Political firestorm rages over Canadian census

VANCOUVER,  (Reuters) – The political firestorm  surrounding the Canadian government’s plan to change next  year’s census grew more intense yesterday, fanned by the  abrupt resignation of the country’s chief statistician in  protest.

The seemingly unlikely national debate over how statistics  are collected, has pitted the minority Conservative government  against groups ranging from the businesses community, to social  services organizations and local governments.    Even the Bank of Canada was drawn into the debate yesterday, with Governor Mark Carney saying the central bank  will monitor what impact the census changes might have on data  that it uses from Statistics Canada.

Opposition lawmakers asked Statistics Canada’s former chief  statistician, Munir Sheikh, to testify next week before a  committee that will examine the government’s plan to make  answering the so-called long form census voluntary.

Sheikh abruptly quit on Wednesday over the government’s  decision to stop making the long form questionnaire mandatory.  In the past it has been sent to about 20 percent of the  population, seeking detailed demographic information about  families and households.

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