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Ottawa was told of flaws in census plan, documents show:Statscan warned Tony Clement’s office that voluntary survey would yield low response rate

 
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08/11/2010 06:12 AM
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Ottawa was told of flaws in census plan, documents show:Statscan warned Tony Clement’s office that voluntary survey would yield low response rate
Ottawa was told of flaws in census plan, documents show:Statscan warned Tony Clement’s office that voluntary survey would yield low response rate

Tony Clement’s office knew Statistics Canada felt a voluntary census would fall short of the mark even as the Industry Minster defended scrapping the mandatory long form by suggesting the agency had embraced the change, newly released documents show.

In a March of 2010 e-mail to Mr. Clement’s office, a senior Statscan official advised that a self-administered voluntary survey would yield an initial response rate of only 50 per cent.

She added that with follow-up work and sufficient resources for interviewers, the agency could push that feedback rate to between 65 to 70 per cent, “which is still not an acceptable outcome for a census.” Mandatory census response rates are much closer to 100 per cent.

Despite this caution, Mr. Clement as recently as July was invoking Statscan to defend the Conservatives’ controversial decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census in the name of protecting privacy. For decades, more than one-fifth of households have been required to answer its more than 50 detailed questions about work, home life, ethnicity and religion.

The Conservatives this week released more than 300 pages of confidential records on the census controversy to the Commons industry committee, painting a picture of Ottawa’s frantic efforts to sell the move to Canadians despite mounting opposition.

One transcript of Mr. Clement’s remarks at McGill University in mid-July details how he left the impression Statistics Canada was confident the voluntary survey could substitute.

[link to www.theglobeandmail.com]

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