Khadr is to Trudeau what the census was to Harper: John Ibbitson

Interesting parallel and difference. Note Ibbitson’s point on the census cancellation decision:

Fast forward to this summer. When news broke that the federal government had settled Omar Khadr’s lawsuit for $10.5-million and an apology, critics angrily alleged the government had turned a confessed terrorist into a millionaire. Caught off guard, the Liberals kept changing their story. Previous governments had violated Mr. Khadr’s Charter rights and this government was simply doing right by him, Justin Trudeau maintained. When that didn’t fly, the Prime Minister insisted that the government was saving the taxpayers money by settling for a smaller amount now, instead of a larger amount later. People aren’t buying that one, either. Seven in 10 oppose the settlement, according to an Angus Reid poll.

When the census story broke in 2010, the Liberals painted Mr. Harper as a philistine prepared to destroy knowledge for the sake of a blinkered ideology. Similarly, the Conservatives are using the Khadr settlement to paint Mr. Trudeau as not only soft on terrorists, but willing to pander to one. The census charge stuck to Mr. Harper, and the Khadr charge will likely stick to Mr. Trudeau.

There is, however, one crucial difference between the census scandal and the Khadr affair. In the former case, Stephen Harper was entirely in the wrong. Although he refused to admit it, he cancelled the census to starve the government of data that could be used to justify programs that Conservatives oppose. It truly was an act of political vandalism. But Mr. Trudeau can make a much better case for his actions.

You don’t have to believe, as some do, that Omar Khadr was an innocent child who suffered terribly in Guantanamo for a crime he never committed, and whose confession was forced from him in a travesty of justice. You can instead believe that Mr. Khadr is a piece of work. It doesn’t matter. The Supreme Court ruled that his Charter rights were violated. He was going to win the lawsuit. The Liberals were simply bowing to the inevitable.

The Conservatives believe that doesn’t matter, that the government should have battled to the end and paid what the court ordered grudgingly and without an apology. Reasonable people can disagree on this point. There was no reasonable case for cancelling the census.

Still, the Liberals are going to wear this. There is nothing for Mr. Trudeau to do now but what Mr. Harper did in 2010: hunker down and wait for the agenda to move on.

If Stephen Harper could survive the census, surely Justin Trudeau can survive the Khadr affair.

Source: Khadr is to Trudeau what the census was to Harper – The Globe and Mail

Census Finds A More Diverse America, As Whites Lag Growth : NPR

Canadian immigration and diversity numbers will be released this October:

America’s diversity remains on the rise, with all racial and ethnic minorities growing faster than whites from 2015 to 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau says in a new snapshot of the national population. The agency also found the U.S. median age has risen to nearly 38.

Asian and mixed-race people are the two fastest-growing segments of the U.S. population, the U.S. Census Bureau says. Both groups grew by 3 percent from July 2015 to July 2016. In the same 12 months, the non-Hispanic white population grew by just 5,000 people.

Non-Hispanic whites remain the only segment of the U.S. population where deaths outpace births, the agency reports.

“While all other groups experienced natural increase (having more births than deaths) between 2015 and 2016,” the Census says, “the non-Hispanic white alone group experienced a natural decrease of 163,300 nationally.”

The report adds new detail to a picture that’s been coming into focus in recent years. Last summer, for instance, the Census Bureau reported a shift in America’s youngest population, as babies of color outnumbered non-Hispanic white babies.

…In terms of national diversity, here’s the Census Bureau’s rundown. We’ve reordered the agency’s list to sort the groups by growth rate:

  • The Asian population grew by 3.0 percent to 21.4 million.
  • People who identified as being of two or more races grew by 3.0 percent to 8.5 million.
  • The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population grew by 2.1 percent to 1.5 million.
  • The Hispanic population (including all races) grew by 2.0 percent to 57.5 million.
  • The American Indian and Alaska Native population grew by 1.4 percent to 6.7 million.
  • The black or African-American population grew by 1.2 percent to 46.8 million.
  • The white population grew by 0.5 percent to 256.0 million.
  • The non-Hispanic white alone population grew by 5,000 people, remaining at 198.0 million.

Colby Cosh: Thought Canada solved its census problems by booting Harper out of office? Think again

I found this piece by Cosh of interest as it indicates some of the less known challenges to the Census (and I am never bored by Alberta stories…):

Wow, this interim report on Alberta electoral boundaries is fascinat—

All right, I can already hear some of you saying “It’s called the NATIONAL Post, you hayseed; don’t bore us with trivia from your crummy Alberta backyard.” Well, everything happens in someone or other’s backyard. And this boundary reshuffle is an unusually consequential one—not just for the next Alberta election, but for the New Democrat cause across the country, and for the chess game of “right-wing unity” that continues to be a subplot of Canadian history.

But it really is interesting in its own right, if only for one reason. Much of the city of Fort McMurray, as you know, was destroyed by fire on May 3, 2016. The date of our country’s quinquennial census fell on May 10, 2016. This has presented an unprecedented problem for the five-person Alberta boundaries commission. And its interim report, designed to be discussed more before being finalized in October, admits that the commission does not yet have a good solution.

Door-to-door enumeration of Fort Mac on the May 10 date was impossible. A census is supposed to be a near-perfect snapshot of the country, taken at the same moment across the land. But such a snapshot of Ft. McMurray on May 10 would have returned a population of near zero, which would have obviously been useless for any policy purposes. Census respondents in the scorched city were therefore asked to report personal data pertaining to May 1, and so the figure in the census (66,573 persons) is not very realistic either—it may be little more than an accountant’s tribute to Fort Mac at a peak that it may never quite regain.

So how many Fort McMurrayites are there now? The boundaries commission asked the Alberta treasury for its own estimate—but that one is implausible too: it’s just the census figure minus about 9,000—an inference that “arises solely from the fact that 2,000 homes were destroyed in the fire.” This figure assumes that everybody who lost a home is gone from the city for good—an assumption that is patently untrue, and not much use for a commission that has to make reasonable election maps to last a decade.

So the present population of Ft. McMurray turns out to be irritatingly uncertain, and even if we knew it, no one can guess how much the city will rebound within the next year, or two, or five. The commission, trapped in a dead end of data, begs the public for “specific, reliable information upon which it could act.”

Fortunately, this problem mostly effects how two particular northern ridings will be split up, so the commission was able to devise provisional election boundaries for most of the province without worry. The rest of the report tells the typical story of a decade of Alberta population evolution. The cities of Edmonton and Calgary gain one extra seat apiece: Calgary was eligible for almost exactly one and a half, but is getting just one. The strongly Edmonton-centric NDP government will like that, but the fast-growing commuter zone between Calgary and the Rockies—a picturesque land of cowboy hipsters that is not quite “suburbia”—is also getting an extra seat.

One of the commissioners, the Carstairs businesswoman and artist Gwen Day, has filed a minority report arguing against this small (but possibly important) shift of voting power to the cities. Normally any sign of dissent within a boundaries commission is taken as a bad sign, but in this case one detects a simple determination to ignore the making of an embarrassing scene. Rural ridings everywhere in Canada often have a little extra power because of travel considerations, which ought to be weaker in abundantly-paved Alberta than they are almost anywhere else. But Day offers an entertaining novelty: “The concept of ‘one person, one vote’ is not a Canadian construct,” she argues.

She comes awfully close to saying that the votes of rural residents should count for more because rural people are more important humans. Day declares that Alberta has three kinds of economic activity: “primary industries” mostly in the countryside, “service industries” allegedly “driven by” the primary ones, and industries funded by tax dollars. I am not quite sure how department stores or Chinese restaurants fit in to this scheme, but it leads her to proclaim that “Rural Albertans control the land, access to the land and provide a significant portion of the labor force that most of our primary industries depend on.”

It is a wonder, one is left thinking, that city folk are allowed to vote at all; fortunately, the other commissioners chose not to embrace petro-agrarian fascism. I also appreciated that the majority is calling a halt to the odious practice of naming election constituencies after well-liked dead politicians, which is how we have ended up with a “Calgary-Klein” and a “Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley” commemorating the father of the current premier.

Some Calgarians wanted to create a “Calgary-Bhullar” to commemorate Manmeet Bhullar, the young MLA killed in a road accident in 2015 while helping victims of an earlier collision. The commission said an apologetic no, noting that a school named for Bhullar is under construction, and states that electoral ridings should be given party-neutral, geographically descriptive names from now on. Manmeet Bhullar was a gem, but the commission’s suggested rule is the proper one, and its members’ resistance to sentiment should be applauded.

Don’t be like us, America: resist Trump’s war on the census

Good article by Anne Kingston:

It is never a good day for democracy when the head of the national census bureau quits. Canadians learned that in 2010 when Statistics Canada’s chief statistician, Munir Sheikh, resigned after then-industry minister, Tony Clement, falsely stated that the decision to axe the long-form census came from within StatsCan. Sheikh later said continuing budget cuts undermined the agency’s credibility.

For Americans, that day arrived this week, when U.S. Census Bureau director John H. Thompson, who’d held the job since 2013 and was expected to stay through 2017, suddenly resigned.  The back story remains a mystery. We do know the bureau, ramping up for the 2020 census was cash-strapped and under increasing political pressure. Months ago, insiders predicted a “train wreck” if the bureau didn’t get the resources it needed. Less than a week ago, Thompson stood before a combative congressional committee to request an extra $309 million for IT equipment.

Thompson’s exit, eclipsed by news of FBI director James Comey’s firing the same day, didn’t get the coverage it warranted. Yet his departure signals as potentially as big a blow to democracy.

Since taking office, the Trump administration has shredded data and threatened scientific research with a discipline absent from the general chaos that characterizes the regime. The past is being systemically deleted:  open data sets have been removedArctic climate research erased. Through it all, the president has engaged in 1984double-speak: “Rigorous science is critical to my administration’s efforts to achieve the twin goals of economic growth and environmental protection,” he said on Earth Day.

This all will be déjà vu all over again for Canadians—a warp-speed version of the data erasure witnessed during the decade-long Conservative government lead by Stephen Harper. Government funding of scientific research shrank, libraries were closed, irreplaceable research tossed, government scientists silenced, the long-form census was eliminated and key statistical studies were stopped. (Lest Canadians feel smug now, problems are ongoing even after regime change: in September 2016, Chief Statistician Wayne Smith stepped down, frustrated that Shared Services Canada held effective veto over many of the agency’s operations.)

Like Canadian scientists before them, American researchers raced to save data before the government permanently removed it. U.S. scientists have taken to the streets in protest, as Canadian scientists and citizens did before them. In tiny ways, the backlash has been successful: in January, the Trump administration dialled back its plan to delete climate-change pages on the EPA website, at least for now.

Trump’s proposed budget announced in March, however, called for brutal dismantling of scientific research (a full budget due this month still has to pass through Congress). Cuts of $7 billion in funding are destined to impede research on climate change, energy and health (it included an 18 per cent cut to the National Institutes of Health). The census bureau was one of the only federal agencies outside the Pentagon to get an increase. The $100-million bump only honoured previous commitments, however. The bureau called it insufficient, asking for a  21 percent, or $290 million, increase in 2017.

That’s small change, relatively. A properly executed census is a keystone of democracy, the largest civic action a government undertakes. Data collected provides snapshot of a nation—counting its people, their ages, where they work and live, how much money they earn, whether they live alone or with family, their marital status. It provides a baseline to measure progress or decline, particularly among the most marginalized.  The  information is necessary for governments—helping them to to make informed, fiscally-prudent decisions about where to allocate resources for schools, law enforcement, transportation, housing, social service agencies, even political campaigns. It reveals where to build roads and bridges—the “infrastructure” that was such a beloved cornerstone of Trump’s presidential campaign.

Major fault lines in the U.S. census, undertaken every 10 years, were evident in January. The U.S. Government Accountability Office put it on the “high-risk” list. That month, a leaked draft executive order revealed the government proposed the Census Bureau include a question on immigration status on the “long-form” census, or American Community Survey (ACS). The spectre of the White House using the information gleaned from the ACS and census to track down and deport undocumented immigrants triggered concerns that immigrants would be discouraged from participating.

March brought news that the government wanted to remove the first-ever question concerning sexual orientation and gender identity;  the LGBTQ community responded with accusations the government wanted  to “erase” them.   The fact the 2020 census will be the first conducted online has only ramped up cybersecurity concern amidst #Russiagate—and the need to reassure Americans that their private information will not be hacked.

If you want to thrust a nation into an autocracy, eliminating the data collection that allows it to see itself is a first step. For anyone else, including the business class of which the president remains an active member, it’s a disaster. Business depends on the census to determine where markets exist; where to step up operations and direct marketing. Business also depends on government-funded, pure-science research to stoke innovation.

“Our goal is a complete and accurate census,” Thompson said in March, when he was still director of the census bureau. Now he’s gone. Trump has the power to replace him. Given the explosive developments of the past week, many might see it as a low priority. It’s not. If you don’t measure a nation, its people no longer exist.

Source: Don’t be like us, America: resist Trump’s war on the census – Macleans.ca

New census technology under close watch as Statcan looks to the future

Looking forward to the results from the long-form census as they come out (short-form provides overview, long-form fills in many details). Makes sense to use existing government data to extent possible (CRA income data should be more reliable than self-reporting):

With just days to go before the very first release of data from the 2016 census, there is an unusual calm outside Marc Hamel’s Statistics Canada office.

A calm before the storm, perhaps.

After all, Wednesday’s release will be watched closely by federal officials, demographers and urban planners — all of whom use the data to help political leaders make myriad decisions that affect the daily lives of Canadians.

This time around, however, some of the keenest observers will be census director Hamel and his staff, watching to see if their new census data-collection methods are hitting their mark.

Statistics Canada has been quietly working on a plan for 2026 to eliminate the mandatory short-form census that goes to every household, instead using existing government databases to conduct a virtual count of the population. The plan, if successful, could mean millions in savings for federal coffers.

The closer the census numbers are to the tests being conducted by Hamel’s team, the more likely that multiple pages of the census questionnaire will be dropped during the next count in 2021, or replaced altogether one day in the future with an electronic count of the population.

This year, for instance, the agency cut two pages about income from the long-form questionnaire and replaced the questions with readily available and, arguably, more reliable Canada Revenue Agency data. Other questions, too, will eventually be replaced with information from existing administrative databases, making it easier to collect the details that comprise the census portrait.

Hamel said the challenge for his staff is to find a way to accurately reflect the Canadian population as it is at any point in time.

“The census as we run it now is very high quality, so anything that we would come up with in the future would have to be as high quality as it is today,” said Hamel.

One particular challenge for an electronic census: address information in various administrative files doesn’t always correspond to where people actually live, making it hard to be confident people are being counted in the right places.

And what about technology?

The majority of Canadians filled out their census questionnaires online, cutting down the time required to input data, and helping to speed up the release of information. Hamel said there might be other technological changes coming for future censuses, but it’s hard to predict what that might entail when census day rolls around again in 2021.

The question that guides planning for the next census and beyond is simple: will this work the same way next time?

“Four years in census terms — for me anyway — it’s short. It’s not a long time to prepare to make sure that we get it right. But at the same time, from a technological point of view, it’s fairly long,” Hamel said.

“It’s always a bit difficult to predict how technology will evolve in a short period of time and how that might have an impact on how the census might be rolled out.”

The questions on the census are also likely to change by 2021, with consultations starting this fall on what things Statistics Canada should and shouldn’t be measuring any more. One question likely to change is about sex and gender, which this year didn’t include a third option for transgender Canadians, Hamel noted.

“Society keeps evolving, so I think that from a census point of view, the census questions and questionnaire should be evolving with it.”

Source: New census technology under close watch as Statcan looks to the future | Toronto Star

Census 2016: Western provinces’ populations are the fastest-growing in Canada – The Globe and Mail

The first batch of Census 2016 results are out from the short-form with basic demographic data. Waiting for the long-form more detailed data how Canadians are doing in relation to economic and social outcomes.

Have excerpted this from the Globe analysis, showing again that population growth continues to be increasingly dependent on immigration:

census_2016__western_provinces_populations_are_the_fastest-growing_in-canada_-_the_globe_and_mail

Roughly two-thirds of the growth in population is due to migration, or the amount by which the number of new immigrants exceed the number of people who leave Canada. The other third comes from what’s known as “natural growth,” the difference between births and deaths. Some countries, such as Germany, Italy and Japan, have already seen the annual number of deaths exceed births, meaning all their growth now depends on migration. Projections show that Canada may reach the point where migration accounts for all population growth around 2050.

Source: Census 2016: Western provinces’ populations are the fastest-growing in Canada – The Globe and Mail

Statistics Canada eyes the end of the short-form census

Other countries do this and makes sense, both from cost and accuracy perspectives. But complex transition:

The mandatory long-form census returned this year, a decade after it was last seen.

If things go as planned, a decade from now the short-form census won’t be seen again.

Statistics Canada is working on a plan for the 2026 census that would eliminate the mandatory short-form census that goes to every household and instead use existing government databases to conduct a virtual count of the population.

The plan would save taxpayers millions of dollars and provide the same information used by governments to plan roads, hospitals, schools and other public services.

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act paint a detailed picture of what officials hope to have in place by 2026: a digital register of every Canadian that could be updated every five years, if not annually, and a smaller long-form questionnaire.

“This approach to replace the short-form questionnaire will require a complete redesign of the long-form questionnaire,” reads the April report provided to former chief statistician Wayne Smith.

The agency said in a statement that it hasn’t yet determined its approach for the 2021 census, but made no direct reference to the 2026 count. The statement said the agency “conducts ongoing research activities to determine the most efficient way of collecting census information.”

Source: Statistics Canada eyes the end of the short-form census – Macleans.ca

Statscan fails to keep pace with seniors’ living arrangements

Valid concerns given the aging of the population:

In the wake of the 2016 census, researchers say they’re increasingly worried about limited data on a key segment of Canada’s booming senior population.
For the latest census distributed in May, Statistics Canada allowed administrators of nursing and retirement homes to complete a short-form census on behalf of residents. The agency also omitted the long-form census for all “collective dwellings,” which include hospitals, work camps and correctional institutions.

The move has irked some seniors and sparked calls from researchers for Statistics Canada to revise the 2021 census delivery as new models of senior living crop up.

“It’s something I’m concerned about with the aging of our population,” said Doug Norris, chief demographer at Environics Analytics and a census expert. “The data on our elderly population needs more attention than it’s gotten.”

Last year marked the first time that Canada had more people aged 65 and over – 16.1 per cent, or 5.8 million Canadians – than those 14 and under.

Without long-form results, Mr. Norris said researchers will lack crucial data about seniors’ income, ethnicity and education, among other findings. The data would be able to pinpoint demographic trends that have health implications, and shape myriad social policies, including seniors’ housing.

“Depending on the research and topic, it could be very important to include that group [of seniors], especially if you were doing anything health-related,” said Mr. Norris, who spent nearly 30 years at Statscan.

In the 2011 census, 378,000 people were counted in nursing and retirement homes classified as collective dwellings. This year, as in 2011, the short-form census – which captures age, gender, marital status and languages spoken – was distributed only to administrators of such homes.

Many questions on the long-form census, such as employment information, would not apply to seniors in nursing and retirement homes, said Geoff Bowlby, Statscan’s director-general of collection and regional services.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/statscan-fails-to-keep-pace-with-seniors-living-arrangements/article31305272/ 

Stephen Gordon: The damage the Tories did with the census won’t be easily undone

Stephen Gordon on the possible long-term damage to the Census:

The census is only useful if (approximately) everyone co-operates. The same goes for lots of other things: carpool lanes, anti-littering bylaws and jury duty, to name three. The nature of collective action problems is that it’s never in one’s individual rational interest to take part in the solution; it’s better to simply free ride off the efforts of others. This is why one of the core tasks of government is to enforce participation — and this means imposing penalties for not co-operating.

This is where social capital comes in — or social trust, or social cohesion, or whatever you want to call it. It’s not feasible to governments to micromanage their citizens and enforce their co-operation in their daily activities, even if they wanted to. To a very great extent, the smooth functioning of society relies not on government enforcement, but on people’s willingness to go along with the rules, so long as they believe that everyone else is obeying them as well. Everything depends on a willingness to trust strangers, and to reward their trust in you.

It’s worth dwelling on this point, because one of the most debilitating consequences of the Conservatives’ time in office has been the creation of a constituency for whom the census is now a highly-politicized symbol, instead of being a neutral instrument for good governance. While the government can force co-operation, this isn’t the same as restoring mutual trust.

You can’t expect people to take your concerns seriously if you won’t do the same for them. To the extent that their concerns are about privacy, the most promising way of restoring that lost trust is to demonstrate the extent to which concerns about privacy are taken seriously, and to show some flexibility on the details. For example, questions about religion have been dropped from this year’s census questionnaire.

Social capital is difficult to build, and easy to destroy. The former Conservative government demolished a big chunk of our social capital when it blew up the census, and it will take time and effort to restore it. Posting selfies with census forms can’t hurt, and just might help.

Source: Stephen Gordon: The damage the Tories did with the census won’t be easily undone | National Post

Census needs to reflect modern reality about gender | Toronto Star

I am sure StatsCan is already thinking about this in the context of the 2021 Census and the best means to do so (may just be an “other” category:

After 10 years, the long-form Canadian census is back. Young Canadians, primed by a decade of digital media saturation, flocked online in droves so large we took down the website.

It makes sense — and it’s not just false enthusiasm as we collectively do our duty because “it’s the law.” A generation used to sharing its descriptive statistics online (finding friends, networking, dating) would intuitively understand the benefit of the census. Understanding the sociodemographic landscape helps us know and better service ourselves. And after all, that’s what millennials want: a fairer and more representative social democracy.

Yet, as Canadians fill out the census, some gawk at the glaring anachronism of the gender binary, the idea that there are two mutually exclusive genders: males and females, who occupy distinct cultural, social, and sexual roles.

But we know this isn’t true. The recent media awakening to transgender people (Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, Jazz Jennings) is evidence that gender variance has gone mainstream.

If we recognize men and women who identify with the genders they were assigned at birth (cisgender) and we recognize men and women who do not identify with their assigned gender (transgender), then surely we agree this difference is worth recording.

As my friend quipped, “Well, they’re not asking about gender. They’re asking about sex!” His point reflects the growing awareness about gender as the patterns of behaviour and expression associated with its respective sex categories. This is good. It shows a recognition of people whose self-concepts do not match the gender assigned them at birth.

…Despite a variety of new ways to capture gender variation in the population, this simple two-step approach takes us miles further than the two-option approach of the 2016 Census:

  1. Do you identify with the gender you were assigned at birth? Yes / No / Not sure / Prefer not to say
  2. Please indicate your current gender: Male, Female, Non-Binary, Intersex, Other (please describe):

As the 2016 census has done with its categories for race, we must open up how we assess gender. I know it seems hard, but let’s no longer pretend we cannot do better.

Source: Census needs to reflect modern reality about gender | Toronto Star