Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Census Day!

A Parliamentary Committee is now looking into the Canadian census that will begin soon.
Some of the witnesses are primarily oriented on the statistical technical side of the discussion and they are clearly not sympathetic with the government's decision to make the long-form response voluntary. The mildly-trained statistician in me responds one way; the voluntary response will skew results, systematically underrepresent some groups, and cause the data to have a lot less value, and make it incomparable with previous censuses (though I wonder how well we have maintained comparability over history).
But there have been great challenges from the other side; has anyone ever actually been forced to fill the form in by law and by the legal punishment (yes, jail time!), and, moreover, has Statistics Canada ever been able to be sure people filling the long form in are telling anything close to the truth (the point of Jedi responses).
Now I have never had to fill in the long form and I suspect from what I have heard some of the questions would be tricky to answer, not because I would feel intruded upon, but more that I am not sure what the question means.
I was more outraged a week ago about this but if I do not hear that Statistics Canada has some trick to filter out phony responses, I am now coming around to the government's position. Moreover, if the likely underrepresented groups are as documented, that can only be good for me, as it likely means no Liberal/NDP government can make the same claims on my modest ownings to subsidize those underrepresented people.
All the same, The government minister's suggestion that the current direction was approved in any way by Statistics Canada is so incredible to me that I am appalled at Tony Clement's willingness to lie, and can only admire the appropriate public service head's resignation in the face of this slime.
(BTW - one of his predecessors indicates that Statistics Canada HAS studied the question of the honesty of the results they get; mind you, he says only that most of us don't lie. I wouldn't so I sort of believe that.)


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