Thursday, October 07, 2010

"These Questions Continue to be Essential"

The quote above is from Maxime Bernier, as part of an eloquent defense of the long form Census.

But before we get there, it's fun to follow the bouncing ball and see how that old quote found the light of day.

We start with this morning's Toronto Star article with the headline "Even one dissenting Canadian enough to kill long-form census, says Clement". Yes, that headline makes Tony sound a tad silly, but it's not really less sensical than any of his other Census Greatest Hits, which include:

"Insisting you follow the law is state coercion"
"Large sample sizes make up for biased samples"

And who can forget this golden oldie - "StatsCan totally supports this move" (followed by the resignation of the Chief Statistician the next day)

Anyways, Tony took offense to this headline, calling it a "Star Torque" on Twitter.

Luckily, Rosemary Barton recorded Clement's comments:

Barton: "Mr Clement, there were never a 1,000 emails about the census..."

Clement: "Well, I can't speak for Maxime Bernier, but I can tell you that if you have a complaint about the census the last place you're going to complain about is to the census people. You're going to complain to your MP."

Barton: "I know, but if you're the industry minister and you were getting 1,000 complaints a day of whatever nature about the census, you would have told Statistics Canada, 'Hey, there's something going on here, people aren't happy'?"

Clement: "I can't speak for past industry ministers. They have to speak for themselves. But all I can tell you is, that it stands to reason that if you have a complaint about the coercive tactics of a government agency the last place you're going to complain about that is to the government agency. You're going to complain to your duly elected local MP."

Barton: "But then why aren't people tabling all those complaints? because we don't have them."

Clement: "I got a letter in my question period book from a Liberal MP from Richmond Hill who complained to the minister about that very topic. So to say they don't exist is not true."

Barton: "But they're not in the hundreds, they're not in the thousands..."

Clement: "I can't quantify. Even if there's one complaint, if it's a legitimate complaint, even if there's one complaint from a Canadian about the coercive tactics used by a government agency we have to consider that complaint a valid question about public policy."

Barton: "Sure, but we don't change public policy for one person do we?"

Clement: "Why not? If they're right."

Barton: "We change public policy for one person?"

Clement: "If they're right."


Like I said, this isn't really sillier than anything else Clement has said before, so I was ready to let this one pass without a blog comment. But notice this toss-away line from Clement: "I got a letter in my question period book from a Liberal MP from Richmond Hill who complained to the minister about that very topic".

Now, presumably this letter was given to Tony by a staffer in either his or Bernier's office. I guess it didn't occur to them to see what Bernier wrote in response.

Well, it looks like that thought occurred to a few Liberal researchers and, lo and behold, the next day, we get this:



To summarize, Bryon Wilfert wrote Bernier back in 2006 to pass along a constituent's complaint about the Census. Bernier wrote back, giving the best defense of the census we've heard during this 4 month crisis:

"I can assure you that all of the information collected by the census is needed and is used only for statistical purposes. Statistics Canada takes very seriously its legal obligation to protect the privacy and confidentiality of every census respondent. In fact, all census databases, facilities, and networks containing confidential data are physically isolated from any networks outside Statistics Canada. In addition, names, addresses, and telephone numbers are not included in the census dissemination database to protect the privacy of census respondents.

[...]

All of the questions are designed to meet important information requirements that would be extremely difficult to satisfy efficiently from other sources."

[...]

These questions continue to be essential for providing the information needed by governments, businesses, researchers and individual Canadians to shed light on issues of concern to all of us - employment, education, training, transportation, housing, immigration, income support, pensions for seniors, transfer payments, aboriginal issues and many more."


Yes, that's the very same Maxime Bernier who claims he got "thousands of complaints each day" about the Census back in 2006. Then backtracked. Well, at least now we finally have proof of at least one complaint.

This is just another example of how badly managed this issue has been from the start. Just when the story should be dying down, Clement and Bernier do their best to breathe new life into it.

Now, I'm sure some of the friendly anonymous commentators who frequent this blog will point out that Wilfert is just as hypocritical on this as Bernier. But at least Wilfert has a defence - the Liberal position has never been that there are no complaints.

After all, only Tony Clement seems to believe that one complaint justifies a reckless change in public policy.

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21 Comments:

  • And now that there's at least one demonstrably legitimate complaint about the violations of privacy & bulling tactics used by the Veterans Affairs government agency (re: Sean Bruyea), I look forward to the changes in public policy that will bring: like a massive purge and reoorganization of the Dep't, one would hope, incl. the reignation of all the ADM's & Ministers who saw & condoned that breach of privacy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:25 PM  

  • Now, to be fair to Bernier, when he wrote the initial reply Harper hadn't yet told him that he was wrong. Bernier was relying on the advice of "statisticians" other "experts". Their advice is only good until Harper decides that it isn't, and when Bernier wrote his letter, it was still good. Bernier's a victim of timing, really.

    By Blogger Dennis Rice, at 4:02 PM  

  • I loved the article and your reply Dennis.

    Happy in Calgary.

    :-)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:01 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger ridenrain, at 12:53 AM  

  • It's a legal requirement to fill out the form, right? You expect an MP to tell people to disobey the law?

    You guys are delicious how you warp reality to excuse your warped reality.

    By Blogger ridenrain, at 12:55 AM  

  • Interesting that the Veterans Affairs privacy issue was brought up: how many stories report that the previous Liberal Government received those briefings with the medical records included?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:46 PM  

  • Ho hum and ha ha. Yes, how one warps reality in order to excuse one's warped reality. What exactly does happen when the Scylla of a political autocrat is forced to face-off with the Charybdis of a greater political and democratic awareness amongst the electorate and what happens when the puerile infatuation with one's golden political/ideological idol begins to lose political, ideological, and ethical lustre? "Mr. Ignatieff's case received a powerful endorsement on Thursday in the Commons defence committee from a former senior public servant, who said the purchase was a great mistake. 'When the government made the decision to sole source for the [F-35] as our next jet aircraft, I was disappointed,' Alan Williams, a former assistant deputy minister for military procurement, told the committee. 'I could not understand why they took this decision.' He argued for an open competition to select the new fighter. When asked about Mr. William's comments at a press conference at the factory, Mr. Harper replied sharply: 'His advice was very different at the time he was actually paid to give it.' Mr. Williams, when told at the committee meeting of the remarks, described them as 'Absolutely a lie. . . . I take great offence at that.'--'Harper, Ignatieff duel over jets' by John Ibbotson, The Globe and Mail, Friday, October 08, 2010. See also: 'Spotting Nixon-like tendencies in Harperland' by Jeffrey Simpson, The Globe and Mail, Friday, October 08, 2010 and CalgaryGrit: This Week In Calgary: Barb Higgins Jumps Into The Field. You surely don't need to be reminded that: "The fates lead him who will; him who won't they drag."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:05 PM  

  • Bernier's response is a strong defence of census confidentiality and of the question selection process, but it says nothing about whether the long form should be mandatory or voluntary.

    If the Conservatives were scrapping the long form census, then Bernier's response would be a rebuke. But of course, they're not.

    By Anonymous The Invisible Hand, at 10:50 PM  

  • Addendum to above post. Google-- 'F-35s and counterpunch':

    1. "The Self-Dismembering F-35" by Winslow T. Wheeler: www.counterpunch.org/wheeler11102009.html

    2. "Another Defense Aquisition Disaster" by Pierre M. Sprey and Winslow T. Wheeler: www.counterpunch.org/sprey09092008.html

    3. "Mark-to-Market Pentagon Style" by Franklin C. Spinney: www.counterpunch.org/spinney02082010.html

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:15 PM  

  • If you agree that the questions continue to be important, then why do you oppose sending the long-form to more people?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:36 PM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:36 PM  

  • Or maybe:

    1. click

    2. click

    3. click

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:34 PM  

  • Forgot to leave the "No Homers Allowed" sign on the computer. D'oh!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:40 PM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:45 PM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:47 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 10:34 AM  

  • F-35--'A tale of two pigs': click

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:39 PM  

  • "And NAVAIR recently determined that the Marine Corps and the Navy's version of the Joint Strike Fighter may end up being too expensive to operate, with each flight hour flown costing about $31,000, compared with around $17,000 for a flight hour for the service's current F/A-18 Hornets and AV-8B Harriers." As a somewhat bucolic interlude one might ask: Notice any similarities with 'Top-gun fighter in a spin' and the Canadian story?--here. Maybe it's just deja vu, or pipe dreams, or something. At least we know Canadian governments don't have the monopoly on either the stupidity or the pork barrel market.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:10 PM  

  • Maybe have a look at this: 'Is The JSF Affordable?': here

    Is a little openness, honesty, transparency, and accountability too much to ask from a government and its representatives? Why does one have to go beyond our idyllic and fair dominion in order to find intelligent critiques concerning this apparent fiasco? After awhile you get the impression that someone is trying to hide something. Just had a listen to Laurie Hawn on "Question Period' (October 17, 2010) and he was saying that the F-35 was to have a 40 year service life. Can this be true? Google up Boeing F/A-xx (And others.) and then decide for yourself. Planned obsolescence? You bet! There seems to be a childish, simpleminded faith in the continued availability of an infinite taxpayer funded 'well' which also conveniently overlooks the current economic crisis and its 'free-market' antecedents. "Oh what a tangled web we weave, When we first practice to deceive!" See all the previous posts for background.

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