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Pallister says census complaint old news

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Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister accused the NDP today of crying wolf over its spat with Statistics Canada and its undercounting of Manitoba’s estimated population by 18,000 people.

Pallister produced a March 13, 2002 media report in which Premier Greg Selinger, then finance minister, said the 2001 census initially missed 19,000 Manitobans. Selinger is quoted as saying an accurate count was important to maximize federal transfer payments.

Pallister says that’s the same argument the NDP launched late last year when Selinger and Finance Minister Jennifer Howard said a discrepancy in the 2011 census will cost the province more than $500 million in federal transfer payments during the next five years. Transfer payments are based on provincial population.

"The NDP needs more money to spend. It’s Ottawa’s fault. StatsCan can’t count. Why not come up with a new line?" Pallister said in an exchange with Selinger in question period. "Even panhandlers change their signs once and a while."

Howard said while the 2002 and the most recent population debate appear similar, the outcomes were entirely different.

She said a decade ago StatsCan admitted its number was wrong and adjusted Manitoba’s population up not by 19,000, but by 30,903.

She said this time, Statistics Canada has admitted its 2011 census is in error, but that it’s not prepared to change it.

"The difference here is that you raised it 2001. They fixed the situation," Howard said. "We’re raising it now. They haven’t fixed it yet."

Howard said the province has said it wants an independent review of the numbers, but Statistics Canada has said its methodology was sound and that it did nothing wrong.

Selinger said he's spoken to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in an attempt to get the number corrected.

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