Thursday, July 29, 2010

A sneak peak at the new census questionnaire

While the controversy over the 2011 census in Canada continues, Statistics Canada, the agency responsible for holding Census in Canada, has released the draft questionnaire for review.

There are a few changes in the questionnaire that may make transport planners happy.

Here is a brief list of the changes that I could spot:

  1. Question 33 about unpaid work or “care economy” has been removed. It appears that the National Statistics Council had already decided upon this question, but made it look like a new suggestion in their press release two days ago. This needs more probing. The exact timing of NSC’s recommendation to exclude question about unpaid work should be established.
  2. Questions about childcare expenses have been included.
  3. Also included are questions about child support paid to former spouses.
    1. This development is interesting. The question about unpaid work, which predominantly dealt with women’s non-monetised contribution to economy and society, has been removed and a question about child support, that affects men predominantly, has been included.
  4. Transport planners should be delighted to note that in addition to the questions about the mode of travel to work, and work location, the questionnaire in 2011 will collect info on the following:
    1. Average travel time for home to work trip
    2. Departure time for home to work trip
    3. Car pooling, i.e., number of people travelling together to work in the same vehicle
    4. The mode of travel question has also been enhanced by asking details about public transit, i.e., differentiating between buses, subways, street cars, and regional rail.
      1. The question is phrased poorly as it will most likely report lower mode split for buses for multi-modal trips.
  5. And yes, the survey will be voluntary, not mandatory!


Lastly, I think it is not too early to start thinking about putting up a legal challenge to the government’s decision to make the survey voluntary. It is indeed  not going to be easy because the courts would not like to interfere/override the authority of the minister (executive) as enshrined in the constitution. However, there are ways to make this happen and universities with faculties of law and businesses with legal departments may want to start looking for those whose welfare will be adversely impacted by this decision and help such aggrieved parties litigate.

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