Whitehorse to compile census data

When Whitehorse enumerators start knocking on doors to update the elector's list for October's election, they'll also be asking who's home.

When Whitehorse enumerators start knocking on doors to update the elector’s list for October’s election, they’ll also be asking who’s home.

For the first time in city history, enumerators will be tasked with obtaining municipal census data.

“We’re just asking for the number of people in a household and their age ranges, and whether they have kids going to school,” said Robert Fendrick, city director of administrative services.

Demographic data, drawn from the 2006 federal census, is sorely outdated, especially given growth in Copper Ridge subdivision.

And with several housing developments on the horizon, updated data is needed by city planners to determine the layout of schools, roads and sidewalks.

“If there’s not a lot of kids going to school in an area, that tells you something about traffic flows, morning and afternoon,” said Fendrick.

“(The data) is not going to be a be-all, end-all, but it’s going to potentially validate some other observations that are being made,” he said.

Tacking the census onto the elector’s update was cost effective.

“It’s a way to collect a little extra information with the same workforce,” said Fendrick.

It’s very similar to tacking a plebiscite question onto the end of an election ballot, he added.

Unlike a federal census, Whitehorse’s census won’t be obligatory.

“It’s not mandatory, and that’ll be explained at the door,” said Fendrick.

“Typically, we find people pretty facilitating when it comes to planning for their own community,” he added.

The Yukon’s privacy commissioner examined the proposed census after receiving several queries from concerned residents.

“We certainly had some questions based on the idea that some of the information was going to be shared with other governments,” said Yukon privacy commissioner Tracy-Anne McPhee.

McPhee doesn’t have jurisdiction over municipal officials, but if the territorial government was going to start receiving personal information about residents from city officials it would change things.

“That would have been a concern for us,” she said.

The census can only be administered with the explicit consent of residents, said McPhee.

“An enumerator can’t fill out the census form, or part of it, with voters’ list information,” she said. Otherwise, people could wind up on the census without their knowledge or consent.

City enumerators were also told to be fully versed on the authority and purpose under which the data was being collected.

The elector’s list update, conducted every three years, is done to ease confusion on election day, and ensure that residents arrive at the proper polling station.

Contact Tristin Hopper at tristinh@yukon-news.com

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