Can the long-form census be saved?
I fear it cannot. I fear that the announcement by Industry Minister Tony Clement to scrap the mandatory long-form census in favour of a voluntary survey has already damaged the future of the census beyond repair. I fear that the minister has already galvanized those who support his point of view such that any return to a mandatory census will only see more inaccurate answers than ever before.
Before the issue exploded in ink and phosphor, how many people actually thought to list their religion as Jedi Knight? In 2001 that was 21,000 people, or approximately 0.0035% of the total respondents covered by the long-form census — well within the margin of error for most statistic reports. But what about now? Who wants to take bets that the rank of Jedi Knights will see a significant increase in their number if the government is forced to reverse its decision?
This is my biggest concern as well. Even if the decision were reversed now, the government’s rhetoric will have given more people the view that the census is coercive, as opposed to a civic duty. With respect to the census, the relationship of Canadians with the census will be fundamentally changed. I hope we’re wrong, but that’s my fear too.