Canada’s newly-elected government has restored the mandatory long-form census, marking what we hope will be an important first step towards the revival of evidence-based policy and lasting change.
The long-form census was Canada’s most important tool for gathering data about the economic, social, and health landscapes that we inhabit. It was critical for all levels of governance, providing public servants, academics, and government representatives with the data needed to craft, evaluate, compare, and modify public policy. Charities relied on the data to identify the needs of the communities they served, and in the private sector, businesses looked to the census to inform key financial decisions.
In 2010, despite expert advice and widespread protest, the Harper government terminated the long-form census and replaced it with the disastrous (and expensive) voluntary “National Household Survey”, the results of which have been not only unreliable but misleading. Without well-rounded, essential data or the funds required to gather their own, cities, provinces, and federal bureaucrats were deprived of the ability to make evidence-based policy decisions about how to use their resources.
The Harper government failed to provide compelling reasons to axe the census. Many critics, including the president of Our Right to Know, Margrit Eichler, have suggested the move represented an attempt to impose ignorance on the Canadian public, allowing a clear path to pursue the party’s ideologically-drive objectives.
At Leadnow we welcome the new government’s decision to restore the long-form census, and applaud the speed with which the decision was made. This is a positive step forward in undoing the damage of the Harper government – and it can be a stepping stone to empowering our country’s scientists, public servants, academics, non-profit innovators and business leaders with the tools they need to achieve lasting changes for an open democracy, fair economy and clean environment.