Saturday, July 31, 2010

Stephen Harper Has Offered an Alternative Census Form

Stephen Harper outlines above how census information will now be gathered. I like the old way.

Munir Sheikh is scheduled to appear Monday on a panel at the conference where he will explain how government statistics make a difference. He will also be glad-handed by his peers for resigning from government over the decision to make the long-form census voluntary. “You have to admire the head of Statistics Canada for sticking to his principles,” said Mr. Thompson, who retired from public service and now works in the private sector. “It’s emblematic of how serious many people take their responsibility to be independent and objective.”

Even Michael Den Tandt is critical, saying that it is "among the dumbest things Harper has done..."

That’s because this move, and the government’s obduracy in the face of criticism from just about everyone, is among the dumbest things Harper has done as PM. Already the Tories have slipped measurably in the polls. Pollster Alan Gregg says we mustn’t attribute this to the census fight because most Canadians aren’t really engaged. True, as far as it goes. Many of us were lounging dockside when we began to notice headlines about an obscure controversy involving statistics.Only in summer, we said, and went back to our beach books.

But then the critics started to pile in. They now include every Canadian municipality; a clear majority of provinces, including Ontario and Quebec; current and past senior bureaucrats at Statistics Canada, including the recently resigned deputy minister, Munir Sheikh; the Conference Board of Canada; the Canadian Chamber of Commerce; and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, among many others. So far Harper himself has said nothing. He’s on holiday. So Maxime Bernier, Jim Flaherty and the increasingly woebegone Tony Clement have been left to spin the party line.

Here it is: Canadians shouldn’t be threatened with jail if they don’t complete the form. And, some of its questions are too intrusive. The wrinkle: No one has ever gone to jail for non-completion of the census in the 340 years since it was first taken in 1666, in what was then New France.

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