Part B: Census Program objectives and content needs

5. What is a census?

5.1 For the international statistical community

Merriam-Webster (2011) defines a census as "a usually complete enumeration of a population; specifically: a periodic governmental enumeration of population."

On the statistical scene, there are internationally recognized definitions, principles and recommendations for censuses of population and housing. These are issued by the United Nations (UN), through its United Nations Statistics Division, and its five regional commissions, including the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) of which Canada is a Member State.

The UNECE (2006, p. 6 and 7) defines a population census as "… the operation that produces at regular intervals the official counting (or benchmark) of the population in the territory of a country and in its smallest geographical sub-territories together with information on a selected number of demographic and social characteristics of the total population." A similar UNECE definition applies for a housing census, where the characteristics apply to the stock of housing units and its occupants. The population and housing censuses, when conducted at the same time, are also able to provide information on the living conditions of the population. For that reason, a census normally refers to a census of population and housing.

According to the UNECE (2006, p. 7 and 8), the essential features that distinguish a population and housing census from other data collection activities are the following:

Individual enumeration
Information on each enumerated person (and housing unit) is obtained so that their characteristics can be separately recorded. This allows the data on the various characteristics to be cross-classified.
Simultaneity
Information obtained on individuals and housing should refer to a well-defined reference period. Ideally, data on all individuals and living quarters should be collected simultaneously. However, if data are not collected simultaneously, adjustment should be made so that the final data have the same reference period.
Universality
The population and housing census should provide data on the total number of persons, households and housing within a precisely defined territory of a country. The counting (or benchmarking) of the population should include every person residing in the defined territory of a country. The data provided by the census of the counting of the basic units should be validated with an independent coverage check.
Small area data
The census should produce data on the number and characteristics of the population and housing related to the smallest geographic areas of the country, and to small population groups, consistent with protecting individual confidentiality.
Defined periodicity
The census should be taken at regular intervals so that comparable information is made available in a fixed sequence.

The definition of a population and housing census is very much geared towards the output produced by the census. The production of outputs depends on the frequency of the census, its content, its methodology and the technology it uses. The first three of these elements are examined more closely below, from the perspective of the existing UN and UNECE international principles and recommendations. Taken together, they illustrate that, for the international statistical community, the census is more than just a simple head count of the population.

Frequency of the census

The United Nations recommends that all countries or areas of the world produce detailed population and housing statistics for small area domains at least once every 10 years, more particularly around the year 2010 for the period 2005 to 2014 (United Nations 2008, p. 1). The United Nations acknowledges that some countries may find it necessary to carry out a national census more frequently than every 10 years because of the rapidity of major changes in their population and/or its housing circumstances (United Nations 2008, p. 8).

Content of the census

The UNECE recommendations for the 2010 round of censuses of population and housing (UNECE 2006) provide detailed guidance on the topics that should be included in the census. Definitions and standards are provided on each topic, and the relevance and comparative advantage of each topic relative to other census topics and other data collection activities outside the census are described.

The list of topics is divided between core and non-core topics (UNECE 2006, p. 155 to 158). Core topics are those considered to be of basic interest and value to UNECE Member States and it is recommended that countries cover these topics in their population and housing census of the 2010 round. Non-core topics are those topics that countries could select based on their national priorities.

Core topics include:

  • place of usual residence
  • sex, age, legal marital status
  • relationships between household members
  • country/place of birth, country of citizenship, ever resided abroad and year of arrival in the country
  • previous place of usual residence and date of arrival in the current place
  • educational attainment
  • current activity status, occupation, industry, status in employment, place of work
  • tenure status of households
  • housing arrangements, type and location of living quarters, occupancy status of conventional dwellings, type of ownership, number of occupants, useful floor space and/or number of rooms of housing units, water supply system, toilet and bathing facilities, type of heating, dwellings by type of building, dwellings by period of construction.

Census methods

The UNECE recognizes that there are different census-taking approaches, including the traditional census, the census using administrative registers and the census using continuous measurement. The UNECE does not recommend any specific approach; its aim is simply "… to present the different approaches with their advantages and disadvantages and guide countries to make the best choice that fits their national circumstances" (UNECE 2006, p. 3).

5.2 Country-specific legislation related to the definition of a census

This section examines how legislation in individual countries relates to the definition of a census, as understood by the international statistical community and summarized in Section 5.1, first in Canada (5.2.1) and second in other countries (5.2.2). Frequency, content and methods are again looked at more closely.

5.2.1 In Canada

Frequency of the censusFootnote 1

The first census in New France was conducted in 1666 under Jean Talon. A long string of censuses followed, often regional and at irregular intervals. On August 30, 1851, Royal Assent was given to a new law requiring regular censuses, starting in 1851 and continuing in 1861 and every tenth year thereafter. Thus, 1851 would appear to mark the beginning of Canada's decennial censuses.Footnote 2

The constitutional requirement for a Census of Population in Canada dates back to the proclamation of The British North America Act, 1867 (now known as the Constitution Act, 1867) when a decennial census was required in 1871 and every 10 years thereafter under section 8 of the Act.

The constitutional requirement for a quinquennial census came at a later stage. After 1867, legislation was passed to further regulate how certain amounts would be transferred from the federal government to the provinces based on population counts ascertained by the census. In the case of the Prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba), with their expected fast expansion and growing population, the population counts were to be ascertained by a quinquennial census until the populations of these provinces reached a certain limit. Quinquennial censuses thus started being conducted in the Prairies in 1906. Such a population requirement for a quinquennial census still exists today as the limits set out were 1.5 million and 1.2 million persons, respectively in the Constitution Act, 1907 and the Constitution Act, 1930. Based on the 2011 Census, the population counts were 1,208,268 for Manitoba, 1,033,381 for Saskatchewan and 3,645,257 for Alberta, placing Manitoba and Saskatchewan below the specified thresholds.

The requirement for a nationwide quinquennial census has been part of the Statistics Act since 1970. Section 19 of the Act stipulates that "a census of population of Canada shall be taken by Statistics Canada in the month of June in the year 1971, and every fifth year thereafter in a month to be fixed by the Governor in Council." However, the first nationwide quinquennial census was in 1956. Pryor (1992), quoting an administrative report prepared for the 1956 Census, said:

The decision to replace the quinquennial censuses of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta by a nationwide census of modified design in 1956, was influenced by the extremely large increases and shifts in population shown by inter-censal estimates since 1951, and by the rapid changes occurring in the agricultural economy of the country.…

Such rapid developments in population and agriculture indicated the need for bench marks at the five-year period in order to provide a more accurate basis for annual estimates. Further, one of the chief values of the 1956 Census, both for population and agriculture, is that it provided information for small areas, (counties, municipalities, cities, towns, etc.) which cannot be obtained from inter-censal estimates.

Content of the census

The current Statistics Act does not outline which questions are to be asked in the census and what the content should be. Section 19 of the Act refers to the census as a census of population and as one that is taken in a manner that ensures that counts of the population are provided for each federal electoral district of Canada. Section 21 of the Act stipulates that the questions to be asked in the census are approved by the Governor in Council, and requires that an order in council be made and that it be published in the Canada Gazette.

Although the Statistics Act also does not define the term 'population,' the term is used in section 22 of the Act, which provides a list of matters in relation to which the Chief Statistician shall compile statistics. The term 'population' is listed as the first topic, followed by others such as health and welfare, immigration and emigration, education, labour and employment, prices and the cost of living. Many of these topics have been included in recent censuses prior to 2011.Footnote 3

Earlier versions of the Statistics Act provided more details on the content of the census. For example, section 19 of the Statistics Act of 1918 and 1948 stated that the Census of Population was to be taken to ascertain topics such as age, sex, conjugal condition, relation to head of household, nationality, race, education, wage earnings, religion, occupation, number of houses for habitation and number of rooms inhabited, as well as such other matters as may be prescribed by the Governor in Council. In 1953, the Statistics Act was amended and section 19 became less precise but still stated that the census was to ascertain the following:

  1. the population
  2. the number of houses for habitation
  3. the number of farms
  4. such characteristics of the subjects described in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) as may be prescribed by the Governor in Council
  5. such other matters as may be prescribed by the Governor in Council.

It appears such changes made to the Statistics Act around the specificity of the census content were made to gain flexibility to respond to needs of a changing society, while ensuring that there remained a formal process to approve content. This seems to be confirmed by a House of Commons transcript dated March 30, 1953. The Parliamentary Assistant for the Minister of Trade and Commerce, Mr. G. J. McIlraith, stated that:

Under the present section [meaning the 1948 Act] the provisions are absolutely rigid, so that it is necessary for the bureau to include in the census questionnaires information it may already have. The modified language in section 4 [refers to the 1953 proposed amendments] permits more flexibility, and should result in the cutting down of questions on census forms.

In practice, the content included in the Census Program in Canada has continued to reflect the view that the Census of Population is more than a simple count of the population and that it is meant to also describe that population. Similarly, the census has not been simply one of individuals, but also one of housing.

It could be argued that the wording used in the present Statistics Act limits the Census of Population questions to those that relate only to the topic of population. If the need for other questions is demonstrated, the census questionnaire (or Census Program) could include questions other than those related to population, and which could be mandatory or voluntary. Such questions could be collected with the census, as long as the questions on those topics are authorized by the Minister pursuant to sections 7 and 8, an authority which is normally delegated to the Chief Statistician. This is not precluded in the Statistics Act.

Census methods

The methodology of the census per se is not specified in the Statistics Act. This being said, the Statistics Act stipulates in section 9(2) that the Minister may authorize the use of sampling methods for the collection of statistics. Section 13 gives Statistics Canada access to administrative data for statistical purposes. It appears that the Statistics Act would not prohibit the census from using either sampling methods or administrative data.

5.2.2 In other countries

Frequency of the census

The frequency of the census is generally specified in the legislation of other countries as well. For example, both Australia and New Zealand have legislation requiring the conduct of censuses every five years like in Canada. In New Zealand, section 23(1) of the Statistics Act, 1975 stipulates that a census of population and dwellings shall be taken in 2013 and in every fifth year thereafter.Footnote 4 In Australia, section 8 of the Census and Statistics Act, 1905 has required a census to be carried every five years since 1981, although in practice, censuses have been conducted every five years since 1961.

In the United Kingdom, legislation offers some flexibility around the frequency. Section 1 of their Census Act, 1920 prescribes a census no more frequently than every five years. In practice, the United Kingdom has carried out a census every 10 years since 1801 with a few exceptions (e.g., there was no census in 1941 due to World War II).

In the United States, the prescription of a decennial census is embedded in the Constitution of the United States. Section 2 of Article 1 stipulates that an 'actual enumeration' is to be conducted every 10 years. Title 13 of the United States Code governs how the census is conducted and how its data are handled. Section 141(d) allows for a mid-decade census, but "… taking into account the extent to which information to be obtained from such census will serve in lieu of information collected annually or less frequently in surveys or other statistical studies." In 1985, the U.S. Congress authorized a mid-decade census, but funds were not appropriated and it was never conducted (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009, p. 2-1).

France is a country where there was no legal requirement to conduct a census at specific points in time. This resulted in censuses being conducted at irregular intervals ranging between six to nine years, from 1946 to 1999. The French census planned for 1997 was postponed to 1999 because the funding could not be secured (Godinot 2005, Chapter A.3). The situation changed only 10 years ago, with the passing of the Loi relative à la démocratie de proximité on February 27, 2002.

Content of the census

In Australia, the evolution of the legislative prescription of census content has been similar to that of Canada. The Census and Statistics Act, 1905 originally stipulated a number of topics that were to be asked in each census, including name, age, sex, relationship, marital status, duration of marriage, birthplace, nationality, period of residence, religion, occupation, material of outer walls and number of rooms in the dwellings. It also allowed for other topics to be included as prescribed. In contrast, the current section 8(3) of the Act states only that "the Statistician shall collect statistical information in relation to the matters prescribed," with such a prescription arising from Census Regulations (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011).

Other countries have more detailed legislative provisions with regard to the content of the census. In New Zealand, the census is explicitly referred to as a census of population and dwellings in section 23(1) of the Statistics Act, 1975, and section 24 mentions 'the particulars to be collected' (name, sex, address and ethnic origin of every occupant of the dwelling, as well as particulars of the dwelling as to location, number of rooms, ownership, and number of occupants) and the particulars that the Statistician may obtain if he considers it in the public interest to do so (topics are numerous, including labour market activity, place of work, work activity, income and housing).

In the European Union (EU), EU legislation (European Union 2011) clearly refers to population and housing censuses. The EU legislation recognizes that the EU Member States have developed different methods to produce census data that each country considers to be best suited to its particular administrative practices and traditions. The Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on population and housing censuses (Regulation (EC) No 763/2008) is concerned with output harmonisation rather than input harmonisation. Regulation (EC) No 1201/2009 contains definitions and technical specifications for the census topics (variables) and their breakdowns that are required to achieve Europe-wide comparability. The census topics include geographic, demographic, economic and educational characteristics of persons, international and internal migration characteristics, as well as household, family and housing characteristics. Regulation (EU) No 519/2010 requires the data output that Member States transmit to comply with a defined program of statistical data (tabulation) and with set rules concerning the replacement of statistical data. The statistical data must be completed by metadata to facilitate their interpretation. Regulation (EU) No 1151/2010 requires transmission of quality reports containing a systematic description of the data sources used for census purposes and of the quality of the census results produced from these sources.

Like the EU legislation, specificity around content is also part of some Member States' legislation. For example, section 156 (II) of the French Loi relative à la démocratie de proximité states that the purpose of the census is to enumerate the population of France and to describe its demographic and social characteristics, and to count the dwellings and describe their characteristics. In the United Kingdom, Schedule 1 of the Census Act, 1920 specifies the 'matters in respect of which particulars may be required,' which include, among others, names, sex, age, occupation, nationality, birthplace, race, language, place of abode and character of the dwelling.

In the United States, section 141(g) of Title 13 of the U.S. Code says that "a census of population means a census of population, housing, and matters relating to population and housing." Section 141(f) states how the Secretary of Commerce shall submit census subjects and questions "… to the committees of Congress having legislative jurisdiction over the census."

Census methods

At a first glance, it may appear that little guidance on the methods to be used is provided in the legislation of the countries that conduct a traditional census (see Section 7.1 for a definition). However, the choice of words and the interpretation are often key in determining how legislative intent translates into census methodology. For example, Article 1, section 2 of the Constitution of the United States calls for an 'actual enumeration' (i.e., an actual headcount) of the people every 10 years, to be used for apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives among the States. Section 195 of Title 13 of the United States Code further adds that sampling is authorized but not "… for the determination of population for purposes of apportionment of Representatives in Congress among the several States…."

In New Zealand, it appears that the census has to be based on a full enumeration. Section 24 of the Statistics Act, 1975 mentions that the particulars to be collected (discussed earlier in this section) at every census of population and dwellings "… shall be obtained from every occupier or person in charge of a dwelling," thus requiring a full enumeration. This seems to be despite section 8 of the Act that allows the use of sampling for the collection of official statistics in place of a full enumeration when it is considered appropriate and section 22 of the Act that pertains specifically to the census of population and dwellings and confirms that other parts of the Act apply to that census.

In countries that have adopted a non-traditional census approach, the legislation is generally more prescriptive concerning census methods. In France, section 156 (VI) of the Loi relative à la démocratie de proximité states that communes under 10,000 people are subject to a census (full enumeration) each five years on a rotating basis and other communes are subject to a sample survey. Section 156 (VII) adds that some administrative data are used in combination with the censuses and sample surveys to produce the population counts.

Countries that conduct a census employing existing administrative registers (see Section 7.2 for a definition) have very detailed legislation. Chapter 5 of the Statistics Netherlands Act, for example, includes numerous sections relating to the acquisition, use and provision of administrative data. The legislation provides the authority to access and obtain administrative data and provide safeguards to protect that information once obtained. Of additional interest is section 34 of the Act that allows the use of tax and social insurance numbers for that purpose and sections 43 and 52 that make provisions for fines if the data are not provided when requested.

Norway is another such example. Of particular interest is section 3-2 of the Act relating to official statistics and Statistics Norway that states that "when state bodies or nationwide municipal organizations are to establish or modify a major administrative data-processing system, notice thereof shall be sent in advance to Statistics Norway. Statistics Norway may seek additional information. Statistics Norway may also put forward proposals concerning the manner in which data-processing systems should be designed in order to safeguard consideration for statistics."

Austria conducted its first census employing existing administrative registers in 2011. The legal basis was the Register-based Census Act of March 16, 2006, which in particular defines all sources of administrative data that have to be made available to Statistics Austria for that purpose (Lenk 2008). The Register-based Census Act also stipulates that the owners of the various registers deliver their data in encrypted form to Statistics Austria, with the person-related data like names and social security number replaced by an artificial identifier, bPK-AS (Hackl 2009).

6. Census Program data uses and users in Canada

Statistics Canada's mandate is to ensure that Canadians have access to a trusted source of statistics that meet their highest priority information needs. As mentioned in Statistics Canada's Report on Plans and Priorities 2011-12 (Statistics Canada 2011a), the efficient production of relevant, accessible, high-quality statistics helps to ensure that our economy functions efficiently and that our society is governed effectively.

The Census Program contributes to Statistics Canada's mandate in two ways. First, it produces high priority information for many data users. To have a better understanding of what these high priority information needs for the 2016 Census Program are likely to be, discussions with data usersFootnote 5 were undertaken in the summer and fall of 2011 as part of the 2016 Census Strategy Project. The process is briefly described in 6.1. Examples of key data uses are presented in 6.2.

Second, the Census Program is the foundation of many social statistics programs, and some economic statistics programs, that in turn contribute to Statistics Canada's mandate. This is illustrated by a few examples in Section 6.3 that are based on internal discussions conducted at Statistics Canada in the fall of 2011.

6.1 Discussions in the summer and fall of 2011

Representatives from all levels of government were contacted in the summer of 2011 to gain a better understanding of the role of Census ProgramFootnote 6 data in their operations and the impact if these data were not available. Others in the private and non-profit sectors were also contacted in the summer and fall of 2011, including national Aboriginal organizations, organizations representing official language minority communities, selected secondary data distributors, associations representing the business and non-profit sectors, direct end-users in these sectors, as well as various associations representing sectors of the population which are the focus of government policy.

A web-based tool was used to structure the feedback. Because of time constraints for obtaining feedback and because this discussion did not extend to all possible data users and was limited to information needs at the topic level (see Section 4.1) rather than at the question level, no prioritized list of topics is being shown here. Nonetheless, over 800 uses of Census Program data were reported to Statistics Canada by over 60 responding organizations. The examples of uses presented in 6.2 are only a fraction of the data uses reported. More can be found in Statistics Canada (2012).

6.2 Examples of Census Program data uses

Population counts are required explicitly by numerous pieces of federal legislation and are also associated with the population estimates produced at Statistics Canada by the Population Estimates Program (PEP) [also discussed in Section 6.3] and used, as part of the funding formula, to determine the distribution of major federal transfersFootnote 7 to the provinces and territories under the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act. It is critical that these population estimates, and the census population counts as input, be highly accurate as these transfers accounted for $57.7 billion in 2011/2012 and were estimated to account for about 19% of provincial and territorial revenues in that year (Department of Finance Canada 2012). The PEP is also a source of information for the allocation of House of Commons seats to provinces in the recent Fair Representation Act that received Royal Assent on December 16, 2011. Thus, questions that are required to produce high quality population counts from the census are the highest priority and as such, have always been asked of 100% of the population on a mandatory basis (Royce 2011, p. 48).

The official languages content is an example where there is an explicit legislative requirement for the use of census data for specific language variables where it is stated in subparagraph 3(a)(ii) that the method of estimating the "English or French linguistic minority population" is on the basis of "after the results of the 1991 census of population are published, the most recent decennial census of population for which results are published…" (Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public) Regulations, SOR/92-48). High quality data are needed, but in the context of a traditional census, sufficient quality has been obtained in the past by asking the question of a sample.

This process confirmed that for all topics in the 2011 Census Program, there continues to be requirements for information on small populations where there are no alternative sources, and for which the information serves a purpose with high importance. For example, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, the Public Service Commission and Treasury Board Secretariat reported that Employment Equity Regulations require data on Aboriginal peoples and visible minorities which are not available in administrative databases but are provided by the Census Program.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation indicated that they require housing information at a small area level of geography and for small populations, such as persons with disabilities and Aboriginal peoples living off reserve, to measure core housing need. The Regional Information Systems Working Group, which is comprised of professional planners concerned with data, systems and research issues primarily directed to land use planning, forecasting and municipal decision-making functions in the province of Ontario, stated that Census Program housing data are essential for the preparation of municipal official plans and for programs related to housing and homelessness.

The Government of Ontario stated that they use Census Program labour market information to support economic development initiatives such as the Canada-Ontario Labour Market Agreement Annual Plan, Employment Ontario Policy Framework and Ontario Job Futures occupational profiles. Data are used to identify client groups and communities in need of labour market programming, including sub-groups such as recent immigrants, youth and older workers, as well as to profile occupations in local labour markets. The Government of Alberta draws on Census Program data for many uses, including the determination of per capita funding under the Municipal Government Act and for input to the Labour Market Information reports which support understanding of the needs of Albertans. The Government of Saskatchewan uses Census Program data to identify the size of specific populations in support of uses such as The Multiculturalism Act, advance gender equality/status of women, and disability policy.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) uses Census Program data as a denominator to calculate rates of disease among different populations and to describe subpopulations and/or socioeconomic factors and conditions that influence vulnerability to various diseases (e.g., sexually transmitted infections, tuberculosis and viral hepatitis). Census Program data are also used by PHAC to design interventions for these populations, to create documents for public health professionals, and to determine sampling frameworks for research initiatives, work which is critical to the prevention and control of these diseases.

Census Program data on place of work/travel to work are used by Transport Canada for transportation policy development and planning, and by the Transportation Association of Canada to determine travel demand forecasts for urban areas and to examine and forecast the spatial distribution of employment. The Government of Ontario reported that the NHS is the only source of consistent data across the province that provides place of work and place of residence linkages, commuting patterns and distances, and occupation details, which are critical for performance reports, program monitoring and evaluation, modelling, and geography distributions.

Non-government data users also identified important uses of Census Program data. For example, Census Program data are used by companies for retail site location, market segmentation and human resource planning. Pitney Bowes reported that over the last five years, their customers have relied upon their Statistics Canada-based datasets to direct their investment in billions of dollars in newly built retail outlets. Environics Analytics has developed market segmentation products to help businesses, governments and not-for-profit organizations improve their ability to segment, target and locate customers. The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association noted the importance of Census Program information on the workforce, especially detailed information on occupation and field of study, in developing human resource plans. The association also reported that the Census Program is the only source of reliable information on these topics.

The United Way of Greater Toronto reported using Census Program data for priority setting and strategic planning. Imagine Canada, a national charitable organization whose cause is to support and strengthen Canada's charities and non-profit organizations so that they can in turn support the Canadians and communities they serve, does policy development, research and marketing using Census Program information. National Aboriginal organizations, as well as the First Nations Statistical Institute, use Census Program data for resource allocation, program planning and policy development. The Quebec Community Groups Network uses Census Program information to support the work of the community sector serving the linguistic minority community, including helping other partners to understand who they are, their differences and what can be done to enhance the vitality of Canada's English linguistic minority communities. The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne (FCFA)Footnote 8 has said, among other things, that the use of census data is for the enforcement of the regulation in Part IV of the Official Languages Act. NHS data will be used to measure the vitality of communities and identify the positive results of programs and services in communities, as well as weaknesses regarding the development of communities, in order to influence the development and implementation of public policies to promote this community development and growth.

Researchers are also major users of Census Program data. For example, between July 2007 and December 2010, 203 research projects using Census Program data were undertaken by university, federal or provincial government researchers at Statistics Canada's research data centres (RDCs)Footnote 9.

These are only a few illustrations of the uses of Census Program data that came out of the feedback in the summer and fall of 2011, and from analysis of the research undertaken in the RDCs. They demonstrate the extent to which Census Program data are integrated into government planning and programs, as well as the use of this information in non-government activities.

6.3 The Census Program as the foundation of the broader social statistics system

The United Nations (2008, p. 2) identifies the population and housing census as one of the pillars for data collection on the number and characteristics of the population of a country. The population and housing census is part of an integrated national statistical system, which may include other censuses (for example, agriculture), surveys, registers and administrative files. It provides, at regular intervals, the benchmark for population counts at national and local levels. For many countries, the census also provides a solid framework to develop sampling frames.

The Canadian Census Program plays this important role in Canada and its usage even extends to the economic statistics program. First and foremost, it is at the heart of the Population Estimates Program (PEP) that relies on the most recent Census Program data collected by Statistics Canada and administrative data provided by other federal, provincial and territorial government departments to produce estimates of the Canadian population between censuses. The PEP responds to statutory requirements for the calculation of revenue transfers and cost-sharing programs between the various levels of government (Statistics Canada 2011b). It produces information used in the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act. This information is used as part of the calculation of major transfers from the federal government to the provinces and territories. The PEP is also used as a source of benchmarks for many other social and household surveys at Statistics Canada and as such, it contributes to the integrity of the broader social statistics system. Moreover, such surveys, like the Labour Force Survey or the Survey of Household Spending, serve also the economic statistics program in estimating respectively quarterly labour income or annual household expenditures on goods and services.

Second, the Census Program data are used in a variety of ways for social and household surveys at Statistics Canada. They can be used to identify households or individuals with specific characteristics to build a sampling frame for other surveys, in particular for surveys on rare populations. An example of this is the Aboriginal Peoples Survey that is conducted as a postcensal survey in 2011.

In Canada, the Census of Agriculture is conducted at the same time as the Census Program. The Census of Agriculture relies on the Census Program to improve its coverage. The 2011 Census of Population included a question asking if anyone listed on the 2011 Census was a farm operator producing at least one agricultural product. In the 2011 Census of Agriculture, about 45,000 potential operations were identified through that question, resulting in approximately 15,000 new farms being added to the Census of Agriculture and ultimately to the agriculture survey frame used by other agricultural surveys. Without this, the Census of Agriculture coverage would have been reduced by 5 to 10%.

The Census Program data can be used to improve the quality and efficiency of other surveys by being used at the design stage of the survey or after data collection to help in the treatment of non-response. For example, the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) are among the surveys at Statistics Canada that use the Census Program data in order to improve their stratification. In the last redesign of the LFS introduced in 2004, the LFS used the 2001 Census Program data to create strata with higher proportions of immigrants, Aboriginal and high-income households, and then oversampled in these strata to ensure that there would be enough sample in each of these subpopulations to produce more reliable estimates for them (Statistics Canada 2008a, p. 18 and 19).

The Census Program data are also used in the economic statistics program. For example, data on housing are used in the calculation of imputed rent, a component of the income-based gross domestic product (GDP). The place of work/journey to work information is used to estimate the flow of labour income between provinces and territories for the provincial and territorial estimates of GDP. The basic demographic, education and labour market information are used as an input into the estimation of investment in software and research and development. While these series do not represent a large share of GDP, they are significant in terms of business investment, competitiveness and understanding trends in productivity. This Census Program information figures prominently in helping develop the detailed labour productivity statistics and multi-factor productivity estimates.

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