House of Commons Hansard #95 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was census.

Topics

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder if you could seek unanimous consent to see the clock at 1:30.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to see the clock at 1:30?

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Statistics Act
Private Members' Business

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

moved that Bill C-568, An Act to amend the Statistics Act (mandatory long-form census), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to move second reading of Bill C-568. Because this bill would save the government $30 million, we on this side of the House do not believe it would require a royal recommendation. We hope that the Speaker will see it that way.

This bill would enshrine the taking of the mandatory long form census every five years, as well as remove the possibility of prison penalties for any violations.

The census goes back a long time. In fact, there is a phrase in the Bible that comes to me at this time:

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.

I have to submit as a family doctor that if this had been a voluntary census, Jesus would have been born in Nazareth.

The mandatory nature of the census has been going on for 2,010 years. The government is a little remiss to try to change it at this point.

Canada's first census was initiated by Intendant Jean Talon in 1666. The census counted the colony's 3,215 inhabitants and recorded their age, sex, marital status and occupation.

The first national census of Canada was taken in 1871. According to the Census Act of May 12, 1870, census-taking was to take place no later than May 1. Under section 8 of the Constitution Act, 1867, formerly the British North America Act, a census was to be taken in 1871 and every tenth year thereafter. This first census of the Dominion following Confederation in 1867 counted the population of the four original provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. Its main goal was to determine appropriate representation by population in the new Parliament. Since 1871, decennial census data have provided the cornerstone for representative government.

In 1871 the questionnaire covered a variety of subjects, and asked 211 questions on area, land holdings, vital statistics, religion, education, administration, the military, justice, agriculture, commerce, industry and finance. Information was collected in tabular form on population, houses and other buildings, lands, industries and institutions. The population field included the age, sex, religion, education, race and occupation of each person. Not every household answered all 211 questions.

In 1971, the Federal Bureau of Statistics became Statistics Canada.

That year also marked the 100th anniversary of the first national census of Canada. Under the new Statistics Act, it became a statutory requirement to hold censuses of population and agriculture every five years.

Two questionnaires were used in 1971. The short form, distributed to two-thirds of Canadian households, covered the basic population questions and nine housing questions. The long form, distributed to the remaining third, contained the same questions as the short form with the addition of 20 housing questions and 30 socio-economic population questions. The Census of Agriculture questionnaire contained 199 questions, down from 251 in 1961.

What has been problematic in the debate is the misinformation by the government that it was in 1971 that the long form census began. In fact, the long form census was the norm before 1971, and only in 1971 did the short form census begin. Before that, all of the information was collected from all of the citizens.

On July 24, before the industry committee, Dr. Ivan Fellagi, a former chief statistician, said that the government had misinterpreted the imposition of this long form census in 1971, when before 1971 there was only a long form census. The short form census was introduced in 1971. It is clear that the government understand that both were mandatory and both are important.

In fact, it was also the testimony of the former chief statistician, Munir Sheikh, and the Conservatives misrepresented the chief statistician as though he had given this advice. I will quote from Munir Sheikh's statement:

I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion. This relates to the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census. It cannot.

It was very clear from a lot of the testimony that a lot of people have rallied in favour of the long form census.

Dr. David Mowat, the former deputy chief public health officer for Canada and now the medical officer of health for Peel, said this with respect to the problems of voluntary census:

As for trying to elicit this detailed information from a voluntary rather than mandatory census form, we know from our own experience with voluntary research surveys, and we know from the experience of other countries, that certain categories of people will not respond proportionately to a voluntary census survey. In particular, we know that those least willing to provide information voluntarily will be those who tend to belong to socially and economically disadvantaged groups. We can debate why this is so, but the reality is this: if we go to a voluntary census, the groups whose health and living conditions are most in jeopardy will be underrepresented in the data.

In fact, if we look at the short form census, it is quite clear that it would plunge Canada back into the dark ages and indeed, worse off than the days of Jesus Christ. It is impossible for the government to attack proper data. As Mel Cappe has said:

For the last 35 years, people have been filling out this long-form of the census in one form or another. And we have been doing this for over 130 years. And now from 2011 forward, we will not have a data point. That means that all those people who filled out the form in the last 35 years did so for nought. Because we won’t have the next point on the series.

There has never been a case, in the history of Canada, in the history of Statistic Canada where someone’s personal census data has been released. All that is released are the aggregation by census track so they add them up. [...] Statistic Canada has an unblemished record of keeping to themselves – private – all of the returns of the census.

How much time would filling the mandatory census long-form questionnaire take? Cappe explained, “20 percent of the population get asked every five years to fill out this form. […] That means once every 25 years, you got to spend about 30 minutes in answering 41 questions.”

We think it is egregious that the government has misrepresented this. Indeed, by the continuous use of words like “intrusive” and “coercive” it is has created fear, such that people think the government will know what religion they follow, and how many bedrooms they have in their homes. When people say they do not want the government to know, it is imperative that a government of any substance admit that the government will never know what religion one is or how many bedrooms are in one's house. It will only know the average number of bedrooms in the community and the number of people who live in that community. It will not know whether a person is a Roman Catholic or how many Roman Catholics live in the neighbourhood.

The most poignant testimony on July 21 was from Elisapee Sheutiapik, a board member of ITK:

You have to remember that in the long form there are questions such as how many bedrooms are in the house. In Arctic communities it's too cold to be homeless. There's hidden homelessness. We'll never get that data if that long form is not filled out.

Mr. Speaker, I think the member for Peterborough should not think this is funny and should be listening.

Ms. Sheutiapik went on to say:

Actually, there is an amazing partnership that has been developed between Arctic communities and the government when it comes to Statistics Canada. There is a partnership there where they have trained bilingual Inuit people who can work with unilinguals on filling out these forms. It took a lot of time to educate people about how important this data is, because after all, we use those data to help us plan into the future.

Language is an issue in Arctic communities. Those are the kinds of information that are asked about as well in the long form. Moving forward, language and the use of it is a concern, so moving forward we need to know about and continue to keep tabs on where our language is at, not just housing but language as well.

[I]n northern communities, they're still very much intimidated by forms, especially the elders, because some of them still can't read English, so they're intimidated. But if you have someone who has been trained through Stats Canada going house to house, they would be very comfortable having the person come and help to fill out those forms.

In northern communities we wear many different hats. Today I can answer for all of the different hats I wear, be they as president of Pauktuutit, which automatically makes me a member of ITK; and as mayor of Iqaluit and president of our association, which also automatically makes me a member of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. So it has an impact on all of the organizations I work with.

Firstly, I just want to state that to keep Canada strong, we need to know how the country is changing, where people live, work, and raise their families. This census helps us do that.

As Inuit, because of our small numbers within our great nation, sometimes we fall through the cracks, but this data brings real information that's needed in all levels of government and non-government organizations.

She went on to say:

I think it really is unreasonable to suggest that Inuit bear the cost of collecting data to measure the size and scope of their inequality.

Last week the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories had a motion which began with, “WHEREAS the Government of Canada intends to eliminate the Statistics Canada 'long-form census'”, and further on states:

AND WHEREAS It is estimated that it would cost the Government of the Northwest Territories approximately $500,000 to increase its data collection to replace the data no longer available from Statistics Canada;

NOW, THEREFORE I move, seconded by the Honourable Member for Thebacha, that this Legislative Assembly urges the Government of Canada to reverse its decision to eliminate the mandatory “long-form” census questionnaire.

In his letter, Ivan Fellagi has been very clear. I hope the government will read the UN fundamental principles of official statistics. We need to make sure that all of those principles are followed. As a physician, I will use the analogy that having the chief statistician explain that a voluntary census would be adequate is like asking the chief medical officer of health to go out and tell the people of Canada that smoking does not cause cancer. This is appalling. Even Andrew Coyne has said what was once the normal attack on elite experts is now an attack on the knowledge of this country. “The loss”, said Peggy Taillon, president and CEO of CCSD, “of the long form census is equal to the government actually shutting off Canada's navigation system”.

We are calling on the government to change the questions, if it will, change the punishment, if it will, but to retain the long form census. This bill would put it into the Statistics Act so that no future government would ever be able to fool with this completely important essential data.

Statistics Act
Private Members' Business

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delightfully surprised that the member brought faith into the conversation on the census. I would like to make sure for the record what she mentioned in history:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

I think that this possibly reveals a secret agenda of the Liberal Party and the Leader of the Opposition, where the Liberals want to force people to do the census in order to raise the GST, in order to raise corporate taxes. It is exactly why they want to compel people to do this. It was Caesar who first forced it, and forced people to travel miles and miles to do it.

I would like to ask the member, is that what the Liberals are trying to do, actually make sure that they can tax people more efficiently?

Statistics Act
Private Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, the bill speaks to the fact that we want taxpayers' dollars spent wisely. Group after group, all users of the data, all cities and provinces feel that without the navigation system of a census we would not know whether taxpayers' dollars are paying for programs that are making things better or worse.

To turn off the navigation system allows ideologically-based governments to do what they want because they will not be accountable for the complete waste of money for programs that are not based on the facts.

Statistics Act
Private Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, even Conservatives who I know are scratching their heads as to why the Prime Minister would make the long form census optional. We know that businesses in general are opposed to this. Professional people are opposed to this. Provincial governments are opposed to this, because transfers are based on the number of voters times a certain amount. For example, I believe the province of Manitoba gets $4,000 for every person identified and if enough people are not identified, it would mean substantial reductions in transfer payments for health and education.

It sounds like something from the Tea Party movement. It just does not make any sense at all, in terms of the conventional environment of politics in this country, that a government would basically turn its back on its own friends in business, its own friends in provincial governments and professional people who support the government. They cannot understand where the government is headed on this issue.

Statistics Act
Private Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, with any significant change in a policy such as this, it would be normal to consult the advisory council that is appointed for that. It would be normal to consult the end users.

What was shocking in what has turned up over the last while is this was a totally ideological fight against having good data. It is something the Prime Minister and Guy Giorno have been involved in since last Christmas. They have been bullying the staff at Statistics Canada. The Prime Minister's handwriting is on the documents themselves. This is an ongoing fight. This occurred during the G8 and G20 summits when Parliament was not sitting. The thinking was that no one would notice. According to the Globe and Mail:

Don Drummond, a member of Statistics Canada’s advisory council, said “all of us were shocked” by the news that the mandatory long-form census was being abandoned.

...the council unanimously believed that abandoning the mandatory long-form census would skew the 2011 results, causing a statistical break with previous surveys that would it make impossible to read and project trends accurately.

Statistics Act
Private Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the national household survey, which will be conducted next year. This voluntary survey has very much been misconstrued by my colleagues across the floor. I believe that asking the long form census questions on a voluntary basis in the national household survey will provide a better balance between collecting necessary data and protecting the privacy of Canadians. I am confident this new survey will establish a balance among the requirements of governments, businesses, municipalities and associations for good information and the willingness of Canadians to provide that information.

This government is well aware that without good information, informed decisions are difficult to make. Nevertheless, the government is not willing to force Canadians, who may conscientiously object to giving private information to government officials, to do so.

I would like to take a few minutes to ensure that there are no misconceptions in the House about the national household survey.

The national household survey will collect information on the demographic, social and economic situation of people across Canada and the dwellings in which they live. Approximately one-third of all households across Canada will be selected to participate in the national household survey. Information will be used by governments, businesses, associations, community organizations and many others to make important decisions about the services in our communities. These services include child care, schooling, family services, housing, roads, public transportation and skills and training for the employment sector.

The national household survey will provide information about the living arrangements of people in Canada: family size, number of children living with one parent or two parents and the number of people who live alone. This information is important for planning social programs. It is also used by communities to plan services such as daycare centres, schools, seniors centres and seniors residences.

The survey will also provide information on the number of people in Canada who have difficulties with daily activities and whose activities are reduced because of a physical or mental condition, or a health problem. This information is used to plan services relating to accessibility and to support health care for the communities that they serve.

The national household survey will provide a social and cultural profile of Canada's population. This profile will tell us about the movements of people within Canada and from other countries other than Canada and for newcomers to Canada. It will collect information on the citizenship status of Canada's population, information that is used to plan citizenship classes and programs to help support those newcomers to Canada.

This new survey will also provide the number of immigrants and non-permanent residents in Canada and the year the people immigrated. This information is used to compare the situation of immigrants over time to provide immigration and employment policies and the programs which serve those individuals and to plan on education, health and other services much needed by these communities.

The national household survey will provide information about the ethnic and cultural diversity in Canada. This information is used by associations, agencies and researchers for activities such as health promotion, communications and marketing.

The survey will also collect language information which will be used to determine the need for language training and the services in English and in French.

Another important aspect of the national household survey is the information collected about aboriginals, both on and off reserve. This information is used by governments, including aboriginal governments and organizations, to develop programs and services for our aboriginal peoples.

Another question on the survey will tell us about the visible minority population in Canada. This information is required for programs under the Employment Equity Act which promote equal opportunity for each and every Canadian.

There will also be a religion question. This question will be used to measure religious affiliation and diversity. It is for use to trace changes in Canadian society. The information will also be used to help plan facilities and services within our diverse communities across the country.

We will also know, when the results of the survey are released, where residents of Canada are moving to and where they are moving from. This information is used to look at the characteristics of people who move and to track the needs for housing, education, transportation and social services.

We will also know more about the social and economic conditions of the second generation of Canadians. This information helps us understand Canada's immigration history.

The national household survey also has a series of questions on education. These questions will tell us about the education, training and recent school attendance of residents of Canada. Governments use this information to develop training and other programs to meet the changing needs of our workforce and of the education needs of specific groups such as immigrants, aboriginal peoples and youth.

The labour market questions provide information on paid work to plan education and training programs, assess language use at work and the forecast of job opportunities. Information on where people work, how they get to work tells us about commuting patterns, public transit needs and energy use. This helps identify locations for new schools, hospitals, daycare and recreational facilities and the need for roads and transit services.

Income questions provide statistics on income from all sources. Governments use these statistics to develop income support programs such as old age security, provincial income supplements and social assistance payments. Businesses use income statistics to locate stores and to develop new products and services that are demanded by Canadians. Private and public sector researchers use information about earnings to study labour markets and industry patterns.

Information on expenses related to child care and support payments, along with information on income, provides more precise measures of disposable income.

Finally, questions on housing provide information to develop housing communities and projects. Information on the number of rooms and bedrooms in homes and on housing costs is used to assess the economic situation of Canadian families. Governments use this information to measure levels of crowding within households and to develop housing programs within their communities.

Information on the age of dwellings and the need for repairs is used by municipalities, for example, to develop neighbourhood improvement programs.

I would ask for the support of hon. colleagues for the national household survey. I trust they will encourage their constituents to complete the survey next May. This will ensure that all Canadians have the information they need for a better future.

Statistics Act
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to Bill C-568, An Act to amend the Statistics Act (mandatory long-form census).

This bill is a direct response to the government's desire to abolish the mandatory long form for the 2011 Census. Recently, Quebeckers and Canadians were very surprised to learn that the government had decided to change the long form questionnaire. In fact, it had been used for 35 years and, as a member, I had never received any complaints from my constituents. I have held office since 2000 and 20% of the population receives this form at some point according to the statistical requirements. People do not find it to be a problem. Otherwise, as they do in other circumstances, they would complain to their MP. Thus, it was very surprising. I asked my Bloc Québécois colleagues and none have received complaints about the mandatory long form questionnaire. It was a surprise.

When the Conservatives surprise us like this, we have to look at what is behind it all. I was listening to the Conservative member read the text prepared for him. It was all right. He concluded by stating that we must encourage Canadians to fill out the new short form. That is a fine idea. It has not gone well for them. People are unhappy that the Conservatives are making these changes. What the member did not talk about was the political strategy behind it. In fact, when the Conservatives announce this kind of surprise it is because there is a political strategy that masks the Conservative ideology. That is the reality. Once again, the Conservatives dare not openly state the reasons for this decision. That is the Conservative way: they always try to hide the reality and are never transparent.

I was very surprised by another fact as well. First of all, we are no longer hearing anything from the hon. member for Beauce, who spoke out saying that he had received thousands of emails, although that was not true. He is so embarrassed that he has not said another word about this issue since. That is true. We might try to understand what is behind this policy, which no one asked for. It was quite something to see. The Chief Statistician of Statistics Canada resigned because the minister had the nerve to say, during his first speech on the issue, that it was at the request of Statistics Canada. It has since been clearly proven that Statistics Canada definitely did not ask for the change.

Thus, it was a political decision based on Conservative ideology. The Conservatives probably realize that certain categories of people would rather not answer the questionnaire. This is even more serious. Indeed, the accuracy of the information requested, provided and compiled by Statistics Canada was recognized around the world.

In addition, some people might still believe that possible jail time was a problem, since jail time was included in the legislation. The Conservatives say they want to eliminate such sentences. So be it. We can agree easily, simply because no criminal charges have ever been brought against someone who did not fill out the form.

Quebeckers, Canadians and members of Parliament have to live with a government that pulls rabbits out of its political hat and thinks it will win votes by allowing people not to fill out the long form. That is what the government bill comes down to. The form is now shorter, but it is not mandatory. In keeping with its ideology, the government is telling people that it will not force them to fill out a form, despite the fact that many organizations want it.

I do not have much time, so I will list just a few of the organizations that have asked the government to keep the long form. First, the Province of Quebec needs these statistics, which are a very important tool with respect to language of work and language used at home, for example. The government shortened the five questions on the mandatory form and added others. The Government of Quebec, the homeland of francophones in North America, needs statistics about the language used by the people who live in Quebec.

Other provinces have opposed this move for other reasons. Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba have all asked Ottawa to maintain the mandatory long form. They are all important members of what my Conservative colleagues call the Canadian federation. Once again, the federation is not based on negotiation, particularly not with the current Conservative government, which negotiates nothing.

A number of major stakeholders have reacted. These include the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Association francophone pour le savoir, the Fédération québécoise des professeures et professeurs d'université, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the Association francophone des municipalités du Nouveau-Brunswick, the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women and the Canadian Association for Business Economics.

Many organizations do not understand the government's decision and are asking it to reconsider and not go ahead with this bad idea, which would change a good way of doing things. People respected the mandatory long form and filled it out. No charges were ever laid against anyone for failing to comply. The long form provided information of great importance to society.

The Conservatives have made a big deal in the House about asking why it would be necessary to know the number of rooms in a house. For a furniture retailer or a company selling renovation materials, it is important to know future trends in these areas. Do homes have fewer or more rooms?

The Conservatives do not get it. That is why we always come back to the question: what is the political reason behind the Conservatives' decision to change the census form? Again, they are trying to please a segment of the population that is not in Quebec. Quebeckers did not complain about having to fill out this form. If we ask, perhaps the Conservatives will tell us what category of people they were targeting when they decided to remove the mandatory nature of the long form.

I agree with them on replacing criminal sentences with a simple fine, given that such sentences have never been handed down. The Bloc Québécois would have gladly supported the government on that.

Because of all the important information that was being used by both Quebec's and Canada's civil society and corporations, we are supporting the bill before us to reinstate the mandatory long form census, as Quebec, Ontario and other provinces are calling for.

Statistics Act
Private Members' Business

November 5th, 2010 / 1:45 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-568, An Act to amend the Statistics Act (mandatory long-form census).

The New Democratic Party is supportive of the bill because it seeks to reverse the ideological-based decision of the Conservative government to cancel the long form census. The bill would also removes the punishment of imprisonment for a person convicted of providing false or misleading information.

While we are supportive of this bill, it is important to note that it does not go far enough.

Bill C-583, introduced by my colleague from Windsor West, goes one step further by enshrining into law the primacy of evidence-based decision-making over political maneuvering of the likes we have seen with the government.

To be clear, both elements of Bill C-568 are fully supported. For the record one more time: not a single Canadian has been imprisoned for failing to fill out the long form census. The imprisonment element should be removed right now.

However, we need to go further by removing political interference from Statistics Canada's ability to do its job and provide an accurate picture of our country. The Chief Statistician must be able to do his job in an environment free of political meddling by an ideological government intent on suppressing evidence and information that contradicts its narrow conservative agenda.

We can just imagine the outrage from the national and international community if the finance minister were to interfere with the independence of the Bank of Canada's governor to set monetary policy. Therefore, why should we accept the government's heavy-handedness in interfering with our Chief Statistician's capacity to do his or her job?

Hundreds of individuals, organizations, businesses and governments from coast to coast to coast raised the alarm bells because of the terrible decision to cancel the long form census. Despite the unsubstantiated claims by Conservative MPs about mythical complaints of the intrusiveness of the long form census, we know that the majority of citizens support and understand the need for the long form census.

As a francophone living in a predominantly English-speaking region in northern Ontario, I know that my community's capacity to access necessary federal services and funding for French cultural and educational initiatives is dependent on the availability of credible data on the size of our community in northern Ontario.

Losing the long form census will have a detrimental impact on our community and every other francophone community outside of Quebec.

Is it any wonder the government was taken to court on this issue? Our community is outraged by the government's relentless efforts to shut down any source of credible data that provides objective evidence necessary for developing good public policy.

Last night, right here on Parliament Hill, parliamentarians and members of Canada's very professional public service were invited to a special panel discussion on a timely topic: evidence versus ideology of Canadian public policy. This event was sponsored by the Canadian Association of Professional Employees, the Association of Canadian Financial Officers and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

The event aimed to launch a public debate regarding the current state and possible future of evidence-based policy making in Canada. A panel discussion featured three distinguished speakers: Dan Gardner, Ottawa Citizen columnist and author; Lawrence Martin, The Globe and Mail columnist and author; and Armine Yalnizyan, an economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The discussion was fascinating because panellists and participants acknowledged that there has always been a role for ideology in public policy. However, they noted that in the past two years we have seen the emergence of a worrisome pattern.

First, the government gagged public servants and fired others who dared to disagree with it or gave it policy recommendations that did not fit into its ideologically driven agenda.

Second, the government has cancelled surveys and the long form census to ensure statisticians, economists, academics and other professionals did not have access to objective data that provided damning evidence of the Conservative government's policy failures.

The Conservatives are dragging this country backward with their ideological agenda even though a clear majority of Canadians are saying no. The majority of parliamentarians in this House support restoring the long form census, protecting the professional role of Canada's Chief Statistician and removing the threat of imprisonment from the act. Yet, the minority government continues to thumb its nose at the majority will of Parliament. What an insult to this historic institution. What an insult to democracy itself.

Bill C-568 is specific to the government's decision to cancel the long form census.

I believe this House needs to have a wider debate about the government's treatment of public servants. It is setting a public policy based on belief, not public interest; its rejection of evidence-based public policy; its attempt to shut down public access to objective data; and its attempt to stop credible analysis of its failed policies.

This will not work. We are on to the Conservatives and Canadians are on to them. When the next election is called, the Conservatives can be sure that we will remind them of every bad decision they have made.

This is unsubstantiated, but I have been told that the government tried to cancel the long form census when the outgoing Minister of the Environment was the industry minister, but he said no to the PMO. Unfortunately, the current Minister of Industry did not have that fortitude when the PMO came calling again demanding the cancellation of the long form census. There he was this past summer having to make a terrible decision, but he tried to blame the professional public servants of Statistics Canada.

The government keeps saying that the buck stops with the ministers, except, of course, when they make a bad decision, and then it wants to blame the public servants because it cannot defend itself.

This reminds me of when the current President of the Treasury Board was the Sea-Doo leader of the Canadian Alliance and did not know in which direction the Niagara River flowed. He blamed his staff. For the record, it flows north. The Conservatives have been blaming everybody but themselves ever since. It is a shame.

I offer my party's support for this bill and urge the House to bring other necessary changes to protect our professional public service from the kind of pervasive political interference by ministers and their political staff who have been known to interfere in every aspect of departmental decision-making, even stopping the flow of information through the Access to Information Act. We need to end this trend and we need to do it quickly before the Conservatives drag us decades backward.