Long form census revival is a welcome return to sense

This week, the 2016 contingent of census form delivery people are beginning to deliver these important documents to households the length and width of Manitoulin Island.

Their job is to make sure every household has a form to fill out and to answer any basic questions, such as “how long do I have to complete it?”

This year, for the first time in a decade, the “long form” survey has been reinstated. Not every household gets one of these, of course, but these longer forms, with an additional 30 questions, are distributed in numbers proportional to the local population to enable those who analyze the census reports to come up with the best-possible snapshot of the community by the use of information obtained through many short form census surveys and far fewer long form surveys.

The long form surveys were a point of political discussion when the previous government in Ottawa, the Conservative Party, abandoned the long form on the main grounds that the questions it asked were too invasive.

This decision was vehemently opposed by the Official Opposition NDP and by the Liberal Party, at that time the third party in the House of Commons.

The director-general of Statistics Canada resigned his post on the issue, saying that his department could not do a properly accurate job of providing the information Canadians demanded using only the basic questions the short form survey asks.

The Liberals, when they come to power at last year’s General Election, quickly moved to reinstate the long form for this year’s census.

And it’s a good thing they did.

The short form census information gives us the basic details about how many people live in our communities and breaks down their populations by age groups. That’s why the long forms have always been so important, no matter what complaints former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government was acquiescing to when they abandoned this valuable information tool.

Statistics Canada (Stats Can) has no interest in who you are or what your income is. It doesn’t pass on people’s names or the data they provide and that what was being implied when the previous Tory administration abandoned the long form survey.

Of course taking the time to fill out any form, let alone a mandatory one like the census, is not everyone’s choice of how to spend 15 minutes or a half hour, but the information that comes back to us is invaluable. Thank goodness we live in a country that considers this important.