By Stephen Pate – Every Canadian household will soon get the 2016 Census but the program that runs it has a massive fail. You must know all the answers to the questions before you start but what the questions will be is a mystery.

Statistics Canada is back in the game of counting Canadians after the Harper Conservatives gutted the long form census but the program has a major bug out of the gate.

Statistics Canada wants all Canadian households to fill in the census form online and the forms started arriving in the mail today.

That’s progressive except they don’t seem to have beta tested the system in a real world scenario.  Unless you improbably know all the answers to all the unknown questions in advance,  you cannot fill out the census form in a single online session.

Instead of a printed form, Statistics Canada sent each home an envelope with a letter, “16-digit security code” and a web address to fill in the form online. You can also call a phone number to get a printed form but you can’t inexplicably send an email request.

Anyone who has tried to get Service Canada or CRA on the phone knows how hard it is to talk to someone in the Canadian government. Harper downsized the government to the point of long phone queues.

Filling out the form is harder than you would expect. There are multiple screens after the security code. Who lives there? They want names and then their birth dates.

You can’t save the part of the form you have and wait to collect the missing answers. Each computer session is lost until you get the screen filled in correctly.

Get stumped? Write down the question and go get the answers. When you come back the computer will have timed out which is probably a security feature.

You can’t even prepare for the next set of questions until you get there. I got 50% through the form and was missing a birth date. When I get that information I can move to the next screen with no idea what the question is and if I will know the answer.

That’s just plain dumb. It’s like those Canada Revenue Agency PDF forms that can’t be saved. CRA got past that goof after several years.

Statistics Canada Census 2016 site down for maintenance

Statistics Canada Census 2016 site down for maintenance

I see Statistics Canada has taken down their site for “Maintenance”. Hopefully they’ve spotted this bug and are trying to fix it.

This will be a mess. People trying to call for the printed form will jam the phones. People trying to fill out the form online are beta testing the program.

We only the short form to fill out. God help anyone who has to fill out the long form census one screen at a time.

Statistics Canada will hire 25,000 people to help them take the census at a cost of $715 million.

The Toronto Star reported  “Failure to fill out one of the forms could lead to a fine of $500, up to three months in jail, or both.”  Wonder what the penalty is for failure to design the form that people can use?

Edited May 3, 2016 7:50 AM