Trudeau Reinstates Mandatory Canadian Census Cut by Harper

Canada’s new Liberal government is bringing back the mandatory, long-form census that had been abolished by its predecessor.

Navdeep Bains, the minister of innovation, science and economic development, announced Thursday the Liberals would reinstate the mandatory questionnaire to yield more accurate and reliable data for bureaucrats and researchers -- one of the first acts of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.

“We want reliable good quality data,” Bains told reporters in Ottawa. “The vast majority of people understand the importance of this data and they want to participate in the census.”

The previous Conservative government, led by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, scrapped the long-form census in 2010, saying it was an intrusion on privacy that came with onerous penalties for those who didn’t comply. They replaced it with a smaller-scale, voluntary national household survey but were criticized by researchers, triggering a controversy that ultimately led to the resignation of the head of Statistics Canada, Munir Sheikh.

Bains sidestepped questions on what penalties the Liberals will favor for those who do not fill out the form. “The law is the law, and it’s very clear on it, the law has not changed, ” he said.

The country’s Statistics Canada Act includes cash fines and jail time as potential penalties. The voluntary form cost an additional C$22 million ($16.7 million) and returning to a mandatory form will save money, Bains said.

Trudeau’s Liberals, who were sworn in on Wednesday, campaigned on the issue, pledging to “immediately” restore the mandatory long-form census. Canada’s next census is scheduled to be carried out in May of 2016.

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