Canada

Top statistician needs more power: ex-bureaucrats

Four former top public servants want Prime Minister Stephen Harper to give Canada's chief statistician alone the power to change the census.

Four former top public servants are calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to give Canada's chief statistician alone the power to change the census.

They say the Conservative government's decision to make the long-form survey voluntary has put the chief statistician's job in question, and damaged Statistics Canada's credibility and international standing.

And they say the decision to scrap the mandatory long questionnaire has shaken the public's confidence in the agency and will likely hurt the reliability of its data in the "months and years ahead."

Two past clerks of the Privy Council, Alex Himelfarb and Mel Cappe — along with ex-Bank of Canada governor David Dodge and former chief statistician Ivan Fellegi — signed the letter to Harper.

The country's chief statistician, Munir Sheikh, quit his post at Statistics Canada in July after advising the government a voluntary survey would not be as useful as the mandatory one.

The Tories say they're scrapping the mandatory long questionnaire because it's too coercive and intrusive.