By Jordan Press
The Canadian Press
Ottawa: Newly released documents show Statistics Canada considered delaying this year’s census until 2022 over pandemic-related health concerns that could erode the quality of data relied on by policymakers across the country.
An agency document noted the plan for the 2021 census was developed in a “normal operating context” where tens of thousands of staff and temporary hires would interact with each other and Canadians.
In a pandemic, the document noted, that plan had “a high probability of failure.”
The behind-the-scenes look at how Statistics Canada rethought this year’s census operation is contained in 50 pages of internal reports and presentations obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.
The agency ultimately decided to forge ahead with the census for this year using a plan that relies more heavily on Canadians filling out census forms online than on face-to-face interactions.
Jan Kestle, president and CEO of Environics Analytics, said the census needed to go ahead as planned this year to get a baseline reading on how families, communities and businesses are faring to guide decision-making for a post-pandemic recovery.
“It’s not like we’re in a period where there’s something weird for a month. We have lived for a year (with the pandemic) and we’re going to live with the implications of this for a long time,” she said.
“Having a census that’s as good as it can be, is extremely important to the economic recovery, and the health of Canadians.”