It's time for Canadians to deal with the 2016 Census, and this year, as the Liberal government has promised, the long-form census is back. CBC News' Hannah Jackson outlined this in "The long-form census is back, it's online — and this time, it's mandatory".
Statistics Canada today officially begins mailing out access codes so Canadians can prepare to complete the 2016 census online — either the regular or the newly restored long-form version — next week.
Census Day is May 10, but Statistics Canada is encouraging Canadians to complete their census forms as soon as they receive them.
The letters will provide a 16-digit access code to allow households to complete the census online, but also gives Canadians the option of having a paper version mailed to their homes.
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One in four randomly selected households in Canada will receive the 36-page long-form questionnaire known as the National Household Survey, while the remainder of Canadians will receive the 10-question short version. Both are mandatory.
Under Section 31 of the Statistics Act, the consequence for failing to provide information to a mandatory census or falsely answering is liable to a summary conviction carrying a fine of up to $500, imprisonment of up to three months, or both.
The import of the census is outlined in Jordan Press' Canadian Press article "Long-form census forms return to mailboxes this week after absence", published at MacLean's and the Toronto Star.
For provincial coffers, the population estimates in the census determine how much per capita funding they will receive in transfers from the federal government.
For local governments and community groups, the demographic details in neighbourhoods help with decisions on where to place new schools, transit routes, seniors’ housing and emergency services.
For companies, the census data act as a much-needed complement to what’s become known as big data.
“Some people wonder, well, why do you even need a census when we have big data?” said Jan Kestle, president of Environics Analytics.
“When you combine the kind of data we now can collect with census data, you can really get a more integrated view of what consumers want both in terms of products and services and that’s also true in terms of what citizens want from government.”
The politics behind the 2011 cancellation are also explored briefly by Press.
The previous Conservative government replaced the long-form census with the voluntary survey five years ago in a move that caught many by surprise and lit a political fuse over the depth of data Statistics Canada collected through regular population counts. The results from the 2011 count prevented comparisons to previous years, left out some small communities over quality concerns, and raised reliability questions around response rates of immigrants and aboriginals.
As one of its first acts in government, the Liberals brought back the mandatory, long-form questionnaire.
Kestle said there will remain gaps in the data collected five years ago, but the return of the long-form census this year should bridge many of them created by the one-time absence.
“To be realistic, of course there will be breaks (in data), but I think missing one (census) is not nearly as bad as if we hadn’t had it come back,” she said.
Craig Silverman's humourous article at Buzzfeed is worth reading for the chuckles.