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Over The Edge

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth?

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth?

by Nicole Halseth, News Editor 

Statistics Canada recently released information on income data that reveals we are now more equal as a society than a few years ago.

Of course, this is wonderful news.

As the income gap between the richest and the poorest in our country grows smaller, as it is clearly doing in Statistics Canada data, life in our country can only get better. We will be more equal as a whole, with overall quality of life improving and social coherence ever increasing. This will benefit our country, and our society, as a whole.

A more equal society is what any country should strive for, is it not? The image of an ‘equal society’ is, undoubtedly, appealing: millions of happy, healthy people living fulfilling lives with equal opportunities, certain of the permanence of the roof over their heads and the food filling their shelves.

At least, that is what it would look like, were it to be the actual ‘truth.’

This Statistics Canada data reveals an incomplete picture resulting from insufficient data collection methods, directly consequential of Prime Minister Harper’s 2011 decision to replace the mandatory national census with a voluntary National Household Survey.

When this change took place, controversy arose due to concerns that this new survey could never hope to provide same quality of data collection on life in Canada that the mandatory one could. The institution of this survey was so controversial that it prompted the resignation of the then-head of Statistics Canada, Munir Sheikh. According to an article on the Globe and Mail website, Mr. Sheikh resigned because he had “always honoured” his “oath and responsibilities as a public servant as well as those specific to the Statistics Act,” and could not continue these duties under this flawed methodology.

It seems criticism over the validity of the National Household Survey has come very close to the mark. Fewer lower-income households filled out the voluntary long survey, which was dominated largely by highly educated, higher income demographics. The richest and poorest in our country were by-and-large not represented in these results. It makes sense, then, why the income gap between the rich and poor appears to be shrinking.

The holes in the data collected through this voluntary census pose a very real danger of misrepresentation. As it has been collected through Statistics Canada-an official government institution-the results can now be considered ‘official.’ They can be used to make decisions about policies and practices across the country that will affect every community, province, and individual. The results can also be used as proof in the international community of the ‘equality’ within Canada.

The new Statistics Canada data obfuscates the truth as effectively as a smokescreen. The most unfortunate outcome of this is that we may never again receive accurate data about the status of social equality in Canada, unless the mandatory census is restored. Though the image of Canadian society the mandatory census provided could never be lorded as the ‘truth,’ it was at least closer than these flimsy results.

This kind of dangerous data collection is supposedly never acceptable in any other realm of public or private research, so why should it be acceptable on a national level?