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Maxime Bernier defended census as 'essential' in 2006

Conservative MP Maxime Bernier speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on April 13, 2010.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Michael Ignatieff's team has produced a letter from 2006 in which then-industry minister Maxime Bernier provides a strong defence of the mandatory long-form census. And the Liberals are hailing it as proof the government's decision to scrap the form is based on ideology alone.

Ontario Liberal MP Bryon Wilfert received the letter from Mr. Bernier in August, 2006. It was in reply to letters Mr. Wilfert had sent from constituents, who were concerned about the length and detail of the 2006 census.

"Although I understand the concerns of your constituents about supplying what they view as personal information, I can assure you that all of the information collected by the census is needed and is used only for statistical purposes," Mr. Bernier says.

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He goes on to explain that the questions are "essential for providing the information needed by governments, businesses, researchers and individual Canadians to shed light on issues of concern to all of us - employment, education, training, transportation, housing, immigration, income support, pensions for seniors, transfer payments, aboriginal issues and many more."

The Quebec Tory sounds like a Liberal. His support for the census mirrors the lines Canadians have heard from the opposition since the story broke in the summer. But Mr. Bernier has since changed his mind.

The release of this letter comes on the heels of reports refuting Mr. Bernier's claims that when he was minister he received about 1,000 complaints a day about the mandatory census. The CBC obtained documents showing that figure was exaggerated.

According to the documents, there were 882 total complaints about the 2006 long and short form census. On average, Statistics Canada received about 25 to 30 a year. Mr. Bernier has sinced backed off his claims.

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