A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Letter to the Prime-minister.

Harpers stubborn insistence in destroying the integrity of the Canadian Census seems unlikely to change unless forced to, however this letter contains a proposed change in legislation which should be tabled in the HOC as soon as it resumes. The letter signed by Mel Cappe, David Dodge, Ivan Fellegi and Alex Himelfarb was sent earlier this week to the Prime Minister and leaders of the other parties represented in Parliament.

Dear Prime Minister,
Over the course of the summer issues have arisen that put the well earned credibility and
respected international standing of Statistics Canada at risk. Minister Clement is correct, of
course, in noting that Parliament has established the agency not as absolutely independent, but
reporting to a Minister with the Governor in Council determining the questions of the census.
However, the responsibility of the Chief Statistician for methodological and technical issues, implicit
to date, has been called into question. Thus public confidence in the agency and the reliability of
its statistics are likely to be reduced in the months and years ahead. The surest way to mitigate
that risk is through a reaffirmation of the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics (attached).
We call on the government to reconfirm Canada’s commitment to the UN Fundamental Principles
of Official Statistics and to amend the Statistics Act to make clear that the Chief Statistician is
responsible for issues of methodology and technique.
As the UN Principles indicate in the preamble:
“the essential trust of the public in official statistical
information depends to a large extent on respect for the fundamental values and principles which
are the basis of any society which seeks to understand itself and to respect the rights of its
Moreover, UN Fundamental Principle 1 notes: “Official statistics provide an
indispensable element in the information system of a democratic society, serving the Government,
the economy and the public with data about the economic, demographic, social and environmental
Principles two, three and four, in particular, call for the Chief Statistician to be able to maintain
public support for, as well as trust and confidence in the methodological basis for Statistics
Canada’s products. Those principles would suggest that the Chief Statistician be given the
statutory responsibility for methodological competence now implicit in the office. Moreover, it
follows that the Chief Statistician have the statutory authority to provide information to the public on
methodological matters and issues relating to the reliability of the data.

Amending the Act to incorporate these principles might include adding sections as follows:
4 (2.1) The Chief Statistician shall:
(i) within the financial parameters provided by the government determine
according to strictly professional considerations, including scientific principles and
professional ethics, the methods and procedures for the collection, processing,
storage and presentation of statistical data;
(ii) present information according to scientific standards on the sources, methods
and procedures of the statistics;
(iii) provide such public information that in his opinion are necessary to facilitate
appropriate statistical interpretation of data..
Needless to say, this will have significant implications for the candidate the Governor in Council
chooses to be the next and subsequent Chief Statisticians.
Prime Minister, our intent in proposing these amendments is to ensure continued public trust and
confidence in Statistics Canada and in the quality of statistical information gathered, produced and
published by the agency, preserving a world class institution with a stellar reputation.
We are copying the leaders of the other parliamentary parties as we see this issue as absolutely
non-partisan and simply and essentially in the interests of good governance.

Yours truly,
Mel Cappe
President, Institute for Research on Public Policy,
and former Clerk of the Privy Council
David Dodge
Senior Advisor, Bennett Jones LLP,
former Governor of the Bank of Canada,
and former Deputy Minister of Finance
Ivan Fellegi
Chief Statistician of Canada (Emeritus)
Alex Himelfarb
Glendon School of Public and International Affairs,
and former Clerk of the Privy Council
c.c.: Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
Jack Layton, Leader of the New Democratic Party
Gilles Duceppe, Leader of the Bloc Québécois

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