The US 2010 Census is in progress. I was surprised to discover how much influence elected officials have over the Census in the US and how little power the director has. According to this NYTimes article Count Us in Favor, the director (not a chief statistician) is appointed by each president and does not have the power to speak freely.
Alternatively in Canada, the separation of politics and the statistical agency is sacrosanct. Without it how would you trust the results! The results affect provincial and territorial transfer payments, +/-80 Acts make reference to it, a number of program funding programs depend on them, and the decennial census population count determines the size and shape of Federal Electoral Boundaries. Canada’s representative democracy requires that the Census be free of partisan politics. The Chief Statistician is appointed for an unlimited term, Ivan Fellegi for instance was in Office for 25 years. This provides the Chief time to gain experience and oversee full census cycles, which takes about 7-8 years from consultation, testing, operations, conducting, data entry, analysis and dissemination. The new Chief Statistician is recommended by the former Chief and the Minister of Industry Canada appoints him/her by an order in council based on the former Chief’s recommendation. Census questions are also submitted to the governors in council, approved by an order in council and then published in the Canada Gazette. Census results have never been contested, as far as I know questions have always been approved, and the Chief Statistician has the right to speak the results freely and orchestrates the announcement of results which all Canadians receive at the same time.
In the US, the Director of the Census is appointed by partisan politics, his/her office lasts as long as the government who appoints them, and they are not encouraged to report results the government does not want to hear. How do US Citizens trust the results? The director may also not get to see a full census cycle, even with the latest change, the post is for 5 only years. While the Census is one of the government’s greatest instruments of social control and power, a form of panopticism & biopolitics, I believe it has the higher purpose of providing the data we need for the functioning of our political system.