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Why the mandatory census counts

The latest donnybrook in the political part of town over the census may not be over the sexiest of issues, but it’s instructive.

The latest donnybrook in the political part of town over the census may not be over the sexiest of issues, but it’s instructive.


The Harper government’s decision to replace a mandatory detailed census form with a voluntary one has provoked condemnation from other levels of government, business, charities and others, while also provoking the resignation of Statistics Canada chief Munir Sheikh. An optional survey, they agree, just won’t provide reliable numbers.


Governments need a good picture of demographic reality in Canada to enact good policy, and citizens need the same numbers to hold their government accountable for that policy. It’s also vital for the purposes of rating Canada against other countries, knowing that we’re not comparing apples to statistically rotten oranges.


This is true at the local level, too. It is through comparison of hard numbers in a study commissioned by real estate firm Colliers International that we learned last week that Ottawa’s parking rates, while hardly a source of civic joy, are comparatively cheap.


Parking here costs an average of $160 per month, putting us in eighth place nationally. Parking prices in Calgary were deemed the most larcenous in Canada, at $453 per month, far ahead of second-place Toronto at $336.


Complaints anywhere in Canada would be met with incredulous laugher in London, England, world capital of parking rip-offs, where, according to the study, a place to stop one’s car averages $933 per month.


From the comparatively trivial to the life-and-death, a new University of Regina study of health care ranks our region best in Ontario and fourth best in the country.


Interestingly, the detailed data shows we achieved this enviable standing mostly by being neither the best nor the worst at anything, taking third place nationally for flu vaccinations for example, but ranking 20th for number of patients with a family doctor. Overall, it seems we manage comparative excellence through a sort of conscientious mediocrity.


And statistics don’t tell us everything. These generally positive metrics are no consolation for the shameful treatment of two sexual assault victims in two months who were turned away from the Ottawa Hospital because there were no qualified nurses available to deal with them, despite a mandate to be ready for such cases 24/7. One went to Renfrew for treatment and one just went home.


The numbers on these incidents are simple enough to read: Once was too often and twice is inexcusable.

 
 
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