Jack Layton
Jack Layton

Opposition doesn’t allow census debate to get forgotten or pushed away by Conservative government and responsible Minister Tony Clement. The NDP leader Jack Layton sent a letter to the Speaker of the Commons, Rt. Hon. Peter Milliken, asking for debate on the “integrity of census” when HoC resumes late next month. Layton’s call to HoC comes in a time when Commons Industry Committee met to discuss the census issue.

Heavy criticism pressures Harper’s Conservative government since July when they announced census transformation from mandatory to voluntary.  On the other side of issue are political opposition and statistics led by former Canada Statistics Chief.

In his letter to Speaker Milliken, Layton, wrote that the ability to change the long form diminishes with each passing day, as printing deadlines loom and preparations by Statistics Canada proceeds.

“At stake, of course, is the continuity and reliability of the country’s historic data on which so many Canadians and their institutions depend”, wrote Layton.

The Court challenge by Federation des communautes francophones et acadiennes du Canada which maintains that scrapping the mandatory nature of the long-form census would violate the Charter of Rights and the Official Languages Act, forced Industry Minister Clement on changes in census form.

In effort to satisfy Federation and francophones Minister Clement decide to add three questions on language skills the obligatory short-form 2011 census. In mean time Federal Court set up hearing in this case for September 27-28, when both sides would have a chance for additional clarification of their stands.

Beside opposition calls to Conservative government to eliminate the threat of jail time and reinstate the mandatory nature of the long-form census, Minister said that addition of three language questions is far as he’s prepared to go on this issue.

Parliament would resume work on September 20, and in following days we would know if this issue will be enough serious to trig new federal elections which would cause major problems for current government. Also remaining question is how successful would be party cooperation in HoC with new Conservative leader John Baird?