An Act to amend the Statistics Act (Chief Statistician and mandatory long-form census)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Brian Masse  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Introduced, as of Oct. 16, 2013
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Statistics Act to require the Governor in Council to consult with the leader of every recognized party in the House of Commons before appointing the Chief Statistician of Canada and to make that appointment from a list of candidates submitted by a search committee appointed by the Minister designated by the Governor in Council for the purposes of that Act.

Further, this enactment provides that the census of population taken under section 19 of the Act must be taken using a long-form census questionnaire. It also removes the punishment of imprisonment for a person convicted of the offence of providing false or misleading information.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Removal of Imprisonment in Relation to Mandatory Surveys ActPrivate Members' Business

June 3rd, 2015 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House to speak to this bill, which is a Conservative smokescreen.

If the Conservatives truly wanted to remove the possibility of imprisonment for people who refused to fill out Statistics Canada's long form census, they would have supported, back in 2011 or even earlier, the bill introduced by my colleague from Windsor West, namely Bill C-346.

This bill would have restored the long form census, which has many social and economic uses for municipal governments and businesses. It enables them to help the public and to make certain improvements. Furthermore, Bill C-346 removed the possibility of imprisonment.

No one has been imprisoned since Statistics Canada created a public census form. The Conservatives are simply trying to polish their image instead of working on advancing issues and fixing problems.

It is clear that this bill does not reverse all of the cuts that the Conservatives have made to Statistics Canada, which is now underfunded and unable to produce studies and data that are in keeping with international standards.

As I said, no one has been imprisoned. The only people who have been convicted were sentenced to community service or else were pardoned.

Let us look at the fallout of the Conservatives' decision to eliminate Statistics Canada's mandatory long form census. I will give a list of the serious problems created as a result of the Conservatives' decision, which is completely ideological and is not in the best interests of the public.

Many communities in Canada had such low-quality data that Statistics Canada refused to release them. For example, 40% of communities in Saskatchewan had data held back because they were insufficient. These data are normally used by provincial and municipal governments and by non-government actors to plan services, such as transit routes and shelter coverage.

Women, aboriginal groups, and minorities were also under-represented in the 2011 national household survey. This means that the government was not able to see whether the situation for these groups could be improved. It has no idea what the situation is like in Saskatchewan.

Furthermore, the information on incomes that came out of that survey in 2011 suggested that the income inequality gap in Canada was shrinking. That was at odds with progressive economists who said that the Conservatives' message did not hold water, because the data from income tax returns from the Canada Revenue Agency, which is managed by the Conservatives, said the opposite. We need to bring the long form census back in order to have more accurate data, statistics and scientific facts.

Bill C-625 before us today raises an extremely important issue, namely the role of science in a democratic society. Under the rule of law, a government should base its public policies on facts and verified scientific evidence. In Canada, we should be able to say that we live under the rule of law. However, since 2006, the Conservatives have been standing in the way of that, and things have only gotten worse since they won a majority in 2011.

The Conservatives are developing ideologies that fly in the face of scientific, empirical evidence and knowledge acquired from experience. As I said, they are not governing for the public good. Their interests are very targeted, very partisan and very political. That is completely irresponsible, and they do not deserve the trust of the people.

Since 2006, Canada has been slipping into an ideological crusade that undermines the very foundation of our democracy. The Conservatives manipulate the facts to serve one ideology—the Conservative ideology.

This bill is merely one of many cogs in the terrible system that the Conservative government has dragged us into, against our will. The member for Elgin—Middlesex—London said that his bill is meant to strike a balance, and I want to quote from his speech at second reading:

The changes in my bill would ensure that Statistics Canada's programs reflect an appropriate balance between the collection of useful information and guaranteeing that the privacy rights of Canadians are upheld.

I support that laudable objective. Unfortunately, this private member's bill from a Conservative member conflicts with all of the measures the government has passed. Allow me to explain. If the Conservatives were truly interested in protecting Canadians' privacy and personal information, why would they have introduced Bill C-51—to name just one of the more recent ones—which would enable intelligence agencies to use people's personal information and share it with whomever they please without a warrant and without informing people that information about them has been collected and shared? There is no oversight mechanism or accountability in Bill C-51, but the Conservatives went full speed ahead with this bill to make sure that nobody would realize what was going on.

There is obviously a huge difference between what the government says and what it does. It no longer respects Canadian institutions, from the Federal Court to senior officers of parliament, let alone experts, members of the House of Commons or the people. It does not consult anyone. When it does consult people, it discredits them if they contradict Conservative ideology. This really needs to change now.

Unfortunately, this government's battle against reason continues. The Conservatives have done a lot of damage over the past few years. The cuts that they have made to many federal departments and agencies, such as Statistics Canada, are depriving us of essential socio-demographic data—data that are needed to guide our public policy. By eliminating the mandatory long form census, the government is depriving us of these crucial data. Why are they so important? I will give a few examples.

The census is one of the tools that enabled Canada to become one of the most developed countries in the world. It is one way for the government to develop targeted, effective public policies. For instance, it tells us what the average age is in a given area, which helps in the creation of appropriate health care programs. It guides entrepreneurs who are looking for opportunities, by mapping out the average income in a given region. It also helps community organizations that want to reach out to a specific clientele. It helps us assess how francophone communities in Canada are doing and to determine the appropriate measures to defend linguistic minorities. It also helps us determine the employment rate for Canadian immigrants and set up hiring programs for visible minorities. It also shows the social and economic reality of women living in rural and urban areas and guides policy to improve gender equality.

Before I became a member of Parliament, I was a teacher. In my riding, Beauharnois—Salaberry, the schools are immersed in a rather underprivileged area. How could we know that? It is thanks, in fact, to Statistics Canada's long form census. From that census, we could develop tools and, as teachers, we were given extra resources to better teach our students, give them more tools to increase their chances of success in life, and truly provide them with a wide range of services.

By getting rid of this census, the government eliminated the possibility of giving our youngest citizens an equal chance, and that is very serious. Not everyone is getting the same quality of education now because we do not have all the information we need, thanks to the Conservatives.

My Conservative colleague's bill is truly a smokescreen, as I was saying. If the Conservatives really wanted to remove the possibility of imprisonment, then why did they not do that in 2011, when my colleague from Windsor West introduced his Bill C-346?

This shows a lack of political will and a lack of vision. This is pure partisan ideology that does nothing to serve the public's interests. Again, this is very serious. To not rely on scientific data from our experts, is to disrespect democracy. We are truly no longer living under the rule of law and that is unfortunate.

An Act to amend the Statistics Act (appointment of Chief Statistician and long-form census)Private Members' Business

January 29th, 2015 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-626, an act to amend the Statistics Act. I am pleased to enthusiastically support the bill.

I would like to thank the critic, our MP for Parkdale—High Park, for her work on this and also the staff who worked diligently on this and other files, including Florian Olsen, Stéphanie Haché, and from my office, Andrew Cuddy. They did great work in helping us understand the bill, and helping us with our speeches and procedures in the House.

I would also like to extend kudos to the member for Kingston and the Islands for bringing forward Bill C-626. It has been great to work alongside him in trying to make science, social sciences and hard sciences, better in this House. I am really sad that he is not going to be standing in the next election, because I think he has made a good contribution to Canada. I wish him well in his future endeavours and thank him again for putting this forward and allowing us to vote on it.

From my reading, this is a very good bill, which would bring back the long form census and empower the Chief Statistician. It would remove, as we have heard in speeches, the possibility of imprisonment for failing to complete surveys, which I think is something the British probably brought in when they were doing the survey census way back when, for tax purposes and that type of thing. Perhaps the mandatory requirements in those bills are past their day. However, I notice that there are still provisions for fining people if they do not complete these surveys, and I think that is something we have heard the Conservatives will be trying to change. I hope they at least make some incentive for people to fill out these surveys.

The bill put forward by the member for Kingston and the Islands is very similar to bills we have put forward in the past, notably Bill C-346 by our MP for Windsor West. Therefore, of course, we support Bill C-626, and I think all Canadians, with the exception of those sitting across the aisle, would support strengthening our most important data source for planning and business purposes in this country.

Good data is essential to make the economy work, as census data provides social scientists, governments, and businesses the information they need to make good policy and business choices.

The NDP fought to prevent the Conservatives from eliminating the long form census and bringing in the national household survey in 2010. However, the Conservatives went ahead, without really any consultation, and now we are feeling the effects.

If members look up their community in the census and look at the statistics that are provided with the national household survey, up in the top right corner, members will probably see a little yellow triangle that warns that the data is questionable. It is there for almost every community across Canada. In fact, I just pulled up Burnaby, and the non-response rate in Burnaby was almost one-quarter of the people. It means that statisticians do not have the kind of data they need to make accurate projections. Burnaby is not a big community, just 220,000 people. It should be fairly easy to collect information there, but because of the changes that have been made, now we do not know whether the information is credible.

In fact, the national household survey that has now replaced the mandatory long form census survey has caused quite an uproar. It not only had municipalities and researchers upset, but just after it was introduced, the chief statistician resigned.

I hang around with statisticians, and they are very dedicated to their jobs. They are not political people. In fact, scientists get quite nervous when partisan politics are brought in. Therefore, when a chief statistician resigns, it shows us that something very significant has happened, which was something he did not feel he could put his name to. In fact, I think if members asked any statistician in this country, they would see what a grave error the Conservative government has made.

There are very good reasons for complaints. When we had the mandatory long form census, we had a 94% response rate. This is a high enough rate for us to accurately say every five years what was going on in each community in Canada. Now we have a 68% response rate. I think a lot of people at home probably are not getting closer to their televisions wondering what that means, but it is very important for ordinary Canadians.

Local government is an area that I have studied in the past. I am just finishing a text book on local government in Canada. There are 4,000 municipalities in Canada, but now more than 1,000 of them do not have any census information.

I used to work in the planning department of the City of Vancouver. One of my jobs was to take the census information to create profiles of communities to show how age groups and ethnicities had changed. This allowed planners to say, “We need new facilities there”, or allowed businesses to say, “Maybe this is a place where we should locate or move”.

For thousands of communities across Canada, this information does not exist. We are basically back to the 1800s in planning where new facilities should go and where businesses need to locate. If a Tim Horton's is looking where to put the next Time Horton's, the first place it would go is to census information to find out where the market is that will buy its product.

For a lot of communities in Canada, that information does not exist any more. When companies go to the Election Canada website to pull up the statistics sheet, a little yellow triangle will now show up in the right-hand corner. That undermines their confidence in their ability to predict where they should locate their businesses. Over the long term, this will have very serious economic impacts. I really think the Conservatives should reconsider this and vote in favour of the bill to ensure that we do not fall behind the international community.

If they continue along this path and keep removing these kinds of requirements to report our statistics accurately, there is some potential for international ramifications; for example, we have to provide the International Monetary Fund and World Bank accurate unemployment numbers and those types of things. I hope they do not start tinkering with the labour force survey, as was suggested a little while ago, because we may very well get kicked out of these international organizations if we start acting like North Korea in how we collect statistics. It is not a very good idea.

In Saskatchewan, over 40% of communities have no census data, and because the Conservatives want to stick with this as we move forward through the next census-taking, once again, another 40% of communities in Saskatchewan will have no census data for more than a decade. If we think of the population that is exploding there, especially first nations, there will be no accurate census done. When we are trying to plan for education, where to locate schools and perhaps where to close schools, and all of those types of things, we are making our local planners fly blind. That is a huge mistake. More than 25 per cent of communities in Yukon, Newfound and Labrador, P.E.I., New Brunswick, Manitoba, and Alberta do not have accurate information either. This is a real problem.

Nowhere else in the world have they done this. In the U.S., the Americans tried it and immediately reversed course because it damaged their economy.

We debate the economy a lot here and hear a lot of rhetoric, but what is really important is that we base our economic projections, locally, provincially, and nationally, on the best data we can get. Unfortunately, this data source, our most important data source in the country, has been destroyed by the Conservatives who say they are protecting basic rights to liberty or whatever. We can do that in other ways, but messing with this census was a big mistake. I think the Conservatives will pay the price. This is what we hear from people on the ground who say they would like to get information about their community but cannot get it. They get angry hearing that the Conservatives abolished this for no reason.

It is not just municipalities, it is not just businesses, but it is also social scientists who are concerned about this. I think this move adds to the Conservative war on science. Not only do the Conservatives muzzle scientists, not only have they fired over 4,000 scientists from the federal rolls and cut a billion dollars billion from science funding, but this is also just another knock against intellectual work in this country. I really think this is building up to something. People have written books about this accumulation of attacks on knowledge and science in Canada.

Again, I would like to applaud my friend for bringing this forward. I definitely will be voting for the bill.

I would also like to call attention to my efforts to bring in a parliamentary science officer, an independent officer of the legislature, perhaps an auditor general for science, who would protect science and give us good, accurate advice on whether these types of actions are something we should be doing and ensure that we are making science-based policy decisions in the House.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you very much for your time today and, again, I congratulate my friend on a very good bill.

Statistics ActRoutine Proceedings

November 16th, 2011 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-346, An Act to amend the Statistics Act (Chief Statistician and mandatory long-form census).

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to have the member for Burnaby—New Westminster second this very important bill.

The bill would restore the long form census and also would make sure that politics was not involved in the hiring of the chief statistician. All members would be involved in selecting the chief statistician. The bill would give direct questioning to the chief statistician himself.

What is really important to note is Canada has thrown away its long form census. That undermines many surveys that are conducted because it is used in that process. This hurts the economy and the way we actually make decisions about spending. It is my pleasure to table this bill that would fix that problem.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)