So I really, really, really, wanted to write about something else, but Tony Clement’s staff is making it hard not to.
I woke up this morning to discover that, at some point over the weekend “an online discussion about Canada’s census mysteriously vanished from a federal consultation on the digital economy.” See the full article here with some fantastic coverage by Jennifer Ditchburn.
So what has happened?
Well, for the past few months the government has been running an online consultations about the digital economy, asking people what they think should be done. During this process, Canadians, who must register, can vote ideas up or down.
Well, since the digital economy is part of the information economy (information – like that created by the census), someone suggested that part of the digital economy strategy should to reinstate the long form census. The proposal, only submitted a few days ago (others have been around for months) garnered enough votes to quickly shoot up and become the number 2 proposal on the site.
So rather than engage the 360+ Canadians who voted for the proposal (far more than who ever likely complained about the Long Form Census) the government simply removed the discussion from the site. If you know the specific URL you can still get to it, but there is no link to the discussion from anywhere else on the site.
So, in short, the government’s definition of a “public consultation” is to say we want to consult and hear from you, until you say something we don’t like. Then we will bury it.
How are Canadians supposed to have confidence that any contributions will be listened to and engaged. This seems to confirm what many citizens suspected after the copyright consultation: That this process is a sham, and that the government isn’t looking for ideas, but that it has its own agenda and is going to pursue it regardless of what Canadians ask or tell it.
So, in summary, when the data (in this case the votes) don’t support your conclusions, the solution is to get rid of the data. Kind of like the Long Form Census.
If you want you can still go to the discussion and vote up the recommendation that the government keep the long form census. It could end up that the most requested contribution is one the Government tries to hide and denies exists.