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  • Help us build a better Ontario September 14, 2017
    If you live in Ontario, you may have recently been selected to receive our 2017 grassroots poll on vital issues affecting the province. Your answers to these and other essential questions will help us decide what issues to focus on as we head towards the June 2018 election in Ontario. For decades, the CCPA has […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Does the Site C dam make economic sense for BC? August 31, 2017
    Today CCPC-BC senior economist Marc Lee submitted an analysis to the BC Utilities Commission in response to their consultation on the economics of the Site C dam. You can read it here. In short, the submission discussses how the economic case for Site C assumes that industrial demand for electricity—in particular for natural gas extraction […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Ontario's middle and working class families are losing ground August 15, 2017
    Ontario is becoming more polarized as middle and working class families see their share of the income pie shrinking while upper middle and rich families take home even more. New research from CCPA-Ontario Senior Economist Sheila Block reveals a staggering divide between two labour markets in the province: the top half of families continue to pile […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Join us in October for the CCPA-BC fundraising gala, featuring Senator Murray Sinclair August 14, 2017
    We are incredibly honoured to announce that Senator Murray Sinclair will address our 2017 Annual Gala as keynote speaker, on Thursday, October 19 in Vancouver. Tickets are now on sale. Will you join us? Senator Sinclair has served as chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), was the first Indigenous judge appointed in Manitoba, […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • 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
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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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