Thursday November 19, 2015
Fact Check: Will the return of the long-form census save money?
The voluntary process actually cost an additional $22 million. Making it mandatory will actually make it less expensive, (and) it will be on budget and on time.” — Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains
The Trudeau Liberals, in one of their first acts in government, brought back the long-form census.
Bains proclaimed the decision wouldn’t cost taxpayers anything more than what is already budgeted for the 2016 census. Indeed, the minister, who oversees Statistics Canada, said taxpayers are likely to save some cash with the return of the mandatory, long-form census.
Will Statistics Canada save money with the return of the mandatory questionnaire?
Spoiler alert: The Canadian Press Baloney Meter is a dispassionate examination of political statements culminating in a ranking of accuracy on a scale of “no baloney” to “full of baloney” (complete methodology through this link).
This one receives a finding of “a little baloney” — it is largely accurate about the mandatory census costing less than the voluntary survey, but there are details missing that would help determine the actual savings figure.
The government will save money because the mandatory survey is less costly to administer than the voluntary version, experts say.
“There are at least a couple of significant reasons why there would be savings” Fellegi said. “I mean, not gobs of money, but savings.”
The savings start with the number of people hired to help with the census. For the 2016 census, Statistics Canada is hiring 1,400 people for the data centre that processes responses.
Statistics Canada needs all those bodies to handle answers and followup with Canadians who don’t fill in the form either because they didn’t want to, forgot to, or misplaced it. Doug Norris, who spent nearly 30 years at Statistics Canada, said the agency will need fewer bodies with a mandatory survey going to fewer homes.
“Followup is extremely expensive,” Norris said.
The return of the mandatory long-form census is likely to cause some savings over at Statistics Canada. Just how much is tough to say. For that reason, the statement of savings has “a little baloney” — the statement is mostly accurate, but more information would be helpful to determine how much the agency will save.
There could also be wider economic benefits from the return of the long-form census: Better quality data could reduce costs for municipalities and school boards, for instance, when it comes to planning for future growth, said Kevin Milligan, an economist at the University of British Columbia.
And Charles Beach, a retired economics professor at Queen’s University, said that kind of data is worth it even if the 2016 census ends up costing more than the 2011 version. (Source: CTV News)