Fulfilling his census mandate

Back in November 2015, I highlighted some of the more interesting elements of the mandate letter handed to Minister Navdeep Bains when he was first appointed to lead Canada’s Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Among the expectations was “Restore the long-form census and update legislation governing Statistics Canada to reinforce the institution’s independence.”

And indeed, a week before the mandate letters were issued, he had already ticked off that box, having made the announcement to reinstate the mandatory long-form census the very next morning after he was sworn in as Minister.

Canadians are reclaiming their right to accurate and reliable information. With the 2016 Census of Population program, communities will once again have access to the high-quality data they require to make decisions that will truly reflect the needs of their people, businesses, institutions and organizations.

Next year is a full census and the Minister and Statistics Canada are continuing to reform the data being collected about Canadians. In a recent article, Minister Bains wrote, “The 2021 census will include new or improved questions on minority language rights, ethnic origin, Indigenous experiences, labour, journey to work, gender and Veterans.”

Statistics Canada “The Daily” included more details on the “Road to the 2021 Census of Population: The questionnaire.” Anil Arora, Chief Statistician of Canada, said “We all depend on key socioeconomic trends and analysis from the census to make important decisions that affect our families, our neighbourhoods and our businesses.”

I’ve frequently written “We need more data” to help with our understanding of who is online – and perhaps more importantly, who isn’t online and why. For example, the “Survey of Household Spending” contains some valuable information about who has a computer and a broadband connection, but it is now produced every other year and it takes more than a year to get results. Can we do better?

Improving the census is a step in the right direction, but even more is needed to help with our understanding of how to deliver digital services to Canadians.

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