Census still vulnerable to political meddling, says former chief

More on Statistics Canada and the proposed changes to make it more independent but according to Wayne Smith, the former Chief Statistician, not fully.

Unlikely that any government would give StatsCan full independence and I remember a lively Cabinet discussion on some aspects of the 2001 Census:

The federal government’s bid to protect Statistics Canada from political interference has a significant oversight that exposes the census to the possibility of government meddling, says Canada’s former chief statistician.

Wayne Smith, who resigned abruptly from the agency in September, said newly introduced legislation doesn’t change the parts of the Statistics Act that give cabinet control over the content of the questionnaire.

That leaves the census – used by governments to plan infrastructure and services – vulnerable to the sorts of changes the Conservatives imposed in 2011 by turning the long-form census into a voluntary survey, Smith said.

“That’s a major flaw in this bill,” he said. “The government brought this bill in because of the census, but it’s failing to deal with the census.”

Smith described the bill as a first step towards broadening the agency’s authority over how information on all types of subjects is collected, analyzed and disseminated, shifting that authority away from the minister.

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, the minister responsible for Statistics Canada, would retain the right to decide what information Statistics Canada collects, including directing the agency to collect data on emerging areas like renewable energy. The bill also gives cabinet the ability to make methodological changes, such as making mandatory surveys voluntary as the Conservatives did with the 2011 census.

Source: Census still vulnerable to political meddling, says former chief

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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