The chief statistician steps aside

Munir Sheikh has posted a statement on the Statistics Canada website.

Munir Sheikh has posted a statement on the Statistics Canada website.

I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion. This relates to the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census.

It can not.

Under the circumstances, I have tendered my resignation to the Prime Minister.

Munir Sheikh had been a member of the public service since 1976 and was named chief statistician by Prime Minister Harper in February 2008. A statement from the office of Industry Minister Tony Clement after the jump.

I acknowledge with regret the resignation of Munir Shiekh, the Chief Statistician of Canada.

There has been considerable commentary about the federal government’s decision to replace the 2011 mandatory census long form with the voluntary National Household Survey.

The Government took this decision because we do not believe Canadians should be forced, under threat of fines, jail, or both, to divulge extensive private and personal information. We believe it is not appropriate to compel citizens to divulge how many bedrooms they have in their houses, or what time they leave for work in the morning.  The Government’s approach is about finding a better balance between collecting necessary data and protecting the privacy rights of Canadians.

As I have noted previously, Statistics Canada’s preferred approach would have been to maintain the mandatory long form census.

However, after the Government’s decision to replace the mandatory long form census Statistics Canada was asked to provide options for conducting a voluntary survey of households. One of the options provided – the voluntary National Household Survey – was chosen.

A voluntary long form survey offers challenges that do not exist in the case of a census that uses coercion to compel completion. Nonetheless, by working together with the professionals at Statistics Canada I believe we can compensate for these challenges and offer data-users high quality and accurate information.

I have relied throughout this process on the frank and open advice of Statistics Canada and the Chief Statistician.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank all employees of Statistics Canada for the hard work and dedication that has made Statistics Canada one of the best national statistical organizations in the world.

Until a permanent successor can be found Wayne Smith, Assistant Chief Statistician, Business and Trade Statistics, will act on an interim basis.