recognized and respected organizations have said this is insanity,” he said.
Ivan Fellegi, who served as StatsCan’s chief statistician for more than two decades, told the Star the bulk of complaints were never about privacy.
“There really wasn’t any substantial indication of privacy concerns and when it came to formal complaints to the Privacy Commissioner I think she mentioned three … that’s certainly not a groundswell of concern by Canadians by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.
Fellegi said the decision to scrap the mandatory long form was taken “without any consultation with anybody that I can identify — anybody.”
This PM and his government have to go.
Imagine the trauma that thousands of organizations will have, without the detailed data that the long census provided. Even government departments will be ham-strung without some of the critical data that the long form provided.