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Canadian official quits after census is made voluntary

A difference of opinion over public privacy issues and the forthcoming census has led to the resignation of Canada's chief statistician.

Munir Sheikh, an economist and academic, resigned from his position as head of Statistics Canada over the government's decision to no longer force Canadians to fill out an extensive census form asking numerous questions about their backgrounds and lifestyles.

In its place next year will be a "long" census form that is voluntary to complete, which "cannot" be a substitute for a mandatory census, Sheikh said.

Privacy concerns were cited as the Conservative government announced the long-form part of the 2011 census will no longer be mandatory.

"The government took this decision because we do not believe Canadians should be forced, under threat of fines, jail, or both, to divulge extensive private and personal information," Industry Minister Tony Clement said.

The longer mandatory census forms previously sent to 20 percent of households are being replaced with voluntary longer surveys sent to 33 percent of Canadian residences.

Party isn't ready to reinstate Guergis

Former Cabinet minister Helena Guergis remains expelled from the Conservative party even though a police investigation concluded no wrongdoing by her or her husband, ex-politician Rahim Jaffer.

Guergis was removed from the party in April after Prime Minister Stephen Harper said there were "serious" allegations about her conduct and alleged conflicts of interest.

She is still under investigation by Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson and remains an independent member of Parliament for Central Ontario's Simcoe-Grey district.

News in brief

• Toronto police have arrested a University of Guelph student they believe was a ringleader involved in violent acts during the G-20 summit protests. Kelly Pflug-Back, 21, of Norwood, Ontario, is among 10 additional suspected protesters arrested so far on charges of damaging public property during the meeting of world financial leaders last month. Police have released about 30 "wanted" photos asking for the public's help to find others involved in the protest violence.

• Jay Hill, a key member of the Conservative government, said he won't seek re-election after 22 years in federal politics. Hill, 57, is the government House leader and represents British Columbia's Prince George-Peace River district. "I've always felt that for politicians, the time to go is when things are still going well," he said.

Facts and figures

For the second time in two months, the Bank of Canada raised its trendsetting interest rate while warning the economic recovery is less robust than forecast.

The central bank's key rate was increased by 0.25 percent to 0.75 percent, while the prime lending rate jumped to 2.75 percent.

Canada's dollar is higher at 96.46 cents U.S., while the U.S. greenback returns $1.0368 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 11,714 points and the TSX Venture Exchange at 1,392 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 13, 14, 15, 17, 28, 36; bonus 29. (July 17) 24, 26, 28, 37, 43, 48; bonus 8. Lotto Max: (July 16) 10, 14, 26, 34, 43, 47, 48; bonus 28.

Regional briefs

• One of Canada's richest businessmen, John "Jack" Irving, died after a brief illness at age 78. He was one of three brothers who headed Irving Oil in Atlantic Canada. His father, the late K.C. Irving, founded the company based in Saint John, New Brunswick. It is one of Canada's largest energy, forestry, steel, media, retail and construction firms, and the family's worth is estimated at $4 billion.

• Two inmates died and six were injured when a fight broke out and fires were set at the Orsainville Jail in Quebec City. There were reports that one inmate tried to rob another, leading to the riot inside the maximum-security section of the jail that houses inmates awaiting trial. The provincial government is investigating conditions at the jail and how the riot was handled.

• Public outrage at yet another "fee" increase resembling a new tax has caused the Ontario government to drop its controversial "eco fee" launched on July 1. Environment Minister John Gerretsen announced a halt to the program in which fees were added to thousands of products to help pay for their recycling and eventual disposal. The program will be re-evaluated over the next three months but continue running with $5 million in taxpayer funds, he said.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.

Canadian official quits after census is made voluntary 07/24/10 [Last modified: Saturday, July 24, 2010 6:39pm]
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