Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of Bill C-626, An Act to amend the Statistics Act (appointment of Chief Statistician and long-form census), introduced by my colleague from Kingston and the Islands.
As parliamentarians, we have a duty to develop the best possible policies for the governance of our nation. We also have a duty to adjust our way of doing things and adapt our public institutions to society's progress. Our society is growing, both in terms of population and institutions, and we also want it to grow economically.
As society evolves, the policies that govern it must also evolve. Developing the appropriate policies requires an ever increasing degree of expertise and information.
As we go through our own renewal, we in the Liberal Party strongly believe that progress is critical to our public institutions and the democratic process. We believe that the holders of this expertise, whom we need to listen to rather than stifle, must be actively consulted. This expertise comes not only from Canadians all across the country who experience these realities, but also from scientists and specialists from every area that we choose to focus on.
The information, which is getting increasingly complex, comes primarily from reports, think tanks, experts and studies. The people we represent deserve to have us consult a greater variety of experts to ensure that we are best equipped to develop the policies that affect them. That is what we call evidence-based policy.
My colleague's bill is entirely consistent with this approach, which I wholeheartedly support. Since this government came to power, it has been opposed to the idea of developing evidence-based policy. While Canadian society continues to evolve and progress in terms of novel ways to access information and to develop commercially and intellectually, the government is trying to slow us down and limit the flow of information. The government has decided that information and its purveyors—such as scientists, the media, academics and even charities—are enemies. What does it prefer over evidence-based policy? It prefers politically based policy.
That is exactly what the government was trying to do when it abolished the long form census. Let us look at the merits of this census compared to the National Household Survey, which the government tried to use to replace the census in 2011.
First of all, one of the Conservatives' main arguments for getting rid of the long form census was the associated cost. In that regard, the verdict is clear: even in inflation-adjusted dollars, the administration of the 2011 survey cost $30 million more than the previous census.
The next issue is the government's oversight or the oversight it permits. Another one of the Conservatives' populist arguments was that abolishing the census would counter the surveillance of Canadians by major federal institutions. This argument alone must be assessed by weighing the loss of privacy against the collective good to society of the census.
Before discussing this issue, I would like to point out the extent to which this government, whose surveillance agencies are busy spying on Canadians here and around the world, is inconsistent. It does not hesitate to share Canadians' confidential information with Revenue Canada, other departments or even other countries. This government refuses to establish parliamentary oversight of intelligence agencies. That is another example.
Therefore, it makes absolutely no sense for the government to tell Canadians that they are overly concerned about their privacy. Canadians do not ask questions about that, whereas the government does not hesitate to snoop on them without their knowledge.
Statistics are very useful. In order to understand why I believe we should bring back the long form census, we must understand the usefulness of the data collected. I already mentioned that not only the federal government, but also the provincial and municipal governments need reliable data to develop sound policy. The government cannot afford to base its policies on bad data.
For example, we need to know where in Canada people speak certain languages, especially French and English, in order to know where and how to provide services to Canadians. It is not just governments that need these data. The data are used by businesses to identify potential markets and by labour to assess job opportunities. When deciding how to manage their growth or provide their services, NGOs need to know who really needs their services and who can contribute.
Academic researchers, who shape our understanding of society and demographic or sociological phenomena, must also be able to refer to reliable data on the Canadian population. I have not even touched on the main value of the long form census. It is the anchor for every other study conducted by Statistics Canada and any other organization on the Canadian population. It is absolutely crucial to the reliability of every other study that is based on it.
In a completely ironic turn of events, the 2011 national household survey, which the government tried to use as a replacement for the long form census, used the data from the 2006 census to adjust its results.
If there was any need for another argument in favour of reinstating the long form census, the 2011 national household survey certainly provided it. Despite the hard work of experts at Statistics Canada, that study was terribly unreliable and in no way indicative of what we are capable of producing. The reason for that is quite clear. Because the study was voluntary, not enough people participated. Participation was about 65% and as low as 0% in some communities and for some groups. My colleague's bill aims to reinstate that anchor, the long form census.
Since time is running out, I wish to conclude by saying that I commend the thorough process followed by my colleague, the member for Kingston and the Islands, in fine-tuning his bill. The bill went through many versions and was improved at every stage of the consultations with, for example, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, as the member just said in his speech. The member also heard criticisms of the original legislation, particularly concerning possible prison sentences, which are no longer part of this bill. I wish to congratulate him on that.
That is how a consensus is built around a bill that is needed and that Canadians deserve. We must move forward with this bill if we want to have a reliable statistical base in order to better understand the population we represent, to develop more sound, thoughtful policies, and to provide services that will meet the specific needs of Canadians. If we want businesses to be able to recognize and take advantage of opportunities, if we want to understand the impact of our policies on Canadians, if we want to know the people who elected us to represent them and if we want to better serve them, we need to know these statistics. That is what Bill C-626 proposes.
We are quickly approaching 2016, and the brave staff at Statistics Canada will have to get to work soon to restore their pride and joy, the long form census, and to strip it of any political interference.