Statistics Canada is privately floating the idea of new powers to make all of its surveys mandatory and to force companies to hand over data such as credit card transactions and Internet search records.
The agency is also looking at dropping federal laws that require jail terms for anyone who refuses to fill out a mandatory survey, such as the long-form census, under proposals it is putting to outside experts.
The recommendations — contained in a discussion paper Statistics Canada provided to The Canadian Press — would enshrine in law the agency’s independence in deciding what data it needs and how to collect it.
New legislation to update the Statistics Act is expected to be tabled this fall, and the Liberals have promised to give Statistics Canada more freedom from government influence.
An agency spokesman says the current law permits the federal government to make unilateral changes — eliminating longitudinal studies about the Canadian population, for instance, or making the long-form census a voluntary survey.
If the federal Liberals agree to the agency’s proposals, it would build a political wall between the federal government and Statistics Canada and give the chief statistician complete control over the agency’s work.
(The Canadian Press)