Friday, September 17, 2010

Carney on the census

Mark Carney talks to The Globe on the axing of the long-form census and how it will affect the Bank of Canada's work:
On changes to the long-form census:

The proposed adjustments in the long-form census could have implications for some of the data that we use. We’re going to work through with StatsCan to understand them, so that Canadians can be assured that we’re using reliable data to fulfill our important responsibilities.

Which census data could be affected?

A series of surveys on the household side, the potential implications for the Labour Force Survey, it’s not absolutely clear. [There] could be issues around the productivity data, some of the national accounts, then you get into more granular data … some of our longer-term research that could be affected by that. The honest answer is, we don’t fully know … We can conceptually sketch it out, but we’ll really start to know once the information is in. But it’s, you know, non-trivial.

We need to work through and understand the implications of the change, and we’ll do that in a very deliberate way. That there’s a non-trivial range of data that could be affected. It’s an analytic question, it’s data, it’s a substantive question in the end. I don’t want to speculate on the net impact ex ante. We’ll take the change, work with [Statistics Canada], figure out where we need to supplement the data, and do our best to do that within the constraints of our budget.(emphasis added)
So throw the Governor of the Bank of Canada into the mix of census critics. Hinted at earlier in the summer but now fully confirmed. Stating diplomatic and careful yet weighty criticism of the government's census changes. Not that any of the other critiques to date are less weighty, but this is significant. Stephen Harper, by all accounts acting alone, is destabilizing the information base of our central bank. And will, as Carney suggests, put the Bank of Canada to great expense to compensate for the informational changes. That Harper is prepared to proceed, despite such knowledge, with this decision that could actually harm the ability of the Bank to do its work is almost farcical.

This accompanying Globe report goes on to remind us of the 350 groups that have opposed the census change, the overwhelming majority of economists, comments by leading academics about the harm to business that will result...all of which is worth noting once again. But it might be an idea for those groups to consider how they can exert greater political pressure, by suggesting concrete electoral consequences. That's the only thing Harper understands. As Parliament resumes, maybe there's another last opportunity to get something going.