Commentary – Do a census that really counts

Richard Froese

The numbers are in and the downward trend in population in many rural regions in northwestern Alberta do not look good.
Population figures from the census in 2021 were released in February by Statistics Canada.
Many municipalities in northwestern Alberta recorded a decline in population from the census in 2016.
Most are questioning the census done during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Falher Mayor Donna Buchinski.
At their regular council meeting March 7, she said mayors and reeves in the Northern Alberta Elected Leaders group are not happy with the process and the results.
It was certainly not easy for many people to make sure they were counted in. Canadians were urged to complete their census information online.
However, internet access in many rural areas is poor or non-existent.
Just another example of rural Canada being ignored by the government.
To complete the census, people needed to have an access code to get online and provide their household information.
I didn’t get an access code in the mail delivered by Canada Post. How many other people didn’t get an access code card in the their mailbox? So, how could you get the card with the magic number?
A full-page ad in the May 5 issue of the South Peace News and the Lakeside Leader directed people to the Statistics Canada website and a phone number to call.
“Your census, your community, your future,” the ad stated at the top.
It promoted the census was easy to complete.
That is, if you had an access code!
I phoned the toll-free number that connected me to a location in Ontario. The recorded message said the call volume was high and instructed me to phone again. When I phoned a few days later, I got the same message. I gave up and decided to not even try.
If Stats Canada can’t make it easier for all Canadians to be counted in, then what’s the point?
I’m a Canadian, not a computer.
Where were the friendly census takers walking around the neighbourhoods?
Virtually nowhere!
I heard one story that census takers were told be cautious when they went door-to-door. When someone opened the door, the census takers were told to run, for fear of catching COVID.
Not everyone is comfortable using a computer. Many people are reluctant and refuse to provide personal information on a computer, even as Statistics Canada advertised all personal information is confidential.
How many thousands of rural residents in the Peace region were not counted simply because of the inefficient work of Stats Canada?
By law, every household must complete a 2021 census of population questionnaire. For those of us who were ignored in the census, does that make us criminals?
I believe the census managers and supervisors are the ones who broke the law by not making sure all households were contacted and counted.
Statistics Canada stresses all census information is important to all levels governments to plan programs and services.
Population is a main statistic that provincial and federal governments use to dole out funding and grants to municipalities and various other authorities and agencies.
Every time a federal census is taken, pandemic or not, residents are missed in rural regions.
Some municipalities do their own census if they feel many residents are missed.
Municipalities need to play a greater role.
Let’s hope and trust the 2026 census will be more efficient and everyone is counted in.
Let’s do a census that really counts – everyone!

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