Turning inner space into outer space

May 24, 2011

Future looks bleak for census

If our Daily News poll on the census is anything to go by, Kamloops residents haven’t exactly given the survey a wholehearted embrace.

The poll shows 30 per cent either “didn’t bother” or were unaware that a census was taking place. That leaves a participation rate of about 70 per cent.

I haven’t been able to find numbers for participation rates in previous censuses in Canada, but a website for the U.S. census suggests that 70 per cent is not bad. Here’s what they had to say about 74 per cent: “America participated! 74 percent of households in the United States filled out and mailed back their 2010 Census questionnaire, a significant achievement in a time of declining survey participation worldwide.”

Still, the prospect of a declining participation rate is not something to be taken lightly, and the Conservative government has to shoulder some responsibility. First, they set a bad example with the long-form census by making it no longer mandatory. I’m sure many Canadians figure Ottawa is no longer serious about the census and they can just skip it. Second, funding for a campaign to encourage people to fill out the census was, according to this Canadian Press article, cut from $30 million to $15 million.

The only people who seem to be taking the census seriously are special interest groups who are encouraging members to fill in the forms to ensure they continue to receive government funding. This, coupled with low participation, will wind up skewing the results and force analysts to interpret the numbers with a healthy dose of skepticism.

It really is sad with politics trumps common sense.