Director Gay gives notice of motion on census at RDEK

Originally published in the Torontoist on August 10th, 2010. To go to the Daily Townsman please click here

As the census controversy continues to rage on the news pages and air waves across Canada it looks like the controversy may be coming closer to home.

This appeared to be the case at the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Board meeting Friday when Area C Director Rob Gay gave notice to the Board that he will be proposing a motion on the census issue at the next Board meeting Sept. 3.

“I know a lot of organizations need that data when they apply for grants,’ said Gay as he issued notice of motion to the Board.

The census issue also carried a lot of weight in the Board members’ briefing package at the meeting with three separate letters addressing it.

The letters included a motion by North Vancouver City Council calling on the federal government to maintain the long-form questionnaire for the next census in 2011 and all future censuses. Copies of the North Vancouver City motion were also sent to all British Columbia MP’s, Prime Minister Stephan Harper and Industry Minister Tony Clement, the minister responsible for Statistics Canada and the census.

Another letter from Mike Buda, policy and research director for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities said scrapping the long-form census questionnaire would harm the quality and reliability of census data and make planning difficult for governments at all levels.

RDEK Chairman and Cranbrook Mayor Scott Manjak said the census issue hasn’t been discussed yet by Cranbrook City Council but Counsellor Diana J. Scott has also issued a notice of motion similar to Gay’s about the census and it’s due to be discussed by Council at its next meeting.

As for his own thoughts on the issue, Manjak said, “I’m watching the debate between the federal parties and within the communities, but I haven’t had enough time to really form an opinion . . . from a personal perspective, I look to the federal government to do their job. This is a decision they’ve made and they’re going to have to bear the consequences.”

Contacted after the meeting, Gay said his motion will be in favour of retaining the long form questionnaire. “I really feel for rural communities that (long-form census) information is so valuable. In my work here at Community Futures, we’re often trying to justify funding for one project or another and without that level of detail, well I don’t know what we’ll get on the short form.”

Gay said about the only argument he can see in favouring of getting rid of the long-form census questionnaire is privacy concerns. Despite this, government programs need high quality information to serve people properly “and this will be just one more forum we won’t have,” he said.

“I just feel especially for rural areas I’d like to support those communities trying to keep the long-form.”

Gay said he hasn’t brought the census issue up with Kootenay-Columbia Conservative MP Jim Abbott, but added it would be a “good idea.” Last week, Abbott downplayed the importance of the census issue, saying he wasn’t hearing about it from his constituents and likening it to an item on a “slow-news day.”