Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Opposition to fight for long-form census

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OTTAWA -- Opposition parties banded together to save the long-gun registry and now they're trying to rescue the mandatory long-form census.

The Liberals submitted details to the House of Commons on Thursday of a private member's bill that would specifically insert the mandatory long-form census into the Statistics Act.

The bill could see first reading in the Commons by Oct. 1, and the opposition hope they can hurry it through second reading and on to committee hearings.

The Bloc Québécois and the NDP said Thursday they would support a bill to resurrect the mandatory long form.

Currently, the act only refers to the requirement to hold a census of the population -- the short census -- every five years. The Liberal bill would also remove the threat of jail time for those who refuse to fill out the long form, but keep the maximum $500 fine.

"It's almost a sacred trust that we have with civil society that we will get them the information they need with which to plan, and whether that's the Bank of Canada, or the public health officials, or the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, people are counting on this information and it must be comparable data with previous censuses," said Liberal Carolyn Bennett, the bill's sponsor.

The Conservative government eliminated the mandatory long-form census in June, citing concerns among some Canadians that the process was intrusive and the threat of jail time unreasonable. They replaced it with a voluntary national survey that would be distributed to more households.

The move set off a wide backlash from a variety of opponents, including religious groups, major charities, the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities, statisticians and academics. Several provinces and large municipalities also balked, saying the loss of data would skew policymaking.

Former chief statistician Munir Sheikh resigned in the wake of the decision, unable to support the government's contention the survey would adequately substitute for the long-form census.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 24, 2010 A18

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