Census Update: It's the Economy, Stupid

Yesterday during a press conference newly minted House leader John Baird announced “The next few months will be sharply focused on Canadians’ No. 1 priority: jobs and the economy… The economic recovery remains fragile and it is increasingly clear that we are not out of the woods yet.”

Fantastic news.

I just hope someone sends Industry Minister Tony Clement the memo.

The effects and impacts of ending the mandatory long form census continues to spill out with a number of Canada’s most senior business and economic leaders pointing out how the decision will negatively impact the economy and… job growth.

First, there was Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney (voted one of the most influential people in the world by Time Magazine) noting that the bank relies on data found in the mandatory long form to assess the economy and, presumably, to inform decisions on interest rates and other issues. The bank’s capacity to make informed decisions has now been compromised – not exactly a win for jobs or the economy.

As an interesting side note, Carney goes on to say that this may cause the bank to have to supplement StatsCan’s research with its own. Expect to hear more and more statements like this from Government agencies (which are still allowed to talk to the press) as more and more ministries and agencies get plunged into the dark regarding what is going on in the country and are no longer able to assess programs and issues they’ve been tasked to monitor. Various arms of the government (and thus you, taxpayer) will be spending 10s if not 100s of millions to pay for Industry Minister Clement’s mistake.

Then, in the same Globe article in which Carney makes these statements, Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management notes that ending the long form census hampers Canadian companies capacity to both compete globally and boost productivity. More damning, and further echoing arguments I’ve been making here, he states it will prevent Canadians from having “a sophisticated economy that uses information to its best.” Unkind words from one of the world’s recognized business leaders.

Sadly, it doesn’t end there. The always excellent Stephen Gordon lists the emerging academic literature chronicling the havoc the demise of the long form census is about to wreck. Especially relevant is “The Importance of the Long-Form Census to Canada” by UBC economists David Green and Kevin Milligan. Interestingly, it turns out that the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation uses long form data to fulfill its legislative mandate, and also by local governments and private sector actors to learn about trends in housing. Something that might be of interest to those concerned about the economy and jobs given Canada is rumored to possible have a housing bubble.

Still more damning is how Green and Milligan show the mandatory long form serves as the foundation for the Labour Force Survey (LFS) from which we derive unemployment levels. Compromising the long form survey has, in short, compromised our ability to assess how many Canadians actually have jobs, something that, if you really believed Canadians felt the economy and jobs were the number 1 priority, your government should care about measuring accurately.

Maybe John Baird will sit down with Tony Clement and the Prime Minister and explain to them how, if the economy and jobs are priority 1 then perhaps the government should rethink its decision on the long form census.

Just don’t hold your breath. Instead, do write another email or letter to your local MP. Our country’s economic recovery and competitiveness is being eroded by a government either too dumb to understand the implications of its decision and too stubborn to admit a mistake. Those of us who will be paying the price should remind them of how they can best serve their own priorities.

7 thoughts on “Census Update: It's the Economy, Stupid

  1. Kevin Milligan

    I found out about the CMHC need for the census in the documents that were given to cabinet about the census. See page 11 here, as posted by Kady O’Malley. http://www.scribd.com/doc/35691646/Impact-analysis-prepared-for-cabinet-View-on-Scribd

    There are 14 Fed departments/agencies that *require* good census data. Not ‘would like’ but *require*. Note how many things that Finance needs it for. Must have been some interesting meetings in July at L’Esplanade Laurier.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Census Update: It’s the Economy, Stupid | eaves.ca -- Topsy.com

  3. Pingback: datalibre.ca · Census Media Round-up

  4. rmoore321

    To make sense of economics, one has to understand the demographic make up of Canada. How can economic data make sense without this persepctive? For example, there is almost as many “Gen Y” er’s in Canada as there are baby boomers! Boomers have moved every market they’ve ever touched and so is Gen Y. Doubt that? Facebook, Twitter and Youtube wouldn’t exist without Gen Y. Afterall, who created those sites? The next 40 years in Canada belong to Gen Y! How cool is that.

  5. Pingback: Puzzlepieces – Census Update: It’s the Economy, Stupid | eaves.ca (September 17, 2010)

  6. Pingback: Using Data to Make Firefox Better: A mini-case study for your organization | eaves.ca

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