By Don Radford
The topic of the 2011census is making considerable news in Ottawa these days and next year's 'national day of counting' also made its way onto city council's agenda Tuesday night.
However, unlike Ottawa, the issue in Winkler is not about long forms vs. short forms. It's all about making sure everyone gets counted.
City chief administrative officer Vince Anderson says it's vital everyone who lives in Winkler gets counted next year. In fact, he said, each resident who is missed will end up costing the city well over $1,000.
Anderson explained the provincial and federal governments use population numbers from each five year census to determine how much money should go to municipalities in the form of tax sharing and other grants. For example, he said, the per capita funding Winkler receives from the two senior levels of government is based on population counts from the 2006 census. Anyone who was missed in that census has cost the city $1,125 in provincial and federal funding over the last five years.
Similarly, he said, anyone who is not counted in the 2011 census will cost the city at least that much. If just 200 people don't get counted, that means the city will lose at least $225,000 over the next five years.
In particular, Anderson said, they are focusing on the ever-growing number of immigrants who are making this area their home. He said he had received numerous reports in 2006 that many immigrants - either not understanding and or being uneasy about the information they were being asked for - did not complete the census forms.
"A lot of forms went into the garbage," he said.
He also suggested that some of the census forms were ignored or thrown away by people who formerly lived in countries where it was best to "stay under the radar" and not bring any attention to themselves by dealing with their government and providing personal information.
Anderson also noted that, during the 2006 census, many new Canadians with limited English fluency and not fully understanding what was being asked of them, inundated local agencies for assistance in translating, understanding and completing the forms.
Anderson said regional CAOs met recently to discuss the issue and are developing ways of getting the word out about the coming census and the importance of completing and returning all the forms. Some of these will or may include asking municipal and school board candidates to distribute pamphlets while campaigning this fall, posting information of municipal and other websites, asking chambers of commerce to help get the information out, and working with businesses which employ new Canadians.
In addition to providing the most accurate population count possible to ensure all government funding is received, the census information is used by numerous government departments and agencies in determining what policies and programs should be developed to properly address local, regional, provincial and national needs.