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I don't think this would completely solve the problem of self-selection bias. We'd get better coverage of low-income households, but high-income households could still self-select with little consequence. And high income households are also one of those groups that under-report.

"high-income households could still self-select with little consequence."

Maybe, but I doubt they would. Most millionaires are self-made and you generally don't become a millionaire by wasting $500.

Besides the fact, that jail time is a meaningless threat since it has never been used and never will be.

"If the problem is the threat of jail time, then remove the threat!"

That is essentially what they have done, by making compliance voluntary. I also do not follow your other points -- sure the short form is still mandatory, but it is less intrusive. It's what's called a compromise.

"I also do not follow your other points -- sure the short form is still mandatory, but it is less intrusive."

You're still 'threatened with jail time' for not filling it out. Read what Clement said:

'But personal questions you would like to force Cdns to answer on pain of jail is just plain wrong.'

If it's wrong, it's wrong. What you're arguing is equivalent to 'Stealing is wrong. So I'm not going to steal a car, instead I'll just steal a bicycle'.

And if the problem is with *some* of the question and not others, then why not have a discussion about which questions should be in the long-form and should not? Particularly since questions are added and subtracted every census.

"It's what's called a compromise."

No, a compromise would address the issue (if the threat of jail were actually the issue and not just a distraction) and find common ground. This is absolutely nothing like that.

Ok, this just isn't fair. You can't counter these claims with thoughtful reflection; that's unfair!

"Why in the world should peaceful and honest citizens be threatened with jail if they refuse to answer these questions?!"

For the same reason that we compel testimony with subpoenas. The questions are required for the functioning of the state, and refusal to do ones fair share adversely effects our fellow citizens.

These questions are required to efficiently manage the welfare state, paid for by taxes, which are collected on pain of jail, and it would be grossly unfair to collect the taxes and then squander them (more than already occurs).

"Why in the world should peaceful and honest citizens be threatened with jail if they refuse to answer these questions?!"

Because such people are intentionally obstructing the constitutionally legitimated and highly consequential work of a federal agency. We (as a society) imprison people for much less.

It gets better - Bernier is now (essentially) telling Francos they can stack the deck by 100% compliance while other groups don't bother to.


I hope they don't expect to be able to base policies on this survey (you can no longer call it a census) as Bernier suggests.

Winston: that's the question. What is part of the social contract we have with each other through the state as Canadians? Of course the state violates primitive freedom. But we (almost all of us) accept some of these violations as a return for things that improve our lives--court systems, policing, at the very least even for most libertarians.

It is legitimate to ask the question: does this particular violation go too far? What we're hearing is an absolute: no violations are reasonable. I can't accept that.

Speaking for myself, I think 30 minutes every 25 years is part of my conception of citizenship.

I think people need to take a serious look at some of the questions in the long form before they start pontificating. This is an excerpt from an article in todays's Victoria Times-Colonist

"first surveys focused principally on what any country would consider essential information — the size, age structure and distribution of its population. But in 1971 a barrage of new questions was added, and to keep the project manageable, the census was split into two forms — short and long.

There were 88 questions in the 2006 long form, many of them astonishingly intrusive. Here is a sample:

Do you have any mental conditions that affect the kind of activities you can do?

How many hours did you spend last week looking after your children?

List your main job responsibilities. Account for all forms of income, including wages, child support, investments, pensions, etc.

How many rooms has your house? Does it needs repairs? What do you pay for electricity? And so on. And on. And on. Clearly this is no longer a census of the population.

By any standards, it is a comprehensive rummage through the most private aspects of family life."

Jad: so we should revise the long form. Great. I'm for that. But no long form at all is not the solution.

Discussion would be great, followed by an informed decision.

But that's not what is happening, is it?

The article in the Victoria Times Colonist cited above by Jad made my blood boil. It represents the views of a certain fringe of Canadian society which holds that:

It's their own fault that people suffer from mental illness and the government need not bother with finding out the extent of the problem.
Child-care is the responsibility of parents and the amount of time parents in different segments of society can devote to this activity is not an issue which needs public policy attention.
Housing is a personal matter and we don't care whether Canadians, or a subset of them, like aboriginals living on reserves or immigrants, live in sub-standard conditions.
We don't need facts. We have an ideological position on everything. including the census, and the last thing we need is informed debate on public policy issues.
Like the Prime Minister, we don't trust governments. The less hard accurate data they have, the less they will do.

The interesting thing I see in letters/comments about this is that parties interested in this data should "do their own surveys". This of course is astonishingly inefficient given that a single census can be purchased by hundreds of different companies and agencies with a higher sample size and return rate than a voluntary survey without the privacy guards in legislation that the Census does.

Great post on the legal issues surrounding this debate at "Law is Cool" blog.


Another solution: Take the census question responsibility away from Cabinet and give it to Parliament!

Stephen: I don't think filling out the long form and mailing it in would be much harder than filling out a cheque and mailing it in because you've been fined for not doing the census. The latter costs both time and money, so even if higher income people could afford to ignore the census if there was no threat of jail time, it would seem to make more sense to just fill in the long form.

The long from asks if your house needs major, minor or only routine repairs. When I saw that question, I wondered how accurate the answers could be given that different people have different ideas about maintenance. a perfectionist could say that his/her house needed major repair when anyone else would be of the opinion it as in splendid condition. How can the answers to questions that are so tuned to personal values be of any use?

When I was growing up the children in our area had to contend with an old man who lived on the next street over from me. Not only would he shovel his walk but he would go out with a broom and sweep all of the snow off including that between the cracks. He would sit on his veranda and scowl at the people who walked down the street and tracked snow on his immaculate sidewalk. I wonder how he would answer that question.

So what I really want to know, and cannot find anywhere, is HOW many people "went to jail" for not completing the 2006 long form?

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