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Census headaches continue for the Conservatives.

I presume Tony Clement, Stephen Harper and the rest of the Conservative government were hoping that by lopping off 2 “voluntary questions” on mother tongue from their new voluntary form (formerly the mandatory longform census)  and putting it on the still-mandatory short form census would appease the French Language groups who are taking them to court over their census shenanigans. Initially however, their move hasn’t worked:

The concession, however, has not deterred the French group from pursuing its legal action.”We were very pleased that the court saw the urgency of the matter and we are going ahead,” Suzanne Bosse, executive director of the federation, said Thursday. The government did not consult with the group about moving the language questions to the short census and Bosse said she only learned of the change through the media.

Bosse said she had to limit her comments because the legal proceedings are ongoing and wouldn’t say if the government’s move failed to satisfy the group’s demands. The government could ward off the court battle, said Bosse, if it made a proposal to the group on how to resolve the issue. So far, however, there has been very limited response to the group’s requests to meet with government officials as the controversy has unfolded over the summer, she said.

I hope the groups stand firm on this stance. Theirs is the quickest and best chance so far of stalling the Census changes, and the Conservative government knows this.

On another front, the government-appointed National Statistics Council unleashed another attack on the Conservative government in the wake of the French language question insertions:

The government-appointed council that advises Statistics Canada says Industry Minister Tony Clement is wasting $30 million on a new census that will fail to provide worthwhile information needed by governments, communities, social agencies and others. In a stinging statement Thursday, the National Statistics Council said Clement’s latest change in the census on language questions only proves that the government’s plan to make the longer, 40-page census voluntary won’t lead to credible results.

..Commenting on the decision to put language questions on the shorter, mandatory census, the council said, “The new approach to language use recognizes that the voluntary National Household Survey will not meet the requirements” for accurate data. Such reliable data “can only be provided through a mandatory” survey, the council said.

..The council also takes a poke at Clement for suggesting that users of census data should pay for their own surveys if they think the information generated by the voluntary 40-page survey isn’t credible. “The Council rejected recent suggestions that small-area data users such as public health planners, voluntary associations, towns and transportation planners should pay for their own surveys rather than rely on the census—this is not possible,” the advisory body said in a press release. The council said such surveys would be too small to produce usable information.

That’s got to sting; when your own appointed body is critical of your actions. I’ve bolded the last part because I think it’s an important one ; one I think is the main reason the Conservatives are doing this move, and one to keep reiterating. It’s not to save Canadians from the possible tyranny of a jail sentence for not answering a mandatory long form. (no Canadian has ever been thrown in jail over the Census; indeed I’ve read no person has been thrown in jail going back to the census days of New France (now Quebec)  in the 1650’s).  No, this move is to hobble data so that it is much harder to identify problems or trends, and for government to deal with them accordingly.  The Harper government in effect is trying to destroy or hobble the ability of the federal government to do anything related to policy – or at the very least, it would like policy made on the basis of hunches and assertions and ideology, not facts and statistics.

The reason that the Conservatives are seeing a drop in their polling results is not just because this is a “media generated event”, as our Blogging Tory founder acquaintance and current Manning Institute fellow Stephen Taylor would have you believe. Its because Canadians, being informed of this decision by our media, and taking note of all the organizations/provinces/cities/municipalities who object to a key tenet of their decision-making processes crippled or corrupted,  don’t like the idea that “good government” is going to be a lot harder to do if this change to the Census remains in effect.

3 comments to Census headaches continue for the Conservatives.

  • Timothy

    It takes an arrogant self righteous fool, a scoffer, to lead the naive fools to their destruction.

    Rebuke the scoffer and the naive will gain prudence.

    Timothy Webster
    Green Party candidate Richmond Delta

  • William M

    Proroguing
    Afghan detainee stalling
    Wanting to change lyrics to the Anthem
    Billion dollar wasteful summit
    Billions on new prisons for unreported crime
    Silly census changes
    Non stop 24/7 campaigning

    …you’d think a government that lauded itself on stimulus spending to propel the economy would be doing much better.

    The old adage is that governments defeat themselves.

    I hope the narrative that soon emerges is that of conservative fatigue factor.

    The CPC better hope that the opposition doesn’t get their act together because the day they do, it’s over for King Stephen.

    I’ve had enough of CONSERVATIVE FATIGUE FACTOR!

  • Anon ABC

    Just boggles the mind that anyone, or any government, could ever think of spending an additional $30M to gather what qualified experts and professionals have overwhelmingly said to be unreliable data.

    Obama told his countryfolks the other day that it was no coincidence that if they wanted the car to move backwards, they should put it in “R”. Seems to apply to us in Canada too if we consider what party Harper originated from, no?

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