Jul 14, 2010

The Census: Evidence based decisions better than decision based evidence


There is beginning to be a lot of discussion about the decision by the Federal government two weeks ago to drop the compulsory long form census.

Armine Yalnizyan, a senior economist with the CCPA was one of the first people to raise the issue in an open letter to the Minister of Industry who is also the Minster responsible for Statistics. 

Yalnizyan listed with concern many other areas where the government has simply stopped collecting information.  She said:

These have all been political decisions. The decision to stop inquiring about the world around us is as political as the decision to ask questions. The issues that are no longer being probed by the government or Statistics Canada are not going away.

Without a foundation of reliable, consistent information, evidence-based public policy is impossible. It is troubling to think that our elected leaders think decision-based evidence-making is preferable. This may work for a time, but it is not a durable strategy.

Her letter can be found here.

Since that time other people have started to weigh in on the issue.  The Federation of Canadian Municipalities letter can be found here.  Comments from the Statistical Society of Canada can be found here.  The comments from the former head of Statistics Canada are here.

There is an online petition to keep the long form census that can be found here.  As of now 5,300 people have signed.

If you know of any other groups opposing this decision please feel free to post their comments here.