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.