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Stats boss resignation honourable: opposition

OTTAWA - Canada's statistics boss did the honourable thing when he resigned over the long-form census issue, opposition politicians said Thursday.

OTTAWA - Canada's statistics boss did the honourable thing when he resigned over the long-form census issue, opposition politicians said Thursday.

Partisan politics, not sound policy, were behind the end of the mandatory survey and Munir Sheikh had no choice but to go, they said.

"I find it absolutely incredible that a Canadian government would choose ignorance over information," said Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

"And that they would force a distinguished public servant to resign as the only way that he can defend Statistics Canada — an outfit that has an international reputation."

Industry Minister Tony Clement had said the government abandoned the mandatory version under advice from Statistic Canada.

But Sheikh resigned late Wednesday, saying a voluntary survey cannot substitute for a mandatory census.

So now the Liberals want to know, whose advice did Clement receive?

They want the minister, Sheikh and groups hit by the change to appear before the industry committee.

They would also like to see the Statistics Act changed to entrench the mandatory long-form census.

The Conservative government said the change to the census was made after complaints that the long version was overly coercive and intrusive.

Quebec Tory MP Maxime Bernier said the party had received 1,000 emails against it.

Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale appeared before reporters Thursday with a stack of what he said were at least 600 emails in support of the form.

At least three dozen community, business and research groups that rely on the data have also come out in support of keeping the long form mandatory.

"To say that they don't know what they're talking about but to listen to a small fringe group in the Conservative party is highly irresponsible," said New Democrat MP Charlie Angus.

Angus said the NDP want Prime Minister Stephen Harper to step in and fix the situation.

"(Clement) does not have the credibility to fix the damage he has done," Angus said.

"This is a crisis that is not needed at this time."