Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/7/2010 (3871 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA -- The government has been asked to produce in five days all documents and e-mails sent between Statistics Canada, the Privy Council Office and Industry Minister Tony Clement's office pertaining to the changes to Canada's 2011 census, following a full day of sometimes heated testimony Tuesday in a parliamentary committee.

After a month of public debate and heavy criticism of the Conservative government's decision on the long-form census, the parliamentary industry committee met Tuesday to hear from a wide range of witnesses on the issue, including the privacy commissioner, official language groups, former Statistics Canada officials and Clement, who oversees the agency.

Former Chief of Statscan Munir Sheikh looks on as Industry Minister Tony Clement appears before the House of Commons Industry committee Tuesday.


Former Chief of Statscan Munir Sheikh looks on as Industry Minister Tony Clement appears before the House of Commons Industry committee Tuesday.

"I believe our government's decision strikes a balance between collecting the necessary data and protecting the privacy rights of Canadians," Clement said. "We made that decision, not Statistics Canada. I've made it quite clear that StatsCan would have been quite happy to move along with the status quo."

The committee ultimately passed two motions, one that the government table the documents and another calling on it to reinstate the mandatory long-form census -- a motion that will be presented for a vote when the House of Commons resumes sitting in the fall.

The government has five days to comply with the first motion, though what documents it will produce remains to be seen, as some information will be protected under oath as advice to cabinet.

"I don't think that the government has any issue releasing anything that can be released," Conservative MP Mike Lake told the committee.

Last week, chief statistician Munir Sheikh stepped down from his post to protest the government's move to make the mandatory long-form census voluntary. He explained to the committee he felt compelled to resign following a 30-year civil service career because the integrity of the agency he led was cast into doubt over the controversy.

Sheikh did not blame Clement or anyone else specifically, but emphasized that he couldn't stay when the agency's credibility was being questioned in media reports.

"It doesn't matter to me what the minister said," he said. "To me, it's what the perception is out there and what Canadians believe in that would have an impact on whether or not I can do my job."

At the end of June, the government announced it was scrapping Canada's long-form census in favour of a voluntary survey that would collect the same information on ethnicity, income, education, disability and housing. The decision was made in response to privacy complaints and out of conviction that the government doesn't have the right to pry for such information, Conservatives say.

Critics say a voluntary survey will produce skewed and potentially unusable information for the organizations, departments, researchers and companies that rely on census data.

Sheikh said no statistician would ever have recommended that replacing a mandatory census with a voluntary survey would yield equivalent results, though he made it clear the government had every right to make changes to the census.

Opposition MPs blasted the government for creating a "manufactured crisis" over the census, grilling Clement on how many Canadians complained on privacy grounds and where the evidence was of those concerns.

Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said her office had received about 50 complaints pertaining to the census over the last 20 years.

-- Postmedia News