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If I don't fill out the census, what happens?

Industry Minister Tony Clement appears before the House of Commons Industry committee looking into changes of the long-form census on Parliament in Ottawa, Tuesday, July 27, 2010.

FRED CHARTRAND/FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The 2011 census package is landing in 15 million Canadian mailboxes this week -- and Twitter is abuzz over how and whether to fill it out.



The short-form census remains mandatory. The long form, however, was abruptly changed last summer to a voluntary national household survey. The move by the Conservative government was widely criticized as yielding unscientific information; the Tories said the obligatory long form was too intrusive.



The collection process is nonetheless moving ahead. Statistics Canada began mailing out the forms with an online link on Monday and asks Canadians to fill it out within 10 days, either online or returning a paper copy by mail. The yellow census package advises Canadians to, "Complete the census - it's the law."

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The arrival of the forms generated plenty of chatter on Twitter [see #census]



"Best of luck to historical researchers dealing with our flawed data 92 years after the 2011 Census, in 2103!" wrote one commentor.



"Short form #census has a comments field at end...Voice your feelings on long form cancellation," wrote another.



Others found even the short-form intrusive. "Completed 2011 Census from Stats Canada. Some questions are inappropriate & unnecessary."



Some have suggested a boycott-the-census campaign on Twitter or Facebook, though that has yet to gain widespread backing. The Facebook group "Keep the Canada Census Long Form," though, has 11,000 fans.



Newly re-elected Conservative Tony Clement weighed in Tuesday. "Just a reminder to Canadian tweeps to fill out your Census &/or Survey form," he wrote.



His signature is bound to raise eyebrows, given that until last year, Statscan considered itself an independent agency, free from government interference.

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"Sincerely, me, the Minister resp for StatsCan," Mr. Clement wrote.

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About the Author

Tavia Grant has worked at The Globe and Mail since early 2005, covering topics from employment and currency markets to trade, microfinance and Latin American economies. She previously worked for Bloomberg News in Toronto and Zurich, writing on mining, stocks, currencies and secret Swiss bank accounts. More

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