2011 Census: Impact on Québec

Québec, July 15, 2010 – The Institut de la statistique du Québec has analyzed the impact of the decision to abolish the long-form questionnaire in the 2011 Census (mandatory for 20% of Canadian households) and to replace it by a new survey, which will be conducted by Statistics Canada (voluntary and covering one-third of Canadian households). The impact is significant and affects three dimensions of the quality of statistical information: reliability, comparability and coherence.

First, given the voluntary nature of the new survey, a drop in the response rate is feared. This would suggest a foreseeable loss particularly in the reliability of statistics for precisely defined geographic areas or for populations or subgroups of persons that may benefit from public or private interventions. In addition, some of the statistics based on past censuses can no longer be used in the new survey. And yet, this information is often necessary for research and decision-making by various actors in Québec society.

There will also be a loss in comparability of the statistics on population characteristics compiled over time. The statistical heritage developed over many years may also be significantly altered. This could bring about major inconveniences in elaborating, following up and assessing several programs and public or other private interventions.

Lastly, Statistics Canada may have a hard time ensuring the coherence of the statistics compiled using the new voluntary survey with those produced using the 2011 Census short-form questionnaire (mandatory for all Canadian households). This could lead to the Canadian statistical system containing inconsistent information from different sources.

Furthermore, it should be noted that the Institut is not assessing the relevance of the contents of the long-form questionnaire since it has been the subject of numerous consultations and meets the detailed information needs of different actors in Québec society. Since the relevance of that information is unquestionable, it is especially deplorable that the reliability, comparability and coherence could be altered.

If the changes to the 2011 Census remain in place, the Institut de la statistique du Québec, in its capacity of Québec’s statistical coordinator, will make appropriate arrangements with Statistics Canada to ensure that the anticipated methodological repercussions are diminished and that the needs of the Québec society in statistical information are met as adequately as possible.

It must be remembered that this news release, in keeping with the objective role the Institut plays in statistical quality in Québec, reflects the findings of its scientific analysis of the new course taken in the 2011 Census.

The Institut de la statistique du Québec produces, analyses and disseminates official, objective and quality statistical information on various aspects of Québec society. It is the statistical coordinator for Québec and the relevance of its work makes it a strategic ally for decision makers and all those wishing to learn more about Québec.


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