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Canada’s long-form census is back and cooler than ever

The long-form census is back, and it might just be more popular than ever. Across the country, Canadians are practically bursting with joy as they open their mailboxes to find their 2016 census forms. Many are turning to social media to share the moment with the masses just as they do some of the biggest moments of their lives — weddings, birthdays and the like.
“Got this in the mail and may have squealed. Never thought government paperwork could get me this excited,” tweeted Jean-François Claude. In fact, so many Canadians rushed to fill out the census Monday that the Statistics Canada website crashed. The jubilant response to the census didn’t surprise Matti Siemiatycki, a professor of planning and geography at the University of Toronto. “I think the census is a symbol. It symbolizes for many people that Canada is back, that evidence and sound decision making is what this country is based on,” he said. The long-form census was cancelled by the Conservatives in 2010, and its return — brought about by the Trudeau Liberals’ rise to power — is particularly good for people those living in major cities, said Siemiatycki. “The census is a critical resource for city planners and decision makers,” he said. “It provides the most extensive picture of who lives in our cities, where they live, what their demographics are, and in many cases what their needs and wants are.” That kind of information will be vital for cities as they decide where to invest new federal funding for things like infrastructure, housing and transit, said Siemiatycki. Here in Toronto, municipal demographer Harvey Low said census data is key to determining where and how to fund the city’s many social programs – from parks and recreation to settlement services and poverty reduction. “We have limited resources, so how do we spend hard-earned taxpayer money wisely? We do it through evidence-based decision making,” he said. “And if our data is better, then our services and programming are better, and that means a better quality of life for everyone.” If building a better city isn’t enough motivation to fill out the census, consider this: Failing to follow through can lead to a fine of up to $500 and/or up to three months in jail.

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