It turns out that the Canadian government is a supporter of collecting good statistical data – especially data that can be used to alleviate poverty and address disease. There’s only one catch. It can’t help Canadians.
As the fall out from the canceling of the mandatory long form census continues to grow – today the head of Alberta Health Services spoke out, saying the the census decision will hamper the province’s ability to deliver health care efficiently – we now learn that the very arguments the government dismisses here in Canada, it supports on the international stage.
As it happens, the Canadian International Development Agency contributes to the Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building (TFSCB) an international fund designed to support the Marrakech Action Plan for Statistics. And what, you should legitimately ask, is the Marrakech plan? It is a general agreement by international actors to support building developing countries statistical capacity. It has, specifically, as a primary objective, the goal of developing countries capacity to perform censuses. More interestingly, it has a secondary goal, to: “Set up an international Household Survey Network.” the very same part of the census the government just gutted here in Canada.
Both the Trust Fund and the Marrakech Action plan websites explain this in detail. But so to does the CIDA website, where the government acknowledges that this work is essential as:
“The projects supported aim to improve in the collection, processing, analysis, storage, dissemination, and use of quality statistics to support poverty reduction and economic and social development. Developing countries can submit funding proposals to the Trust Fund. The proposals are ideally based on a national strategy for the development of statistics. By implementing such a strategy, countries can improve their statistical capacities to measure development progress and results, notably with regard to the Millennium Development Goals, and to better plan and utilize scarce resources.”
In short, our government accepts that the Household Survey is essential to helping marginalized people. It recognizes that such a survey will help other governments tackle poverty, health care and other social development issues. Indeed, it believes it so strongly, we will spend millions of dollars a year funding the development of statistical capacity abroad to ensure that other governments don’t do what we just did to the long form census.
I’m grateful that our government believes that good statistics and the types of questions found on the long form are essential to developing good policy – I’m just sad they don’t believe it to be true for Canada citizens.