So we have a new line of attack by Tony Clement (and I saw Gordon O’Connor use it yesterday as well) over those groups/provinces/cities etc. that oppose the ditching of the mandatory longform census: the organizations/provinces/cities were all freeloaders/getting a free ride from Ottawa in getting this data.
That at first blush doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense; StatsCan charges all groups for access to that census data; and does quite well from it. In fact, it’s where a large portion of the budget for their department comes from. If Clement and company were trying to take that approach as a line of defence, they either could be charged of being ignorant about what StatsCan actually does with the data it gets, or worse, trying to purposely mislead the public on it.
However, it appears they’re taking a different tack: it isn’t the “free ride” in the financial sense, but in the sense that Tony is suggesting the federal government has to enforce the Statistics Act in order to get these stats for them, and that’s just too darn coercive.
In other words, how dare everyone make the Conservatives go against their libertarian instincts to force people to give them facts/statistics, so they can charge other organizations/provinces/cities to use them. The provinces/cities/organizations etc. should coerce those people themselves, if they want ‘good quality data” (a Freudian slip perhaps on Tony’s part – he’s admitted StatsCan was getting good quality data. They wont be from now on as long as the Census longform remains voluntary). So apparently, in this specific case, enforcement of the Canada Criminal Code is a “free ride”.
Silly sounding argument, but not much I’ve heard from the government on this issue makes sense. They apparently think that the “freeloader” argument will somehow resonate with the public. I’m not so sure – there are many many folks out there who believe in good government. Collecting stats for the benefit of all would be one of those things people support. Tony and the Conservatives seem to be hoping they can smear everyone else with the freeloader argument (another old Mike Harris tactic from Ontario that Tony and the PMO’s Guy Giorno should be well familiar with) to try and make people think differently.
Good luck with that argument. I don’t think it will fly beyond the Tea Party wing of the Conservative Party.
UPDATE @ 11:20am: Good point over here:
All these provincial governments and these social institutions and private businesses – we’ll get them some data that will be useful and reliable,” (Clement) said. “If they don’t want to use that data, it’s up to them. They can pay for it another way. … You don’t have to rely on the government of Canada.”
Hands up everyone who would like to substitute private interests like business as the gatherers of intimate details of your daily life?