Just moments ago Industry Minister Tony Clement, in response to growing criticism about his decision to end the mandatory long form census (now the Canadian Medical Association has come out in opposition), again cited “privacy concerns” from Canadians.
“Just in the past 48 hours I’ve received dozens and dozens of [letters from] Canadians who despite the adverse publicity … have come forward and said, ‘We agree with your position,’” Mr. Clement said.
“I am not saying it’s every Canadian, but I am saying there are Canadians [who complained] and we should try to accommodate their concerns in a balanced way,” he said.
Of course, the minister made no reference to complaints made before he made his decision. That’s because it is rapidly becoming obvious their were none. The Privacy Commissioner registered just 3 complaints in the last decade. Statistics Canada’s survey about the last census generated no feedback regarding privacy. The minister’s claim about privacy concerns is a sham – he’s veering on the edge of having lied to Canadians. Now he’s trying to cover it up by citing complaints since his decision.
It is great to hear the Minister Clement is interested in Canadians concerns since he made his announcement because in contrast to the few dozen he’s received the rest of the country seems focused on a petition in opposition to his decision that has garnered 5800 Canadians names (and that grows at about 3 names a minute) in the last few days. Will he listen to their voices too?
I can’t say I’m confident. Even with conservatives like C.D. Howe Institute President William Robson speaking in opposition. Why? Two reasons.
First, let’s take a look at the last time the Minister consulted Canadians regarding a decision. How about last year on the issue of copyright, digital locks and circumvention. During this consultation 6641 speaking Canadians spoke against anti-circumvention provisions and a mere 46 Canadians spoke in favour. And yet, the desire of those 46 trumped the 6641. Or how about on Tuesday when Industry Canada suddenly pulled the second most popular discussion (about the census long form) from the Digital Economy Consultation.
It is the second, however, that is more important. I don’t think the Minster is the decision maker. Indeed, I don’t think he even wanted to do this. I don’t always agree with him but Minister Clement seems smart and even fun. His twitter account is personable and engaging. More interestingly, the Minister allegedly spoke in opposition to this decision behind closed doors. The real decision maker was the Prime Minister. All the more reason why Canadians need to let their unhappiness with this decision known – they need to help Minister Clement reverse it.