Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Conservatives Play to Base From Mr. Bean's Playbook

I'm pretty sure that Stephen Harper's last speech was plagiarized from Rowan Atkinson. It sounds oddly familiar.

When Mr. Ignatieff spoke in Kingston today he made an interesting comment. This may not be the exact quote because while I wrote it down, my handwriting is atrocious.

But he suggested that rather than looking for the best in Canadians, Stephen Harper seeks out the worst.

They call it playing to their base, but in order to keep their base they just keep wallowing deeper and deeper into the mud. The latest census debacle is a perfect example. They were forced to lie, by stating that Canadians had been complaining about the extra paperwork.

Despite statements by the Conservative government that they scrapped the long-form census due to widespread privacy concerns from citizens, Canada's privacy watchdog has received just three complaints about the census in the last decade. Their office was not consulted on the government's decision, says Anne-Marie Heyden, spokesperson for Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, nor did they recommend the government drop the long-form mandatory questionnaire or
replace it with a voluntary one.

"If we felt that would be warranted, I think that's something we would have recommended to them," she said. "I do want to emphasize the fact that we have a good working relationship with StatsCan and we've always worked closely with them to ensure that privacy rights are respected throughout the census process."

Three complaints in ten years? Well that's worth the millions of dollars they are going to spend on this. But it's more than just the cost.

The agency uses a rigorous methodology to select individuals who answer the questions on the long form. The selection process ensures that an accurate cross section of citizens who provide richer detail about their backgrounds. Researchers can then use that information in combination with other data sets to explain certain behaviour. For instance, do the prescription drug habits of people in a certain neighborhood have anything to do with socio-economic factors such as how much money they earn, or their ethnic background? Combining information from the long form with the actual prescription drug habits provides researchers in British Columbia with possible answers.

So if the information is so valuable, why is the government doing away with the census long form and replacing it with a survey that will cull similar information, but voluntarily? The government says it is simply responding to concerns of individuals who were worried about the intrusive nature of the questions.

Oh yes. The concerns of three people in ten years. I forgot about those guys.

But then John Baird jumped into the fray spouting nonsense. Is that boy on crack?

Standing beside Marjory LeBreton at the news conference in Ottawa was John Baird, the minister who has become the de facto spokesperson for the prime minister when he's not around. When asked about the long form and the reason for
changing the government's policy, he gave an answer that left journalists scratching their heads.

"(The) government threatening to put people in jail if they don't tell how many bathrooms they have is a bit heavy handed and a bit ridiculous. We will respect peoples' right to privacy. At the same time the important information that's needed in the census will be gathered." Flummoxed, journalists pressed Baird and LeBreton to explain what they meant by throwing "people in jail."

What a kook. But there is a Facebook page where you can read and share stories. Vent, cry, laugh, then cry some more.

Ironically, the only complaint I ever heard was from an Evangelical who takes his Evangelism seriously. He opposed the census because they are now being processed by Lockheed Martin, a weapons manufacturer, and he opposes war.

The opposition is demanding an inquiry:

The Opposition Liberals and New Democrats want a parliamentary committee reconvened this summer to probe the Harper government's decision to stop
requiring that one-fifth of households fill out a lengthy census questionnaire. They want to Industry Minister Tony Clement called on the carpet to explain himself, saying the move will erode the ability of social scientists and policy makers to build an accurate picture of Canada.

It's the latest volley in what's become a culture-war battle between the right-wing Conservatives and their liberal-minded critics. Mr. Clement is refusing, however, to consider changing course, saying the Tories feel that compelling people to answer questions about their personal lives is an unwarranted intrusion of privacy

"Culture-war between the right-wing Conservatives and their liberal-minded critics?" What is wrong with you people? This is a war between the Harper government and the Canadian people.

And it is not just the opposition who are upset:

Canada's minority Conservative government is under fire from business groups, economists, opposition parties, the media and others for cutting the work being done by the country's central statistics agency. The criticism -- much of it from groups that usually enjoy good ties with government -- is almost universal and is likely to be used as a weapon against the Conservatives in the next election campaign, expected within the next year.

Oh, boy. Enjoy the latest video of Canadians Rallying to Unseat Stephen Harper. Or visit our website at

No comments:

Post a Comment