Memos show Conservatives twisted census findings

Tony Clement knew StatsCan had little use for voluntary census, emails show

Newly released internal government documents show Industry Minister Tony Clement was well aware Statistics Canada had little use for a voluntary census when he was telling Canadians StatsCan was onside with his decision to scrap the mandatory, long-form survey. In an email to the minister’s advisers last March, a StatsCan official wrote that a self-administered survey would provide a low response rate. Clement subsequently gave the impression the respected federal data collecting agency supported the Conservatives’ move to scrap the mandatory nature of the 40-page, long-form survey. The new information comes from confidential government documents that detail the federal government’s effort to manage the messaging and political fallout arising from the census decision, which prompted former StatsCan head Munir Sheikh to resign. Previously secret emails, memos and communications plans were compiled by the government at the request of the House of Commons industry committee, which has been holding hearings on Clement’s decision to rearrange StatsCan’s census-taking. The newly released documents also show the media messaging prepared by the government to handle questions on the new voluntary survey entirely skirted the issue of the quality of the data. Large sections of the documents were blacked out, which Liberal MP Dan McTeague, who requested the documents, called “a serious affront to democracy.”

Toronto Star

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