Monday, August 02, 2010

The price of demagoguery

The Hill Times sets the record straight about how the Cons' increased census costs are going to be applied. And the answer is: clearing up at least part of their own deliberate confusion about the short form:
An aide to Mr. Clement (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.) confirmed what a source told The Hill Times—that $25-million of the $30-million Mr. Clement referred to as advertising money to promote the long questionnaire is actually for additional follow-up once the short census, which by law is mandatory to complete and return to government, is mailed to all Canadian households.

The government is aware, without saying so publicly, that its decision to replace the 40-year-old mandatory version of the long census will likely result in confusion among Canadians over which of the forms they must fill out by law, the source said.

"People will be confused, 'This is the census, I heard it's voluntary,'" the source said. "Of course, the short form isn't [voluntary] but people will be confused..."
The source said "there isn't a penny" for additional enumeration and follow-up for the long form, despite the fact more households are likely to ignore it than ever before in the history of the survey.

But Mr. Clement, in statements to the news media and MPs, has up to now said the money was being set aside for advertising and a public relations campaign urging Canadians to complete the longer questionnaires, which will go to 30 per cent of households.

"As I said to the media, there is an additional cost of $30-million to launch a public campaign to convince citizens to complete the questionnaire," Mr. Clement told the House of Commons Industry, Science and Technology Committee. "I think every census costs a lot."
So the Cons are making boneheaded decisions, wasting public money in the process, and lying about it. Which means that this is a day ending in "y". (Update: See also.) But it's still telling that Clement has tried to pretend that the added cost somehow relates to preserving data quality for the long form, rather than trying to counteract the Cons' own deceptive rhetoric about removing the penalty of jail for census non-compliance.

Meanwhile, it's also worth noting the fact that the Cons themselves recognize exactly what their gutting will do to what's been referred to as the "long form census" out of habit:
The Hill Times has also learned that Statistics Canada has increased the total estimated cost of the 2011 census to $660-million from an estimate that was posted on the agency's website prior to the government's decision to make the long census a voluntary national household survey, which will not be part of the census in a legal sense.

When Cabinet quietly approved legal details of the census last June, news of which quietly leaked out later in the month when the cabinet orders were posted in the Canada Gazette, it included and approved only a five-page version of the 2011 census short form, which contains just seven questions, and a mandatory questionnaire for the agricultural household census. Under the Statistics Canada Act, only the census questionnaires approved by cabinet and published in the Canada Gazette are mandatory.
So for all the Cons' spin, there doesn't seem to be much doubt about the actual effect of the change. Rather than actually serving as a census in either a legal or a practical sense, the long form will instead turn into nothing more than Canada's most expensive mail-in poll.

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