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  • How to make NAFTA sustainable, equitable July 19, 2017
    Global Affairs Canada is consulting Canadians on their priorities for, and concerns about, the planned renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In CCPA’s submission to this process, Scott Sinclair, Stuart Trew and Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood point out how NAFTA has failed to live up to its promise with respect to job and productivity […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • What’s next for BC? July 4, 2017
    Five weeks ago the CCPA-BC began a letter to our supporters with this statement: “What an interesting and exciting moment in BC politics! For a bunch of policy nerds like us at the CCPA, it doesn’t get much better than this.” At the time, we were writing about the just-announced agreement between the BC NDP […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Could skyrocketing private sector debt spell economic crisis? June 21, 2017
    Our latest report finds that Canada is racking up private sector debt faster than any other advanced economy in the world, putting the country at risk of serious economic consequences. The report, Addicted to Debt, reveals that Canada has added $1 trillion in private sector debt over the past five years, with the corporate sector […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • The energy industry’s insatiable thirst for water threatens First Nations’ treaty-protected rights June 21, 2017
    Our latest report looks at the growing concerns that First Nations in British Columbia have with the fossil fuel industry’s increasing need for large volumes of water for natural gas fracking operations. Titled Fracking, First Nations and Water: Respecting Indigenous rights and better protecting our shared resources, it describes what steps should be taken to […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Betting on Bitumen: Alberta's energy policies from Lougheed to Klein June 8, 2017
    The role of government in Alberta, both involvement and funding, has been critical in ensuring that more than narrow corporate interests were served in the development of the province’s bitumen resources.  A new report contrasts the approaches taken by two former premiers during the industry’s early development and rapid expansion periods.  The Lougheed government invested […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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The Progressive Economics Forum

Steelworker Census Letter

My union’s contribution to the debate follows:

July 21, 2010

Hon. Tony Clement
Minister of Industry
235 Queen Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0H5

Dear Minister Clement:

I write to ask you to reverse two recent decisions that threaten to undermine the quality and quantity of data produced by Statistics Canada.

First, making the long-form questionnaire optional in the upcoming census would reduce the reliability of census figures. When response rates differ according to income, education, employment status or other characteristics, the results are biased. While past censuses may not have achieved perfect response rates, an optional long form would make this problem vastly worse.

Privacy is the ostensible rationale for an optional form. However, among the millions of Canadians who have had to complete the long form during every previous census, almost no one has actually raised privacy concerns.

In fact, as you know, Statistics Canada keeps individual responses secret. Researchers are only allowed to access aggregate data.

Reliable, unbiased census figures are needed to effectively design and deliver essential public services and are also widely used outside of government. There is no reason to compromise the quality of this information.

Second, my understanding is that Statistics Canada has stopped fully funding Catalogue 41-019-XWE, “Steel, Tubular Products and Steel Wire.” Members of the Canadian Steel Producers Association have started paying for Statistics Canada to continue producing this report.

While I appreciate the temptation to make industry pay for its own data, a serious risk is that companies may choose to collect this data through contractors other than Statistics Canada. If so, the information would no longer be available to unions who represent workers in the industry, academics who research the industry, or the general public.

Cutbacks appear to be generally reducing the number of surveys that Statistics Canada funds. For example, Budget 2008 proposed to extract “savings” of $21.5 million from the agency this fiscal year (Table A3.7 on page 259).

According to the 2009 Public Accounts, Statistics Canada’s entire budget was just 0.2% of all ministerial expenditures. That is a small price to pay for data which informs public policy and allows the other 99.8% of the federal budget to be spent more effectively. This data also improves decision-making by provincial and local governments, businesses, unions and other organizations.

Cutting Statistics Canada may be penny wise, but it is certainly pound foolish. If in doubt, you should err on the side of producing more and better publicly-available information for Canadians. In particular, please reinstate the mandatory long-form census questionnaire and restore Statistics Canada funding for data on Canada’s steel industry.

Yours truly,

Ken Neumann
National Director for Canada
United Steelworkers

UPDATE (August 4): Listed in today’s Globe and Mail editorial

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