If you follow me on Twitter (my micro-blog), you know that I have been concerned for weeks about the elimination by the federal government of the long census form and the implications that this decision has on good planning by all levels of government and a wide variety of organizations that help to make our community, province and country a better place to live. After reading an article in today’s Record, it appears that our local MPs have not heard the outcry against this move directly from their constituents so I guess we’ll need to change that.

I am not alone in my perspective. What follows is the text of a letter from Mary McKeigan of Opportunities Waterloo Region to the MPs that represent Waterloo Region. Please read the letter, yesterday’s Record article and the comments made in a letter to the editor by Christine Bird and write your own letter or e-mail to your local MP and/or to the newspaper and/or other sources of media. Please let them know that you support keeping the long census form and that you are confident that respondents privacy is protected.

This letter is in addition to the overwhelming appeal from Canadians to reverse the decision to replace the mandatory long-form Census questionnaire with a voluntary National Household Survey (NHS) because of privacy concerns. No Canadian’s privacy should be compromised in this regard. That’s why it is reassuring to know that Statistics Canada has a policy in place to conduct privacy impact assessments for all its work, including the census, which means privacy concerns should not be a factor in deciding to cut off the most crucial source of information essential to providing effective social programs.

Without the mandatory long form census, we will be missing essential data, creating a loss of decision-making capacity, ineffective programming, and potentially devastating effects on Canada’s most vulnerable people. How, for example, will social service agencies develop projects that affect the people most vulnerable in their communities without knowing who those people are and how many people might be impacted by the project outcomes? How will we know which neighbourhoods need interventions the most and what kind of assistance is needed? How will we make a case for funding without being able to tell the potential funder the realities of the conditions the proposal is meant to solve?

Though current plans envisage circulating the new survey to one in three households, the response rate will be significantly lower because it will be a voluntary questionnaire that has to be mailed. How many people will want to do this voluntarily and why would they do it? The importance of the mandatory long form census has now been voiced by a broad range of organizations and individuals across Canada. We are confident that you will see an obligation to reconsider.

Best regards,
Mary MacKeigan
Executive Director, Opportunities Waterloo

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