Tories, Liberals clash over long-form census
Published Sunday, July 18, 2010 7:48PM EDT
A decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census has sparked a backlash from groups who say it provides crucial information, and now Liberals and Conservatives are calling for emergency meetings to discuss the issue.
Twenty per cent of the population is given the long-form census. For 2011, Conservatives say Canadians will no longer be required by law to answer the questions.
"The opposition will have to explain to Canadians why they want the state and the government of Canada to know lots of details from their private lives. They will have to answer that question," Conservative MP Maxime Bernier told The Canadian Press.
He said that when he was industry minister in 2006, when the last survey was taken, his office received about 1,000 email complaints a day.
However, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner has only received three complaints about the long-form census in the past decade.
Municipal governments, economists and medical researchers are just some of the groups calling on the Conservatives to change their position. They say information obtained from the long census is crucial to help make policy decisions, and understand the changing face of Canada.
The current industry minister, Tony Clement, has acknowledged the census decision was made by cabinet without broad public consultation.
Liberal industry critic Marc Garneau said the government should have focused their efforts on explaining how census information is strictly confidential.
"They're taking this really stupid approach, and making a really stupid decision as well," he told The Canadian Press. "This really is saying we're going to dumb down this country because we don't want to intrude into the lives of people."
Bernier said that if groups want access to information normally found on the long-form census, they will have to conduct the polling themselves.
"If some special interest group wants data on Canadians, they can do that, they can pay for that and they can do it," said Bernier.
"But we're not there to please special interest groups. We're there for the silent majority of Canadians. And I'm sure that the big majority of Canadians understand that and they will agree with our decision."
With files from The Canadian Press