Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mandatory Long Census Form Gone, Outrage Ensues

Well it seems the Conservative government has opened a can of worms. Big political news over the past few days is about the axing of the mandatory long census form which asks all sorts of personal questions. Okay, it's not gone, just now voluntary. This means that you will get a form (60% chance) and fill it out if you want to. What's the problem? Well it seems that a whole bunch of special interest groups are seething over this fact. Why are they seething? This would mean that they wouldn't get the free government statistics to support their special interests.

Actually I think they are missing a few key points here. We are supposed to be moving away from discrimination. So why do we need to pigeon hole everybody with this census? I don't know what the short form is like, probably basic information that most people give out on a regular basis. Does the government need to know my religious practices? Not really. Does it need to know my age and place of permanent residence? Definitely. So what's the big deal about the long form?

Well some bureaucrat in Ottawa thinks it's such a big deal he's resigning in protest over the decision.

Head of StatsCan Munir Sheikh resigns :

By Jennifer Ditchburn And Heather Scoffield, The Canadian Press
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OTTAWA - Canada's chief statistician resigned Wednesday over the Conservative government's decision to axe the long-census form, part of a spiralling political crisis that has pitted Stephen Harper's cabinet against the provinces, dozens of national organizations and now its own public service.

Throughout the day, rumours had been brewing that long-time bureaucrat Munir Sheikh was preparing to resign as he met with Privy Council officials in downtown Ottawa. Sheikh had abruptly cancelled a town-hall meeting on the census with anxious Statistics Canada employees earlier in the day.

Finally, in the early evening, Sheikh posted a news release on the Statistics Canada website. The 62-year-old career bureaucrat made it clear that he could not defend the government's directive to take the 30-year-old long-form census to a voluntary survey in 2011.

"I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion. This relates to the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census," Sheikh wrote.

"It can not. Under the circumstances, I have tendered my resignation to the Prime Minister."

Sheikh said he would not discuss the advice that he and the agency had given Industry Minister Tony Clement on the census issue, but it was clear that there was a deep divide between the civil service and the Conservative cabinet over the issue.

Resignations over matters of principle are exceedingly rare in the federal bureaucracy, where senior executives are bred on the concept of fearless advice and loyal service to their political masters. [snip]

Funny thing here is the last sentence of the last paragraph of the snippet I posted here. "Loyal service to their political masters". Most bureaucrats aren't loyal to the Conservative government. Well, only if they have been appointed by the current party. Most of them are fighting the government tooth and nail over every little thing. Which is what this is about. The decision about the long census form is stepping on the toes of the bureaucrats and every little "rights" group that benefits from it. What ever happened to being racially "colour" blind?

I hope the Conservatives stick to their guns on this issue. And if I receive the long census form next year, I may fill it out, I may not.

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