Munir Sheikh

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Munir A. Sheikh, Ph.D., (born September 1947) is a Canadian public servant, economist, academic and the former Chief Statistician of Canada. He is currently a Distinguished Fellow and Adjunct Professor at Queen's University. On November 30, 2010, the provincial government appointed Sheikh and Frances Lankin to lead the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario. They are expected to issue their final report in June 2012

Early career[edit]

Born in Pakistan in 1947, Sheikh received a Master of Arts in economics from McMaster University in 1970, and earned his doctorate in economics from the University of Western Ontario in 1973. He is married with 3 children.

Sheikh began his public service career as an economist with the Economic Council of Canada from 1972 to 1976. After a brief stint with the National Energy Board between 1976 and 1978, he joined the Department of Finance and rose to the rank of Senior Assistant Deputy Minister in 2000.

Between 2001 and 2006, he held senior positions with Health Canada, the Privy Council Office and Human Resources and Social Development Canada. He has also taught at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. Later in his career, Sheikh oversaw a $100-billion tax-reduction policy and helped craft the 2005 budget. He was praised by a former colleague as "the best economist in the federal government." [1][2]

Statistics Canada and controversial resignation[edit]

Sheikh was appointed as the head of Statistics Canada by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.[3] He officially became the Chief Statistician of Canada on June 16, 2008, replacing Ivan Fellegi.

On July 21, 2010, Sheikh resigned from that post, following a controversy resulting from the Conservative government's decision to no longer require mandatory completion of the Canada 2011 Census long form. The decision has been heavily criticised; opponents have argued that the decision was politically motivated [4] and that it will compromise the value of census data.[5]

Following his resignation, in a public letter, Sheikh expressed his disapproval of the government's decision, writing:

I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion. This relates to the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census. It can not.

—Munir Sheikh[6]

Industry Minister Tony Clement has stated that the change to voluntary forms was made because of privacy-related complaints, though he acknowledged that the decision was made without consultations with governments that rely on the census data. Media reports claiming Clement had said that this change was made on the advice of Statistics Canada were later shown to be incorrect, although this did not change Mr. Sheikh's decision to resign, as he felt the mere perception StatsCan supported the decision was cause for resignation.[7] Emails and a speech prepared by Sheikh, which have subsequently been released, demonstrate that Sheikh had always been opposed to the decision. It appeared that the government had misrepresented his position.[8][9] In an interview with the CBC he stated that the government has tried to make it "quite clear that it was my view that the quality of the data from the voluntary survey would be as good as data from the mandatory census, which isn't what I believed in." [10] Clement has denied allegations that he misrepresented Sheikh's position in relation to the change.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Queen’s University: Dr. Munir Sheikh, Distinguished Fellow and Adjunct Professor". V1.theglobeandmail.com. Retrieved 2011-04-28. 
  2. ^ Tavia Grant (22 July 2010). "An independent mind has always characterized Shiekh". Toronto: Globe and Mail. Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  3. ^ "A tale called Contempt: Ignatieff looks to spin master narrative to unseat Harper". Ottawacitizen.com. 2011-03-27. Retrieved 2011-04-28. 
  4. ^ Murdoch, Frances Russell (2010-08-12). "Harper's Latest Step in Building 'Tea Party North'". The Tyee. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  5. ^ Ditchburn, Jennifer (2010-07-01). "Former StatsCan head slams census decision by Tories". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved 2010-07-05. [dead link]
  6. ^ Steven Chase and Tavia Grant (21 July 2010). "Statistics Canada chief falls on sword over census". Toronto: Globe and Mail. Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  7. ^ "House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry and Technology". House of Commons. 2010-07-27. Retrieved 2010-07-27. 
  8. ^ Chase, Steven (10 August 2010). "Ottawa was told of flaws in census plan, documents show". Toronto: Globe and Mail. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  9. ^ Kheiriddin, Tasha (11 August 2010). "The sad tale of Tony Clement". National Post. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  10. ^ "StatsCan warned of poor census response rate". CBC. 10 August 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  11. ^ Taber, Jane (11 August 2010). "Clement feels 'alone' in census feud". Toronto: Globe and Mail. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 

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