CBC’s The Current Interviews former Chief Statistician

This morning’s edition of CBC’s The Current included an interview with former Chief Statistician Ivan Fellegi:

The federal government has decided to scrap the mandatory long-form census and replace it with a voluntary one. But now a groundswell of opposition to the decision is building. Critics — including former Statistics Canada officials — say it will lead to skewed and incomplete information, which will make it harder to make good policy and funding decisions. We’ll delve into that debate.

You can listen to the full episode at this link.

Here is the full write-up:

Census – Ivan Fellegi
We started this segment with a clip from Christopher Walken giving a census worker the run-around in a Saturday Night Live skit. The Canadian census isn’t the sort of thing you’d expect to stir intense passions. But that’s exactly what’s happening.

Three weeks ago, the Federal Government cancelled the mandatory long-form census. That’s the more detailed census that was sent to 1 out of every 5 Canadian households … the one with 53 extra questions tracking information such as ethnicity, disabilities, religion, education and income.
The government cited complaints that the long-form census was an invasion of privacy. So starting next year, Ottawa will send a more detailed census to 1 out of every 3 households. But filling it out will be voluntary, not mandatory.
At first, that change didn’t seem to cause much of a fuss. But the opposition has been building steadily from think tanks and municipal governments to genealogists, economists and academic experts such as Richard Shearmur. He is a professor of urban and regional economics at the Universite du Quebec. And he’s just one of the people making the case to keep the mandatory long-form census. Another is Ivan Fellegi … Statistics Canada’s Chief Statistician for 23 years. He retired in 2008 and he was in Ottawa.
Census – Dean del Mastro
We requested an interview with Industry Minister Tony Clement, the Minister who oversees Statistics Canada. He’s unavailable because he is traveling this morning. But he did issue a statement yesterday explaining the reasons for the change. It reads:
“In the past, the Government of Canada received complaints about the long-form census from citizens who felt it was an intrusion of their privacy. The government does not think it is necessary for Canadians to provide Statistics Canada with the number of bedrooms in their home, or what time of the day they leave for work, or how long it takes them to get there. The government does not believe it is appropriate to force Canadians to divulge detailed personal information under threat of prosecution.”
For more on the government’s position, we were joined by Dean del Mastro, the Conservative MP for Peterborough and a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage. He was in Peterborough, Ontario.

One thought on “CBC’s The Current Interviews former Chief Statistician

  1. I heard the interview and was distressed that the producer seemed to have done things backward. Dr. Felligi should have been on last as your final guest simply didn’t understand the concept of sampling, why the questions were asked and how the population would benefit from knowing the data (eg. commuting distance and time is related to decisions on road construction and rapid transit), number of rooms in a house is used by city planners, folks looking to place schools, social service agencies, etc.). Polling companies use Census data to weight their samples so they ARE representative. Without accurate Census data, even Statistics Canada will have trouble designing reliable weights for the data it collects. And no one has gone to jail for not filling out the Census.

    Give the arguments for dropping the Census first; then let the expert answer them. Seems clear to me.

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