Mr. Speaker, I am sure you are glad that the previous debate is over and that this will be a much quieter period of time.
I am very pleased to rise, both as the representative of the people of York West and the Liberal industry critic, to lend my support to Bill C-626.
I would also like to congratulate my great colleague from Kingston and the Islands for his leadership and perseverance on a matter that is really of the utmost importance to all Canadians.
This is a perfect example of how science does matter in politics. Certainly there are those of us on this side of the House who understand the short-sighted actions of this government when it comes to census cuts. Bill C-626 would go a long way to righting many of those wrongs.
I think most would agree that in order to run a country that is fiscally prudent and socially responsible, which I know is very difficult for the government to understand, governments have to use real science and collect reliable data from the people they hope to serve. That is precisely what Bill C-626 is about.
The bill seeks to restore Canadians' trust in Statistics Canada by strengthening the political independence of the chief statistician over matters related to data sources, methodology, and professional standards.
Politicians need to focus on politics and leave scientists and statisticians to do what they do best. Muzzling and stymieing them serves no one.
In simple terms, Bill C-626 seeks to re-establish the role of internationally recognized best practices for official statistics in guiding the work of StatsCan. This reliability issue strikes to the heart of this discussion and many other discussions like the one we had today.
Census data allows governments to understand and become more aware of vulnerable sectors in Canadian society that require addressing. It allows governments to plan how and where to deliver services such as health care and education. If the information available is incomplete, skewed, or faulty, the ability of governments to respond effectively to the needs of Canadians is directly impacted. We are already seeing that on a daily basis.
The Liberal Party is committed to evidence-based policy. In order to develop this evidence-based policy, we must have access to reliable and trustworthy data. This is the bottom line and it is the spark that led to Bill C-626 being drafted in the first place.
The government's ill-fated 2010 decision to cancel the long form census was short-sighted and driven by a misinformed ideology again, but true to form this government plunged forward regardless.
Replacing the long form census with the national household survey has already compromised data quality and means that the data cannot be reliably compared with earlier census data. Worse than losing the ability to track population trends, the national household survey will cost taxpayers $22 million more than the census would have. This will not save even one penny for the public purse. Instead, the government is spending more than ever for incomplete and unreliable data.
Perhaps this back-of-the-napkin approach can help to explain why the Conservatives has been so hard-pressed to balance the books. Perhaps it is time to hire a real economist to help them out? In contrast, Liberal Party remains fiscally aware and committed to evidence-based policy.
So what does all of this mean from a public policy perspective? How would Bill C-626 help us to serve Canadians better? Put simply, in order to develop effective, evidence-based policy, governments need access to reliable and trustworthy data, but that is no longer the case and this government cares more about partisan advantage than about helping middle-class families, seniors, and students to get ahead.
Experts agree that the cancellation of the mandatory long form census has damaged research in key areas, from how immigrants are doing in the labour market to how the middle-class is faring. It is also making it more difficult for cities to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely.
Sadly, the impact from the loss of the long form census extends far beyond Parliament Hill and the federal government. Everyone from planners and researchers to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce agree that the government has no idea where to credibly spend taxpayer dollars to best deliver key programs and services.
Worse yet, as the available data become more and more outdated, the problem will get worse. Unfortunately, we have seen the government's economic incompetence, but now the dearth of information promises to compound Conservative fiscal ineptitude even further. Yet again, Canadians of tomorrow will suffer because of decisions the government has made today.
Allow me to be clear. The government's decision to cut the long form census will have an impact in every single community in Canada. The switch to a national household survey has created difficulties in determining income inequality trends, housing needs, and whether low-income families are getting adequate services. I do not think the government cares an awful lot about any of those, though. What this means for a resident living on Jane Street, or Islington Avenue, or Hucknall Road in my Toronto riding is that they will potentially not receive vital government services in the years ahead, because no one will know what they need.
The people living in my riding and every other riding are expected to continue working and paying their taxes, but the government is taking steps to ensure that they will not get the help they need and deserve. Some may have trouble seeing the connection, but we are already witnessing the negative impacts caused by the lack of a mandatory long form census. This will only get worse in the years ahead. Broadly speaking, lack of reliable information has inhibited research on inequality and on identifying winners and losers from economic growth, research into understanding the national problems of the have-nots in the economy, and research into how best to help local government services.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, whose network represents 200,000 businesses across the country, knows this. The chamber is publicly calling on the federal government to restore the mandatory long-form census. I join it in that call.
Yet again we are seeing a government that is entirely out of its depth. It does not understand science, it does not understand long-term planning, and it does not understand the economic impact of its decisions. It only understands what is politically expedient for it to do.
The government may try to blame others, as it does every single day, for its woes, but this issue demonstrates that the government is out of its depth and struggling under its own incompetence.