2006 census results delayed
Last Updated: Monday, February 12, 2007 | 11:00 PM ET
CBC News

Statistics Canada has postponed the release of its population census results by one month after facing a number of problems during the data collection.

The government, which conducts a census once every five years to paint a statistical picture of the country and its citizens, was supposed to release the results of its May 2006 census on Tuesday. But it now won’t publish the information until March 13.

One issue Statistics Canada encountered was finding enough enumerators to work when other industry jobs paid more.

Jerry Page, director of Statistics Canada’s Prairie regional office, said his unit, which was responsible for the census collection in Western Canada, had a hard time recruiting staff.

His census budget ballooned to $46 million from $30 million after the booming economy made it difficult to hire people to collect forms for $12 an hour.

“We were significantly over budget,” he said.

The government faced other challenges, too. Only 18 per cent of Canadians completed the census online with the remainder sending the answers in the mail. The postal service was so slow that many people were asked to fill out a second form when the first ones didn’t arrive.

E-mails obtained by CBC News under an Access to Information request showed the anger felt by Statistics Canada employees. “We are on the verge of creating a major public relations backlash,” one e-mail stated.

Other messages complained about unpaid staff. “This is getting out of hand,” while another one said, “Bottom line: the pay system is a dog.”

Sharon Newton, an enumerator in Chilliwack, B.C., said she didn’t get paid for five months and that her managers became so desperate to finish the census that they told her to just count heads and forget the names.

“At the end, they just said, ‘We really don’t care. As long as you can find out if there [are] three people that live in that house, put down Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck on it. We don’t care about a name.'”

Statistics Canada said it’s not about the names, but the numbers. And its numbers are accurate, it said, adding that it got 97 per cent of the census forms back from Canadians. The final count is expected to show there are about 32.5 million Canadians.