OTTAWA — A third of Manitoba’s communities won’t get a snapshot of their populations from the new National Household Survey because too few people answered the questionnaire.
The survey was done for the first time in 2011 as a replacement for the mandatory long-form census, which the Conservatives chose to ditch after citing privacy issues.
Although more people filled out the voluntary NHS in 2011 than filled out the mandatory longform census in 2006, the distribution of responses left one in three Manitoba communities — 33.8 per cent — without enough data to be reliable. That includes 97 of the 287 municipalities and districts including 46 rural municipalities, 17 First Nations, 18 towns, six villages, one local government district, as well as a handful of unorganized areas.
Nationally, data are lacking from one in four communities, or 1,128 municipalities. Saskatchewan had the worst record with 43 per cent of the communities seeing their data lacking.
"If you want to know what is going on socio-economically for (these places), there is no data," said Wilf Falk, Manitoba’s chief statistician.
All nine of Manitoba’s cities have data, said Falk, although there are pockets within each city where data will be less reliable.
Some of the communities with no data provided are among the province’s largest towns and municipalities, including the towns of Minnedosa, Lac du Bonnet, Arborg and Boissevain, and the RMs of Killarney-Turtle Mountain, Brokenhead and Dauphin, Falk said.
Doug Dobrowolski, chairman of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, said it’s a big issue for local governments because so much of their funding programs and policies are directed by data from the census.
"A lot of municipalities depend on the census," he said. "There’s a lot of money that will be lost here."
Dobrowolski said municipalities use them to determine what kind of recreational services need to be provided, to anticipate health-care needs, and to track progress on certain issues.
Falk said if someone wanted to know whether there were improvements to educational attainments on the 17 First Nations that are fully or partly excluded from the data, this survey wouldn’t provide it. It’s also difficult to compare any data from the NHS to the 2006 census because the methodology is different, Falk said.
He said it is believed the NHS will have been skewed toward people who are more likely to be young, tech savvy and affluent because the most common way people filled out the NHS was online. Older Canadians, new Canadians and those with less access to the Internet will be underrepresented in much of the data, said Falk.
Opposition parties were on the attack this week. In question period Thursday, Liberal MP Ralph Goodale called it "Conservative ideological stupidity."
"The government is wasting $32,000 tax dollars every day to spy on the media and its own backbench. It wastes another $95,000 tax dollars on every government ad during hockey games. It vandalized the census and it now costs $25 million more to get less data," said Goodale.
Industry Minister Christian Paradis said the information at the national and provincial level is "pretty solid."
"Our government is committed to collect statistical data while protecting Canadians’ privacy... the survey provides useful and usable data for communities representing 97 per cent of the Canadian population," said Paradis.