#149 – Senseless

Trudeau restored the long-form census!!

Yeah, the long-form census! Probably one of the most important methods of adminstration, census data is imperative for researchers, businesses, government – basically everyone, in some form or another. It helps to know how many people live in a city over a period of time, for instance; if you can’t figure out why, maybe this blog isn’t the place for you. By some unthinkably-dense oversight the long-form census was reduced to this piece of shit. It’s about as basic as she gets, really – most of this is shit you could figure out by flipping through Facebook, which is what much of the civil service does anyways for want of direction or comprehension of exactly what’s happening. Statscan was scouring Kijiji for employment data, for fuck’s sake.

This shitty short-form census sucked for two reasons. The first was that it didn’t offer much information. The second is that the information was meaningless because people could opt-out with no penalty. This resulted in the predicted collapse of useful data. Planning cities without reliable statistics, trying to estimate taxation income, seeing if anything’s getting better – fuck no, better get rid of it! And it was $22m more expensive, to boot. Canada paid more for a useless census filled with data that by definition missed people. 2011’s census was littered with non-respondants, meaning that by definition the data that was collected doesn’t mean anything.

Recall getting your licence (with apologies for the flashbacks experienced by Ontarian readers). Stephen Harper’s census was akin to making the DriveTest a few true/false questions and then announcing that from now on police won’t check whether drivers have their licence at all. So far, this looks pretty Canadian. But then #RealChange came.

Oh, #RealChange came. Not as hard as the CBC did, but #RealChange delivered a swooping move in reinstating the paperwork of the long-form census. Trudeau posed! The Tweets magicked the form back into being! Statscan cheered! People cheered! The data is back! Planners can plan! Estimators can estimate! Hooray for Twodeau! Huz-

So, the long-form census is back, but that solves one of two problems. What about the mandatory nature of the old census – the part that makes the data useful by denying the chance for opt-out and thus ensuring the finest data available? You know, like Statscan did when it was the envy of the world?


But neither Mr. Bains nor Mr. Duclos could point to specific penalties that will be imposed under their government’s plan to reinstate the mandatory nature of the questionnaire. Instead, they said, the government would be relying on public education and the desire of Canadians to do what is right.

“If you speak to Canadians and you get them engaged in the process, they will fill out the information, and that’s what we are focusing on because we need good, reliable data,” said Mr. Bains. “The law is the law and that does not change.” (source)

You fucking idiots. You drooling Laurentian gorillas. You solved the dependent problem. That’s like if we restored the DriveTest system but told people that, although we still aren’t checking for your licence we’re going to make an ad campaign showing people how great having your licence is. The data is still worthless – you’re just collecting more shit. I can’t even imagine how they fucked this up so badly. Apparently the “evidence” that the Liberals needed is sub-par because Canada-magic makes anything work you guys!!

Holy shit. I’m actually stunned here. I legitimately cannot believe that Trudeau fucked this up so profoundly. You’re relying on public trust? Seriously? Do you think academic research cares about #RealChange? As someone who uses this data, the thought that an ad campaign can convince people to take the time and effort to fill the form out is ludicrous. How can I trust that data? How can anyone trust that data? It’s just more crap. Honestly – Canada can’t even get this right. You know another country that can’t do a census? Lebanon.

Good company to find yourself in, Canada. What a joke.

Edit: There is a penalty – $500 or 3 months in prison. If they catch you, which is another thing entirely.

2 thoughts on “#149 – Senseless”

  1. Nobody should be forced to fill in a census!. If they want it done then why don’t they pay us to do it. My time is valuable and if they reimburse me I’ll gladly do it.. God knows they charge you every chance they get for admin fee’s ect.. So there problem solved.


    1. Hi Ian! Thanks for a reasonable response.

      The problem with non-mandatory data collection is that you eliminate some segments of the population from the data pool that can’t be “patched out” with maths. Unless I can safely assume that the data from Statscan is representative of the country the data is useless. More data doesn’t solve that problem. I need evidence that the census isn’t just reporting results from people who had the time or interest in the census because if we do that we ignore everyone who didn’t respond.

      Incentivizing completion of the census is not a bad idea – it adds an extra layer of assurance that the data will be good because more people (like you) will be inclined to fill out the forms. But it’s not adequate to ensure that the data is good data that we can use to plan.

      Historically, Canada’s best censuses were during the time period in which the census was mandatory. We need a census fill-in rate that looks like Australia’s voting rate, and that comes from enforcement.

      100% with you regarding fees. I wish government expenses were honest about what they go to as opposed to a litany of “service charges” and “administrative fees”. Given Canada’s history of corruption such vague categories seem primed for abuse.


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