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This article was published 8/9/2015 (2078 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Forty-nine days before the federal election, the City of Brandon’s Poverty Committee has submitted a report asking for council’s support in reinstating the national long-form census, which was abolished by the federal government in 2010.
The committee — which includes councillors Vanessa Hamilton (Riverview), a supporter of Liberal candidate Jodi Wyman, and Lonnie Patterson (South Centre), a supporter of NDP candidate Melissa Wastasecoot — suggests that local government and organizations are suffering because of the new standards of data collection.
"From the city perspective, we use that data because it gives you a good snapshot of communities and you can see shifts and swings in demographics," said Coun. Jan Chaboyer (Green Acres), co-chair of the Poverty Committee and a provincial NDP backer.
The last long-form census took place in 2006, and in 2011 Statistics Canada replaced the mandatory questionnaire with a voluntary indicator called the National Household Survey.
According to the StatsCan website, the last long-form census had a 95.5 per cent response rate in Manitoba, while the first NHS had a response rate of 68.8 per cent.
Chaboyer says fewer respondents means less reliable data, which she says can be a hindrance for the city when applying for federal grants.
"It used to make your voice stronger because you actually had the facts and numbers ... especially for requesting funding for critical social programs," Chaboyer said.
The committee’s report states that it is difficult to assess the challenges faced by those living in poverty with the NHS data.
Chaboyer says the data collection also affects seniors and ethnic groups.
"From a health perspective you can look at rural communities and see, ‘Oh, wow, that community is really aging, we’re going to need x-amount of nurses,’" Chaboyer said, adding the report has received unofficial endorsement from the Age-Friendly Committee and the Brandon Urban Aboriginal Peoples’ Council.
The Privacy Committee has also put forward its long-form census recommendation to all the federal candidates in Brandon-Souris.
Conservative incumbent Larry Maguire told The Sun in an email that he would not endorse the reinstatement of the mandatory census because it infringes on the privacy rights of Canadians.
"I do not believe people should face stiff financial penalties or be threatened with jail time for refusing to provide sensitive or personal information," Maguire wrote. "If our local NDP and Liberal candidates want to invade the privacy of Canadians, they need to be crystal clear on what penalties they’ll introduce to force Westman residents to reveal that information to the government."
Wyman says the Liberal party is in favour of the reinstatement as part of its fair and open government platform.
"The data is so important, how can our government offer services that we need tailored to the demographics and the geography?" Wyman said. "We need to make evidence-based policy not make it up as we go."
Wastasecoot voiced a similar sentiment in a phone conversation with The Sun.
"The long-form census was really necessary for businesses and organizations." Wastasecoot said. "Unfortunately, since it’s been gone, there has been a hole left there where we don’t know what’s going on and what’s really happening in our communities."
Green party candidate David Neufeld also said his party would support the reinstatement of the mandatory census.
"I know it’s annoying for people, but it’s an educational thing," Neufeld said. "How are we going to know who has access to what and whether we’re improving."
The report was submitted to city council on Sept. 1 and it will be debated at tonight’s general meeting.
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