Right in the centre - No sense in the census


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

story in this week’s paper is titled Census behind schedule due to difficulty recruiting.

It says, “If this year’s census rollout seemed a little disorganized to you, that could be due to the fact that the government had a hard time recruiting staff in rural areas."

85 people responded to us about the census and how it was being rolled out, with 31.8 per cent not receiving the census documents before the deadline of May 11– some of that percentage never received anything at all, while others got theirs after the deadline. About 21.2 per cent of the total respondents never received anything as of the date they replied.

Seems like the folks at the census office got caught a bit off guard which is strange, as the census does come along regularly every four years. They might be able to blame COVID -19 for the problems but it’s not as if they didn’t have warning. After all, we have been struggling with C-19 for nearly 16 months.

Some of the concerns we heard were that census workers weren’t properly identified when they came calling. Some were just pulling up in vans or cars and going to people’s doors without much explanation. With C-19 rules and fears along with all the issues with “strange” vehicles running around in rural ares, it’s no wonder some people were annoyed or apprehensive.

It’s always amazing how ill-prepared governments are for rolling out their programs. The communications people at all levels of government seem to think that people will just “know” what’s going on.

Admittedly, the Census people did place an ad in the local newspapers, but by coming out on May 7, it was a little late to inform the public about a May 11 deadline. Somebody dropped the ball on that score for sure. Don’t get me wrong, the ad was appreciated but if they would ask any experienced newspaper person or advertiser, they would know it takes more than one ad to get the majority of people in the know for an event or a product. And an ad has to be out more than four days ahead of the event or deadline.

I am sure they also used some social media, but there are limitations with that approach, too. Not everyone, by any means, looks at social media. In case the government hasn’t heard, not everybody is on social media and certainly not all the time. Some people don’t have good enough internet access to even be bothered with social media. Various levels of government have been promising better cell service and better internet service for decades now and, quite frankly, those services are still pretty sketchy in many areas.

And while I am on that kick, I may as well keep going. People will post on social media and get 40, 50 or 60 responses. That’s nice and it is a helpful way to spread the message. But please understand that is 40, 50 or 60 responses when the  Rivers Banner can be accessed by over 4,400 people each week and the Neepawa Banner & Press is accessed by over 25,000 people within the region each week. To get a message across, one needs to use the newspapers, social media, radio and TV and need to do so multiple times. Advertising pays off and most businesses but organizations fall far short of their potential by not getting their message out soon enough, far enough and often enough.

I find it fascinating how good communications can be and yet how bad they can be at times. We think we have really progressed. Here’s an illustration about how we aren’t as up-to-date as we might think we are. In 1900, a grain based farm organization with its headquarters in Winnipeg ran into a problem. They decided they needed to bring in their president to deal with the issue. The problem was the president lived on his farm north of Regina. They sent a telegram at about 3 in the afternoon. The telegraph operator typed out the message, sent it by horse and buggy to the farm with orders to wait for the president to come back with him to the local train/telegraph station. He did just that and got on the next train. He was in Winnipeg early the next morning for the meeting. Not bad for 120 years ago. Is there a lesson in organization in there somewhere?