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Canada's Census Impacts Ownership Options

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 08 May 2001 00:00

Between May 1 and 12, 11.2 million Canadian households will receive a Census of Population questionnaire from Statistics Canada and 276,000 farm operations will receive a Census of Agriculture questionnaire in a massive national initiative to take a statistical snapshot of Canadian communities on May 15, 2001.

The results of this Census, like the previous 18 surveys, will affect property ownership and communities on many levels.

"The Census is the only data collected consistently at the small area level -- the neighbourhood level -- across the country," explained Statistics Canada Communications Officer André Langdon. "Census data is used to [locate] swimming pools, calculate [federal] transfer payments and help private industry decide where to put a store or coffee shop. It is used to administer laws that affect property owners. It is used to decide where mundane traffic lights should go -- since we ask how people get to work."

The Census of Population is a reliable process for estimating the population of provinces, territories and local municipal areas and, therefore, relative need. Census data is applied to planning, administration, policy development and evaluation activities at all levels of government. For example, municipalities use census data to plan services such as public transit, fire and police protection, subsidized housing, day-care, health care, community centres and much more.

The Census also provides unique evaluation opportunities. For instance, it is the only source of detailed income statistics for everyone in Canada, their families and households since income tax records don't cover everyone, nor do they provide detailed characteristics for income earners.

Government planners and private developers use Census housing data to develop communities and administer programs under the National Housing Act. Provincial and municipal governments use this information to measure crowding and develop appropriate housing programs. Information on the age of dwellings and their need for repairs allows municipalities to create practical neighbourhood improvement programs.

Census data can even affect the way you'll be treated when you apply for a mortgage. Information on the costs of running a home is used by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in their mortgage insurance program and by banks in their mortgage practices to fine-tune lending criteria and rate policies.

The Census of Agriculture provides an inventory of Canadian agriculture and generates statistics on topics such as crop areas, land management practices and farm income. Governments and the private sector use this data in developing and evaluating agricultural policies and programs and in production, marketing and investment decisions for the agricultural sector.

Langdon explained how the Census collects demographic data for each dwelling in Canada.

The country is already divided into 301 existing federal ridings which are each divided into 13 census commissioner districts, each of which has about 13 enumeration areas in it. These areas each contain 625 dwellings so they vary in size from urban to rural areas.

Eighty per cent of the dwellings receive a 7-question form to be completed by one person in the household. The remaining 20 per cent of households tackle the long form which has an additional 52 questions. Within an enumeration area, census officials start at pre-determined point and, using a random formula, give out the long questionnaires so that one in five households fill out the detailed form.

Canadians are required to completely and honestly fill out their assigned questionnaire, but Statistics Canada emphasizes that this is a self-enumeration process and individuals may answer with what they feel is an accurate response.

Failure to complete a questionnaire can result in a $500 fine, three months in jail or both. While every year, some people refuse to complete their questionnaire, the majority of Canadians cooperate. Census employees who breach the strict confidentiality standards face more severe punishment -- $5,000 in fines, five years in prison or both.

In 1666, our first Census was conducted by Intendant Jean Talon who personally enumerated many of the 3,215 inhabitants of the Colony of New France to collect data to plan the Colony's future. The 2001 Census to enumerate Canada's almost 31 million residents will provide about 45,000 jobs for Canadians across the country and include "e-Census" pilot tests in London, Ontario, and in Alberta.

After an estimated 5 billion keystrokes to input the Census data, the first statistics will be published in table form in the spring of 2002, starting with population and dwelling counts. In July 2002, data on age and sex distributions will be released and in October family statistics will be published. The rest of the data will be available in 2003.

"We expect an increase in the total number of the population, but we do not know what else to expect so we use the Census to see what is different," said Langdon.

For more information, contact the Census Help Line 1-800-591-2001 or visit the Statistics Canada website .

For more articles by P.J. Wade, please press here .

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