Without enough data from the long-form census, how will we develop innovative policy?
One of the definitions of high intelligence is an enhanced ability to perceive relationships – the perception of patterns or correlations that can lead to new insights and to innovation. It is through the observation of data that we derive the information from which knowledge is created.
A fundamental requirement in this process is data. Not just small amounts of particular data, but large data sets that can be observed in various combinations to see if they relate to each other.
It is through such processes that people like Ken Battle of the Caledon Institute can create social policy recommendations like the Child Tax Benefit, or that Al Etmanski and Vickie Cammack of the Plan Institute can develop the Registered Disabilities Savings Plan.
The biggest problem with eliminating the long-form census questionnaire is reducing the chances of future development of innovative policy. A reduction in available data will necessarily constrain the breadth of inquiry.
We do not know today what the critical questions will be tomorrow. We don’t know how Canada will evolve, what changes science will bring, or what human endeavour will create. Because we don’t know the questions we will want to answer, we need to give ourselves the greatest chance possible that we can answer them when the questions emerge.
We need to make sure the Ken Battles of the future have the raw material they need to work with.
Statistics Canada has operated on this principle for years and has served Canadians well. In recent years, governments have cut back on their ability to help shape the future in the interests of Canadians. The current federal government is proposing a big limitation, and Canada will pay the price down the road.
By limiting the data that our brightest minds can work with, the federal government is dumbing down our future.
(Originally published in The Mark.)