Friday, July 16, 2010

Government by misinformation

Tony Clement offers yet another example of how yesterday's snark may turn into tomorrow's Con talking point. But let's take Clement at his word for the moment and see what it suggests about the Cons' "populism":
Industry Minister Tony Clement said on Thursday that Canadians worried about the meddlesome arm of the state aren’t likely to bring their concerns to the Ottawa-based Office of the Privacy Commissioner. They are likely to tell their MPs.

“If you’re concerned about government intrusion, you’re not likely to complain to another organ of government,” Mr. Clement said in an interview. “They would see it as compounding the issue if they complained.”

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner is an arms-length body that is outside the control of the federal government. But Mr. Clement said this distinction is lost on many. “No offence to the Privacy Commissioner, but most people wouldn’t understand that [this] person is an independent actor.”
So as far as Clement is concerned, the Cons' attack on the census is aimed at the interests of people who:
- are paranoid about the federal privacy commissioner, who is not only specifically mandated with protecting personal privacy but required by law to keep her investigations confidential; yet,
- see no problem whatsoever communicating their concerns to Con MPs, despite the fact that it's been well documented that the Cons store and use that type of information for their party's political purposes.

Let's leave aside for the moment that the CIMS would seem to make it easy for the Cons to actually mention the number of people who have expressed concerns in the past, rather than talking about them only theoretically. By Clement's own account, the only people concerned with the long form census are paranoid and ill-informed in a multitude of ways. But rather than trying to correct either of the glaring misconceptions that could possibly explain the people now relied on as the basis for the Cons' decision, Clement is arguing that we should permanently cripple Canada's knowledge about itself in order to respond to their false beliefs.

Of course, I don't expect this particular line of spin to hold up any longer than the last few. But the question is what the Cons will ultimately do in response to the public outcry over the census - and the fact that even their supposedly strongest excuses don't make the least bit of sense should serve as a signal that it's time to stop trying to defend the indefensible.

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