Saturday, July 31, 2010

Any day now...

...this whole census thing is bound to go away on its own, figure the Cons. That is, if one ignores the Calgary Herald:
The federal Conservatives should reverse their stance on killing the mandatory long form of the Canadian census. From academics to genealogists to corporations, everyone except Stephen Harper's Tories seems opposed to the introduction of voluntary completion forms, replacing the long form. Economists, think-tanks, professional associations, non-profits, labour unions, religious groups, municipalities and corporations oppose the move, which will cost taxpayers millions more but lead to inferior results.

Harper officials have tried to spin this change as proof that they are the party that supports smaller and less intrusive government. And yet, the Tories plan on spending another $30 million to send the detailed long forms to 30 per cent of households instead of 20 per cent, in hopes that at least 20 per cent of those will voluntarily agree to answer the questions.

How does spending more money equal smaller government? It's ironic to be sure.
This calls for a graceful about-face by the prime minister, as the count is overwhelmingly in favour of keeping the census intact, mandatory forms and all.
And the National Post:
We are on record opposing the government's slapdash approach to cancelling the mandatory long-form census. Nothing has occurred in the two weeks since to change that opinion or to alter the impression that this was a hasty decision, and that the dubious explanations now being offered for it were concocted after the fact.
(I)t's making the government look foolish, and it doesn't appear that anything more salacious will come down the pipe to distract the chattering classes' attention before autumn. For this self-interested reason--and also, for the more important and substantial reason that good census data is a valuable resource -- the government should accept a compromise solution offered by the National Statistics Council: Remove certain long-form questions that are deemed particularly invasive and eliminate the threat of imprisonment from the relevant legislation.

Enough already. It's past time to turn the page.
And the Royal City Record:
The plan to replace the long form mandatory census with a voluntary one has been almost universally panned. In fact, the longtime bureaucrat in charge of the department actually resigned over the decision.

It is still puzzling why Harper has not done some back-pedalling.
Now, for the average taxpayer, it may seem like an arcane battle, and many would probably be delighted to not have to fill in the long form. But those same folks may not be so delighted when government makes decisions on flimsy data and they end up with less services - or worse, services placed in areas for political purposes and not based on facts.

Making the census long form voluntary will ensure that some individuals will simply not be represented in the data.

And to make decisions without that information is just plain dumb, as SFU statistics professor Carl Schwarz says, "Making decisions with poor data is worse than making decisions with no data. If you've got poor data, you make decisions with this aura of respectability that just isn't there."
And William Christian:
Pity poor Tony Clement, the federal industry minister. A bright and decent guy, though without the backbone to resign, he has to take the fall for the prime minister’s decision to cancel the long-form census. Without the details provided by the long-form census, future governments, both provincial and federal, will not have the information effectively to introduce social welfare programs.

No money, no information. Bye-bye, social planning. And a faith-based foreign policy.

Maybe Harper’s agenda is becoming less hidden.

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