Sask. hit hard by loss of long-form data, ex-StatsCan chief says

The former chief statistician at Statistics Canada who resigned over the long-form census issue says Saskatchewan was the province hurt the most when that data wasn't collected.

Munir Sheikh resigned from post over census dispute

Munir Sheikh, former chief statistician at Statistics Canada, was interviewed Friday by Morning Edition host Sheila Coles. (CBC)

The former chief statistician at Statistics Canada who resigned over the long-form census issue says Saskatchewan was the province hurt the most when that data wasn't collected.

Munir Sheikh didn't think it was a good idea when the former Conservative government cancelled the mandatory long-form census — substituting a voluntary one in 2011. When the government said the cut was something he supported, he quit.

The newly elected Liberal government has reinstated the mandatory long-form census, and it will be used again in 2016, something Sheikh said he's "quite happy" about.

In an interview with Morning Edition host Sheila Coles on Friday, Sheikh said Canada, the provinces, municipalities and businesses need those details to make decisions. 

At the municipal level, long-form data can help communities decide whether they should be shutting down a library branch or opening a new one, or where the new fire hall should go. 

They do become invisible. You only exist as a dot on the map.- Munir Sheikh, ex-StatsCan chief


 
"If you want to make a decision on whether or not there should be a bus stop on a street, or whether you should be offering special language classes in a community centre... you want to know the kinds of people who live in those communities and their needs," he said.

That data was particularly important to smaller communities, but with a voluntary census, the compliance was relatively low, he said.

"Saskatchewan is the province which is affected the most by the non-availability of data," Sheikh said.  

"For all of these communities, we just don't know how decisions are going to be made... They do become invisible. You only exist as a dot on the map."

Sheikh is currently executive fellow with the School Of Public Policy at the University Of Calgary.

He was speaking at the University of Regina Friday as part of a public lecture series hosted by Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.

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