NEWS14 July 2010

MRIA warns Canada against ditching mandatory long-form census survey

Government North America

CANADA— The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association (MRIA) has written to the government to oppose plans to drop the mandatory long-form census in favour of a voluntary questionnaire, warning it will lead to “skewed” and “biased” data being used to formulate public policy.

MRIA says the proposed new voluntary National Household Survey will likely have “a substantially lower” response rate and the resulting data “will be less robust”.

“The experience of survey researchers and social scientists is that those in lower income groups, ethnic minorities and the most wealthy citizens are least likely to answer questions voluntarily,” said the MRIA. “This would lead to skewed data and doubts about the accuracy of information that is relied upon by public policy and business decision-makers.”

In a letter to industry minister Tony Clement, the MRIA also question whether the new voluntary survey represents good value for money as the wider distribution – one in three households, versus one in five for the compulsory long-form survey – would require additional costs.

But the MRIA’s argument seems unlikely to be heard as Clement told Bloomberg today the government would not reconsider it’s decision.

In an earlier statement, the minister said: “The federal census conducted by Statistics Canada collects information from Canadians every five years to provide a demographic picture of our country. The questions necessary to achieve this goal are in the mandatory eight-question short-form version of the census that is sent to all Canadian households.

“In the past, the Government of Canada received complaints about the long-form census from citizens who felt it was an intrusion of their privacy. The government does not think it is necessary for Canadians to provide Statistics Canada with the number of bedrooms in their home, or what time of the day they leave for work, or how long it takes them to get there. The government does not believe it is appropriate to force Canadians to divulge detailed personal information under threat of prosecution.”