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Dan Gardner nails it, I think, on why the Cons want to ditch the mandatory longform census

Dan’s article in the Ottawa Citizen deals mostly with the Conservative government’s hypocrisy on the Conservatives rationale for removing the mandatory longform census because it’s too intrusive on people’s privacy, while at the same time leaving other more intrusive measures in place. That segues into his theory as to why the Conservatives are doing this move to the longform, and I think he nails it:

Hard-core conservatives have long seen the census as the foundation of left-wing social engineering. And not without some justification. Programs like employment equity couldn’t function without census data. Stephen Harper would love to scrap such programs but he wouldn’t dare under current circumstances. And so, as he did with the gun registry, he is making an administrative change that he hopes will cripple the program. And slowly strengthen the case for doing away with it entirely.

In otherwards, make the census data less accurate and (hopefully to the Conservatives) meaningless/worthless, as a way of  crippling social programs they hate, via an indirect backdoor method. I go along with that theory whole-heartedly. It isn’t just Dan Gardner who thinks that; a solid majority of the provinces have now jumped into the fray, opposing this move because they say the data the mandatory longform census provides them is essential for – you guess it-  analysis and administering their social programs.

One other thing related to this: An initial poll from Ipsos-Reid has come out on this (not exactly my favorite pollster, as you would know from reading me in the past, and it’s also an online poll, which is another bugaboo of mine – but thats another story), and the reaction from the Canadian public is very interesting: almost a complete split on whether the Conservatives actions are “good” or “bad”, yet contradictory as well, with 2/3 of Canadians believing the mandatory longform is a reasonable intrusion into privacy.  I’ll be very interested to watch other pollsters come out with their poll results on this question (as I am sure they are polling on it) to do a comparison.

I believe defenders of the mandatory longform census should hammer the Conservatives on Dan Gardner’s point; they are not doing away with the mandatory longform as a way of defending privacy, but as a backdoor way of attacking the programs they hate. I believe that more people then not will oppose the government doing this if seen in this vein.

The battle for data integrity and facts, against ideology and feigned concern over privacy has now been joined. The way to win more converts to our side of the argument is to attack the Conservatives on their move by showing their hypocrisy on privacy issues, as Gardner has done, and to show it’s far-rightwing Tea Party-like ideology that is behind this move.

UPDATE @ 12:00 pm: Just wanted to mention one of my blogging colleagues the Tory Tattler has been saying the same things Dan has for over a week now (and has reminded me of that ;) )- here and here. I do think however, that Dan Gardner is one of the first mainstream news columnists to openly muse that this was the reason why, not the reason they’re stating in public.

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14 comments to Dan Gardner nails it, I think, on why the Cons want to ditch the mandatory longform census

  • Trashy

    Nice post, Scott.
    And nary a word from Clement’s boss, eh?
    Predictable.

  • ridenrain

    Remember this story:
    OTTAWA — Thousands of francophones across Canada are believed to have lied about their ability to speak English in a seemingly co-ordinated attempt to manipulate the 2006 Census in order to guarantee federal funding of programs for French speakers.

    This is just another faux-scandal that no one cares about. All it does is show how out of touch your party is.

    • @ridenrain, and a volunteer census that is less reliable for data will fix that how?

      As for a “faux-scandal”, It’s not a scandal, its a manufactured crisis that government has bumbled into. Resignations from top civil servants on a point of principle are rare. Hard questions need to be continued to ask of this bunch of Tea Baggers we have in government.

    • Jon Pertwee

      @ridenrain, Ah Ridofbrain. Never afraid to show the kind of half educated, non-thinking teabagger you are.

  • ridenrain

    I thought Kinsella nailed it when he said that it was none of the governments business and probably unconstitutional to boot.

  • Michael

    Is that not what I’ve been saying for a week now?

    Kill the census, kill social programs…it’s easier to govern by ideology in the dark, etc.

  • Anon ABC

    A few comments:

    (a) Dan Gardner is one of the very few more thoughtful writers currently out there and he is of course very correct in pointing out the apparent hypocrisy (re. privacy issues) here. Now we wait for the Ottawa Citizen to be accused of being Liberal, just like the CBC, eh?

    (b) the implementation of the “voluntary” form is going to cost $30m more. Good enough reason to maintain the status quo and save $30m, if true, and,

    (c) as many people who should understand statistics have pointed out, it would not be reasonable to expect that the data collected would be unbiased if we were to rely on a “voluntary” filling out of the long form.

    BTW, I think that it is for the same reason that we should be wary of the findings from some pollsters, for example, as to which political party voters would support. Some of these pollsters (I would stand corrected if I am wrong), ask people to pre-register with them. Then they (pollsters) would “randomly” select the respondents from the pre-registered pool. One could raise legitimate scientific questions about the validity of the methodology, specifically, how unbiased is a sample drawn from a pre-selected pool?

    After all, it is apparent that the act of pre-registation is already a filter for people who, for reasons known to themselves, felt a need to register voluntarily with that pollster. These people could include those who felt a strong need to express their political convictions, for instance. So why would one expect that the response of these people would be representative of the population at large (the large majority of which would be non-partisan and would NOT have registered with any pollster)?

    This is why I personally have problems with polls which apply this methodology.

  • Con-sistent

    [I don’t want to register on the Ottawa Citizen site cuz I don’t trust _their_ privacy policy, but if someone already is, perhaps they could post this comment in response to the first commenter’s complaint there that Gardner makes a bad analogy].

    Well, it can’t be argued that the Cons. gov’t is unaware of the fact that participation in the monthly Labour Force Survey is equally mandatory. Tony Clement himself tellus why that is at http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/dpr-rmr/2007-2008/inst/stc/stc01-eng.asp

    And as you can see in its questionnaire at http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/71-543-g/2010001/appendix-appendice2-eng.htm
    it asks almost all the same intrusive q’s as the census long form.

    So, given their newfound zeal for privacy and freedom from state coercion, will they be switching this to a voluntary survey now, too? If not, why not? [And if they do, I bet the big business community will break radio silence & add their voice to the chorus of protests, too.]

  • The problem with this, aside for their miserable world view in general, is that socialism doesn’t spring from the census. When the census is gone, people aren’t going to stop wanting all these programs. They’ll still be around, they’ll just be administered very poorly and cost more.

    • @Shiner, Perhaps.. but thats another way to go at them. Why are you making our programs work worse by doing this?

      • Knowing that the general public would not go for “we’re ending these programs” kind of action/debate, Harper instead is choosing to blow them up from the inside; parliament, social services, public corporations, foreign affairs. The less they function well, the easier it is to let them die on the vine. He doesn’t have the conviction to talk honestly with the Canadian people, doesn’t think they’d buy his right-wing soap, but stubbornly is working to turn Canada into a George W Bushian society. Dumb is smart, deficits are surplus, data is unreliable.

    • Dan's Right-Employment Equity groups are next

      Minister Day asks for a review to ensure all Canadians have an equal opportunity in the Public Service
      For immediate release
      July 22, 2010

      OTTAWA – Today, the Honourable Stockwell Day, President of Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, in consultation with the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism, asked for a review of the provisions of the Public Service Employment Act as well as any related policies and practices, with a view of ensuring that all Canadians have an equal opportunity in applying for positions in the federal Public Service.

      “While we support diversity in the Public Service, we want to ensure that no Canadian is barred from opportunities in the public service based on race or ethnicity,” said Minister Day.‬

      “I strongly agree with the objective of creating a Public Service that reflects the diversity of Canada, and with fair measures designed to reach that goal. But we must ensure that all Canadians have an equal opportunity to work for their government based on merit, regardless of race or ethnicity,” stated Minister Kenney.

      – 30 –

      For more information, contact:

      Mélisa Leclerc
      Director of Communications
      Office of the President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway
      613-952-5051

      Celyeste Power
      Press Secretary
      Office of the Minister
      Citizenship and Immigration Canada
      613-954-1064

      Media Relations
      Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
      613-957-2640

      If there is a discrepancy between any printed version and the electronic version of this news release, the electronic version will prevail.

      TTY (Telecommunications device for the hearing impaired) – (613) 957-9090
      @Shiner,

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