Editorial: Dearth of census workers may have a simple cause

Statistics Canada

It has come to The Expositor’s attention that Statistics Canada is considering delaying this year’s census due to concerns over the pandemic’s impact on face-to-face surveys and a shortage of workers signing up for the gig. It has also come to this paper’s attention that, despite community newspapers having been proven to not only be the best way to reach that demographic that most often applies to work the survey and remains one of the best avenues to reach the general population, especially in smaller and rural communities, StatsCan has not advertised for employees in community newspapers. Coincidence? We think not.

Governments at all levels have dramatically pulled back their print advertising, despite clear, quantifiable evidence that Canadians of all stripes continue to prefer print advertising over other streams. The Ford government went so far as to cancel all of their newspaper subscriptions practically the day they took power in the province. Instead, advertising revenue has flowed south in ever increasing amounts, enriching social media and tech platforms that pay little if any tax on the money they earn, let alone for the news content they profit from without recompense being offered to those whose investment in on-the-ground-research and local employment creates that content.

Kudos must be offered to federal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault who recently announced that his department would be scaling back how much his department spends on digital advertising. In making his announcement, Minister Guilbeault referenced the trend of more and more federal money going into advertising on digital platforms. The minister noted that, last year, a full 55 percent of the $44.86 million the federal government spent on advertising went to digital platforms and Google hoovered up 93 percent of search engine marketing while Facebook and Instagram hauled in $5.85 million of the government’s $8.56 million in social media placement. This, all while decrying the increasing consolidation in the market.

It is a question of not only balance, but of transparency and reach.

And it isn’t just all about print. Considerably more people spend twice as much time watching television and listening to the radio as they do online. More than 70 percent of Canadians read a community newspaper.

When it comes to communication, a key element of government transparency and accountability to the electorate, the data clearly shows that putting all the advertising eggs in a digital basket leaves out a significant portion (50 to 60 percent) of the Canadian population who read newspaper content each and every day and 80 percent of Canadians read a newspaper at least once a week.

Instead of handwringing over the steady loss of quality news in this country, perhaps governments at all levels should take stock and re-evaluate where they are spending their own advertising dollars and stop lining the pockets of Silicon Valley magnets south of the border. It simply makes sense.

Delaying the national census will not only have tremendous impact on our understanding of how the pandemic affected our nation and its economy, it will also throw valuable longitudinal analysis out of whack. It pays to advertise, and when you are trying to reach your audience and a particular demographic, there is far more to success than simply posting something to the internet. The story is clear: when it comes to advertising, it is in everyone’s best interest to spread the love.