harder for decision makers to do their job, less objective data about Canadian society, harder to make sure everyone has equal access to education and housing, voices of some communities not heard, some populations under-represented
The Conservative government replaced the mandatory long-form census with a voluntary National Household Survey (NHS) in 2010, a move opposed by at least 370 business, political, cultural, professional and academic organizations across the country.
Organizations as diverse as the Conference Board of Canada, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian and Quebec Bar Associations, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business called on the government to reverse its decision, citing a loss of reliable data. Statistics Canada officials warned then-Industry Tony Clement's office that a voluntary survey would have a low response rate.
Senior Cabinet Minister Tony Clement issued a number of statements at the time, including in the House of Commons, strongly implying that then-Chief Statistician Munir Sheikh supported the changes to the census. Sheikh resigned, pointing to this misrepresentation of his views as the principal reason: “...when doubt began to be expressed about the nature of the advice we gave, which to any statistician would come across as not the work of a statistician, I came to the conclusion that I cannot be the head of an agency whose reputation has suffered.”
The Industry Minister in 2013 when the first data were released, Christian Paradis, argued that more Canadians filled out the new survey than the previous long-form census. However, numerous statisticians have pointed out that the response rate is more important than the number of responses. With a 68% response rate, NHS fell far short of the 94% rate the long-form census was expected to achieve. As a result, some of the data – particularly information about rural and First Nations communities - is unusable. If the NHS were held to the standards of the 2006 census, the responses from 67% of Canadian neighborhoods would not be considered reliable, and would be excluded.
Even Statistics Canada has warned in its publications that for smaller areas "there can be large discrepancies between the 2011 census population count and NHS population estimate." The StatsCan web site emphasizes the importance of reliable data in making decisions about such things as health, infrastructure, and social programs, urging all Canadians to voluntarily complete the survey: “Without your co-operation, Statistics Canada could not produce reliable, essential data.”