Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Conservative Party's War on Informed Decision-Making

As the Canadian readers may know, the Conservative government has inexplicably introduced a measure to sabotage its own information, and thus measurability, and thus accountability.

The move to make the Census long form voluntary undermines the reliability of the results by overrepresenting certain kinds of Canadians and underrepresenting others. Who is being underrepresented, you ask? Anyone less likely to respond to a voluntary survey -- First Nations and Inuit people, recent immigrants, youth, and the working poor, to name a few.

Having information on groups such as these is essential for decision-making bodies to advocate for, and target, the needs of a specific community. And without information, they are left guessing at a community's situation and needs, rather than knowing. To compromise the quality of Census data is to extinguish our ability to implement useful programs or policies to assist underrepresented communities, who are oft the communities most in need of said programs.

If this decision stands, Canada's government, agencies, NGO's, businesses large and small will all be unable to make evidence-based decisions, as our formerly-prized evidence will have been irreparably sabotaged.

This is a crisis, and I urge fellow Canadians to write your MP about this. I have done so just now, and the letter reads as follows:

Dear ****,

As a Canadian taxpayer, a patriot, and a member of your riding, I implore you to speak out about the Tories' abominable move to sabotage Canada's Census. The detailed information on the long form is necessary for NGOs, academia, businesses, and even government itself in making informed decisions. To make the long form voluntary introduces response bias, which means that some people (white, middle class 30+ year olds) are far more likely to respond than others, and in turn we leave behind anyone NOT fitting that mold. This is unacceptable.

Worse still, all other social surveys at StatCan (and possibly most other surveys in Canada) adjust for nonresponse USING CENSUS DATA. To compromise Census data is to compromise ALL these other surveys as well.

Moreover, this move was made by Clement with NO consultation, and will actually end up costing taxpayers MORE money. Plus, Clement is either tragically misinformed or outright lying to the Canadian public by claiming that the results will be just as good. ( As a professional statistician, I can assure you that this is simply not true.

Too much is at stake to sit quietly; all quantifiable knowledge of Canada is about to be transmuted into useless, expensive and inaccurate supposition. We are in the information age -- therefore, to sabotage one's own information is an unfathomably stupid move. I beg you to act on this.

Thank you,
Karla ***

Useful information :

If you are short on time, or uncertain in how you want to word your letter, please feel free to borrow some or all of my letter above. Regardless, WRITE YOUR MP to let them know we're not silent, nor complacent.

How many of us complain that the only time we see our MPs in action is around election time? Well, write them and give them a chance to do something for you!