MP Report by Jay Hill, M.P.
“There is (Con) Census”
It has been an incredibly emotional week following my announcement not to seek re-election as your Member of Parliament. I would like to thank those constituents, friends and colleagues who telephoned and emailed to convey kind words of support.
There has been a great deal of reminiscing since my announcement … about colleagues, events and hot political issues from past years. I found it particularly ironic that one of those controversial issues has resurfaced this week … the long-form census.
The census issue brought back memories of 1996 when I’d been your MP for just over two years and the census forms hit select mailboxes across our constituency. The phones began ringing in my riding office as constituents who received the “long-form” census expressed outrage over the lengthy, onerous forms requesting very personal information. As you know, the general “short” census form is distributed to every household in Canada. The vast majority of Canadians have no problem with this aspect of statistics collection. It is the means by which Statistics Canada compiles very basic information on the population of Canada, such as name, gender, age, marital status, and first-language of individuals living in your household. This form is simple and takes mere minutes to complete and return to Statistics Canada.
Then there’s the long-form census sent out to 20 percent of Canadian households. It is incredibly detailed and requests private and personal information, including whether anyone in your home has physical or mental health issues, asks about cultural and ethnic background, level of education, how many hours of household chores you carry out, detailed labour history, income and investments, commuting habits, number of bedrooms in your home, household expenses and more.
In 2006, the long-form census was 40 pages long and, quite obviously, took an extensive amount of time to complete. And here’s the rub…if you were one of the households to receive this long census form, completing it was MANDATORY by law under threat of fines, jail, or both!
Our Conservative Government believes this is wrong. That’s why we replaced the 2011 mandatory long-form census with the voluntary National Household Survey. We don’t believe Canadians should be forced to disclose extensive private and personal information.
Statistics Canada officials do not support our Government’s decision to make the collection of this information voluntary, and the Chief Statistician even resigned. A parliamentary committee has convened over the summer to examine our decision as opposition MPs express their “outrage” to our action to protect Canadians’ privacy. One Liberal MP called this a “manufactured crisis” on the part of our Government. I wish he could have been the one answering phone calls from my constituents back in 1996!
With increasingly robust privacy laws, both private sector and government collect and analyze extensive and wide-ranging information on Canadians on a VOLUNTARY basis. In this electronic age, spending habits, for example, are easily and anonymously assessed using Internet usage and electronic payment information. As for other personal information, many Canadians are still willing to provide that data, voluntarily, and with goodwill … when they’re not threatened with jail time.