Skip to main content

The Statistics Canada offices in Ottawa are seen on Tuesday, May 1, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

On Wednesday evening, the House of Commons will vote on reversing a move that holds an exalted place in the pantheon of stupid political decisions.

The bill in question seeks to restore the compulsory long-form census. It was tabled by an opposition MP, Liberal Ted Hsu, which means there is almost no chance it will pass. But it should. This is an opportunity to right a wrong.

There is now incontrovertible evidence the Conservative government's 2010 decision to scrap the mandatory census questionnaire, which quantified everything from family income to ethnicity to regional demographics, was an unalloyed catastrophe.

Story continues below advertisement

Opposition has come from think-tanks of every political persuasion, business leaders, charities, public administrators and basically anyone with a PhD. Thanks to a deliberately sabotaged census, we know less about Canada in 2011 than we did about Canada in 2006. Who thinks that's a good idea?

What's more, conducting a halfwitted census turned out to be more expensive. The 2011 voluntary household survey increased errors, reduced accuracy, chopped the response rate by 30 per cent – and cost an extra $22-million. Congratulations: The Harper government figured out how to spend more for less.

The decision to kneecap the census was transparently ideological, a rash exercise in partisan narrow-casting, and was quickly exposed as such.

Dozens of experts predicted the damage that would be wrought. It's time for the Conservative government to finally acknowledge how right they were.

The next opportunity for the House to revisit the Census Act will come next month via another private member's bill – this one tabled by Conservative backbencher Joe Preston.

It would remove two aspects that are problematic to some Conservatives: jail for refusal to complete the form, and automatic public disclosure after 92 years.

There is still resistance in Mr. Preston's party to bringing back the mandatory long form. We hope that removing the central justifications for killing it represents an evolving mindset.

Story continues below advertisement

Some mistakes are easy to reverse. It may be too late to restore a proper census in 2016, but a return in 2021 should be inevitable.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

If your comment doesn't appear immediately it has been sent to a member of our moderation team for review

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.