I hadn’t planned on commenting on this again but all the craziness around has prompted me to write one more time. Opponents are suggesting it is a) an invasion of privacy, b) ‘forced’ labour on Canadians, c) a free ride for organizations that should go out and get the data themselves, d) in response to an outpouring of anger from Canadians at forcing them to fill it out. There are secondary concerns but these are the main four.
As for invasion of privacy, all governments require citizens to provide personal data for a wide variety of uses – it’s all used in confidence – Statistics Canada data is suppressed all the time to ensure that you couldn’t possibly figure out who the person or company is. And in the end, people can ‘lie’ if they don’t want to share their information. That’s just the plain truth.
As for forced labour (mentioned here and elsewhere), we are forced by government to do lots of things – many against our will. If this is such an issue pay people $5 to fill it out.
The free ride argument is the worst. The US Census data is all free – every scrap (at least that I have used and I use it extensively). The Canadian data – other that some standard tables – is all at a cost when used in a commercial capacity. I spent (on behalf of my clients) over $5,000 last year on Statistics Canada data.
As for the outpouring of anger from Canadians, I never heard of it. And I have never heard of anyone going to jail for not filling the long form out. I had to fill it out last time and they called me several times to ensure I received it, ask if I needed help, etc.
A major point – raised here by someone – is that if the data becomes voluntarily filled out it cannot be compared to previous years and it won’t necessarily even represent Canada as a whole. The only way to get a true cross section, is to make it random.
I think this matters. We need to understand the nuance in the demographics. All provinces are different. There are huge ethnic and linguistic differences. The socio-economics are very different. We already have a federal government that likes to ram national, inflexible programs onto a group of very diverse provinces. Wait until we don’t have good data to highlight these differences. The Census long form is the best set of data on granular aspects of the Canadian population.