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Liberals draft bill to reinstate <br/>mandatory long-form census Add to ...

The Liberals say they will bring in a bill to reinstate the mandatory long-form census.

Liberal MP John McCallum announced at a news conference on Thursday that his party will introduce legislation to bring back the mandatory long-form census questionnaire when the House of Commons resumes sitting in the fall.

Mr. McCallum said the decision by the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to scrap the mandatory long-form census over privacy issues is a thinly veiled attack on the ability of all levels of government to deliver progressive social programs.

"A voluntary survey will skew the picture of what Canada really looks like as lower income minority Canadians will be less likely to fill it out," he said.

The bill to be introduced by the Liberals will clarify that that 20 per cent of the Canadian population will receive a mandatory long-form questionnaire during the census period - the same percentage of Canadians that received it in previous years. Mr. McCallum said the bill will also remove the controversial threat of jail time for not completing the census.

Dimitri Soudas, the Prime Minister's director of communications, was taken aback by Mr. McCallum's statement about minority groups and low-income Canadians.

"It is blatantly outrageous that this (Michael) Ignatieff spokesman asserts that minorities and the poor should be threatened with financial fines and jail time in order to fill out the long form census," said Mr. Soudas.

The Liberals "constantly look down on working class people and think they aren't as civic minded as liberal elites," he said. "We believe that freedom is an essential Canadian value, and we don't think that it is right to try to frighten or intimidate people into surrendering huge amounts of private information to the government."

More than 300 groups representing a broad spectrum of Canadian society have voiced opposition to a decision to make the census voluntary. The government says the long-form census will instead be sent to more homes but statisticians argue that the results inevitably be biased.

The census is to land in Canadian mailboxes in the spring of next year. Some experts have said that it is now too late to reverse the government's decision because the forms are already being printed.

But Mr. McCallum said that Munir Sheikh, the former chief statistician who quit his job at Statistics Canada after the government repeatedly said the agency believed the voluntary process would lead to sound results, has said the mandatory long-form census could be reinstated as late as March or April.

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