Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I can see that this process is quickly becoming a farce with regard to the serious nature of this. This is an amendment that deals with the deconstruction on a political basis of the long-form census to that of a short-form census, which is the genesis of many Liberal bills that were presented in the previous Parliament and in this House of Commons, and which led to the minister's tabling of this legislation in its current context. This is to create the science behind the actual census as the imperative measure and also the necessary strength of legislation to ensure the chief statistician is not intimidated and is not prevented from using science as a basis of a census information system to make decisions.
We saw in the previous Parliament a number of different attempts by political means to undermine the census, which is critical for our statistics, not only for agriculture, but for manufacturing, social development, transit, and the environment. One of the more iconic attempts was made by the minister at that time, Tony Clement, in using the insinuation that people would go to jail if they did not fill out the long-form census. Technically, that was correct. That was the case. However, it led to months of exchanges in the House of Commons about the fact that nobody actually had gone to jail related to this. This was one of the obscure elements that was left over from the census process.
When this was moved in the House of Commons, after a long debate and long attempt to stop this from happening, it was instituted as a short-form census. We lost the mandatory long-form census. That's why we're even here today. Again, what this does is completely open the door for political interference with regard to the decision-making and the capabilities of the chief statistician with regard to Stats Canada. It intentionally undermines the whole matter that we're here for today and, more important, I think it sends a message internationally that political interference on our census, our questions, and our capabilities is the status quo and now the norm in Canadian law.
Proposed subsection 4(1) is clear about that. Proposed subsection 4(2) is of a prescriptive manner, so that the minister can provide accountability. Proposed section 4(2) is particularly important for public issues, because then they can actually get a public record. The minister has to go on record by providing a written form of the explanations as to why he or she feels that there should be interference on the census itself. That accountability would be there not only for the general public and those people who actually fill out the census themselves, but for scientists as well.
I think every Canadian should be seriously interested in proposed subsection 4(2), because as you sit down at the table with your family and decide which information you will forever disclose to the government, you at least will know that the minister, if you are uncomfortable with that, had the opportunity to express himself or herself on that, or that there was at least some type of an evaluation that went to the chief statistician at some point in time to reject that, if there was a possibility to do so. It would actually be vetted at that point in time. Political interference would be very much accountable through the process, and the minister would also have to provide the necessary information to publicly sell this.
Let's say, for example, that there are privacy issues with a question that Canadians are having to answer. There would then have to be that process in place where the minister would go to the chief statistician and ask for that type of a privacy question, and there would be a public process and an inclusion all the way to that point in time when you actually sit down later on and have to divulge information that later on is going to be provided to the public. Also, the fact of the matter is that when we're discussing census information later on, it will be disclosed in its entirety.
If this amendment at this particular point is not passed, it is clear that this government has no intent to deal adequately with this issue. It will completely undermine all the efforts of the former chief statisticians who have tried to publicly advocate for a more reasonable approach, and unfortunately we will again have wasted taxpayers' time with regard to trying to compile a proper census that returns Canada to being a leader with regard to census-taking, as opposed to a passive vessel that we will have in legislation at the end of the day.