And now, the international laughing stock phase of our debate…

And now it has just become depressing.

The international media has picked up on the census debate and they’re just mocking it.

There is this priceless quote in a New York Times article:

“I wouldn’t call this political interference,” Professor Prewitt said. “I would call this government stupidity.”

Yes, the beauty for all of America to read from Kenneth Prewitt the former director of the United States Census Bureau and now Columbia University professor.

So, in the space of 1 short year our government has gone from model regulator of the banking industry to world laughing stock on policy. If only it ended there.

The Wall Street Journal – that left wing rag owned by that hippy Rupert Murdoch – has a piece as well. It opens up its article on the subject with a sly:

The government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is under fire from a range of opponents for an unusual privacy initiative—making participation in his country’s census largely voluntary.

Even the Christian Science Monitor pokes fun at the decision.

Interestingly, even as people outside the country are starting to take notice, apparently the rank and file Conservative MPs continue to believe this story will blow over:

“It’s just another dead news-cycle story,” said one Conservative MP. “Most people will look at it, and say, what’s the difference?”

Ah, there is nothing like relying on the ignorance of Canadians to inspire confidence in leadership. This from a party who roots are allegedly in believing that the Canadian public has a way of learning about things and then forming judgments that are none too pleasant. Especially, when they think politicians are trying to pull a fast one.

Given that a diverse coalition of forces never before seen in this country has assembled in opposition to this idea, such a view smacks of arrogance. Possibly even hubris. Indeed, it is the same time of arrogance that the Conservatives have, for so long, claimed distinguished them from the Liberals. The kind of hubris that leads to decisions that wind up putting plans for a fall election on hold…

And yes! I do look forward to a day when I won’t write about this. Sorry about this folks… just sad to see billions upon billions of dollars of Canadian of taxpayers money spent over the last 100 years, and a multibillion dollar asset, destroyed by a government that doesn’t want reality to interfere with the decision making process. I promise this will be the only post on the census this week (barring some dramatic news).

43 thoughts on “And now, the international laughing stock phase of our debate…

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  2. Aaron McGowan

    This is very interesting to see that the international media and press are also picking up this story about the Government's decision.Thanks for the information David, much appreciated.

  3. Stephen Dixon

    I wonder if there are good examples of other National jurisdictions that have used lack of census data to push politically motivated policy through? There may be some fairly dramatic examples that would highlight the folly of Canadians to accept this decision by the Harper government.

  4. Pundits' Guide

    Do not apologize for writing about this, and certainly don't stop doing so. This is what they're counting on.

  5. Jymn

    It's too bad our right-wing media monopoly doesn't share the international press's talent for calling out our PM and his rag-tag team of Cons. Hopefully, the story will pick up traction and Canadians will no longer be able to ignore the laughing stock of our government that the rest of the world is having so much fun mocking.

  6. billg

    Your frustrated that most people dont think like you? That makes no sense. I remember the world press mocking Canada's “Own the Poduim” in Vancouver….how'd that turn out.Get used to Canada marching to our own drummer…if I wanted my country to spin and twist in the wind everytime some media outlet in another country railed against a govt decision I'd vote Liberal. I also seem to remember a newspaper in the UK running a pictue of Chretien choking that idiot with some half assed sarcastic headline. Most Canadians thought JC was awesome for doing it…me included…god I miss that guy.

  7. David Eaves

    Hi Billy, no I'm not frustrated that most people don't think like me, quite the opposite. All the survey data shows that Canadians are concerned about this issue, and of course the enormous number of non-profit, business groups, religious orgs and others that have spoken up about it. What is frustrating is a government that refuses to engage or listen to the public.As for the own the podium, I don't recall there being a single article by any international media mocking that… weird to bring that up to support your case. Oh well…

  8. Rikia

    So it is decided. Harper will send MORE copies of the long census out to MORE households, sampling error be damned, in order to avoid admitting he's wrong, costing Canadians an extra $30 MILLION for absolutely useless data, while the world wonders what happened to Canada, and hundreds of groups from churches to statisticians to foodbanks to businesses try to figure out how to provide services without knowing where the need is.

  9. Mark

    you mean the surveys where they take polls of specified groups of people to support their viewpoint? those surveys? Isnt that what you are complaining about David, that surveys that dont include jail time can't be accurate? And because someone or some group disapproves doesnt mean they are right, many on that list, and no, I dont mean all, but many have been on record as opposing Harper from the get go so their position here doesnt necessarily equate to anything other then partisan politics

  10. Mark

    churches? foodbanks? they base their work on actual need not statistics that are gathered every five years, that doesnt even make sense. Businesses? they base their decisions on polls and surveys done many times a year. I believe the census is important, but, this doomsday fear mongering drives me nuts. The census isnt going to be useless just cuz people arent threatened with jail. give your head a shake. The statisticians who are freaking are playing on some peoples fear and dislike of the current government

  11. David Eaves

    Okay, more than happy to allow readers to assess Mark's comments. I suppose the list of over 180 NGO's, church groups, business organizations and so forth listed here is just part of some partisan conspiracy. And that survey organizations like Angus Reid and just spewing out rubbish. Always fascinating to see how far people will go to ignore reality to protect their bias… but then that's the whole point of this debate isn't it.

  12. Mark

    Your actually supporting my point David, reread what is said, on one hand you say surveys and voluntary censuses dont give accurate info then you say survey data shows canadians are concerned. So if surveys are accurate within a certain percentage point which the statiticians claim then how come a voluntary census wont be accurate. and 97.2% of who, ALL canadians? I think not, and I know from personal experience that many people who get involved in protests dont even truly understand the details of the protest. When asked they spout rhetoric they have heard from elsewhere (yes, I know this applies to both sides) I am not whole hog against the LF census and dont care if they keep it mandatory (I actually think he should leave it as is just to shut all complainers up) I'm just tired of all the rediculous arguments to try and support that if we dont threaten people with jail they wont be able to collect useable data

  13. Mark

    Holly, there are alot of people, on datalibres list, who are against the change, that doesnt mean they are all experts on the subject or even understand it at all. (some for sure are) But unions for instance are clearly involved for partisan reasons and many of the university related ones are traditionally liberal. As for churches, why on earth would they need stats can to determine the needs of their congregations, thats just rediculous. The only religious beliefs they need to know is of their own faith, what are faiths are doing is hardly relevant to them. They apparently asked stats can to add another question to the census in relation to actual involvement in their faith. They cant figure that out on their own by contact with their congregations? seriously.O and read the actual comments, I said clearly, many on the list, not all. but, standard policy to just pick what you want and make a strawman argument

  14. Mark

    Holly, I would support that also, and if the data was clear then that should be the end of it, however, I have seen many of the promandatory people saying they will purposely skew all info to make a point so how do we avoid that?

  15. Cameron

    Mark.. how do you think they work out who to talk to in those polls and surveys? I'll wait… you think some.

  16. Brenton

    The union I work for, the BC Gov't and Service Employees' Union, has just come out against this. They're a provincial union that, for the most part, doesn't get involved in federal politics. So, no, we're not “involved for partisan reasons”, thank you.

  17. Mark

    Cameron, riiiight, they use 5 year old stats to determine each year who to poll, you can make any claim you like but thats not how they determine who to poll, they actually allow people to sign up to many polls and surveys and that has nothing to do with the LF census, I have personally been on many survey and poll lists, that doesnt mean I have any better insights to their products just that I have an opinion, thats all.

  18. brentonwalters

    Your actually supporting my point David, reread what is said, on one hand you say surveys and voluntary censuses dont give accurate info then you say survey data shows canadians are concerned. So if surveys are accurate within a certain percentage point which the statiticians claim then how come a voluntary census wont be accurate.And this is why we leave the figuring out to the statisticians. Survey data is not the same as census data. The reason why a voluntary census won't be as accurate is because the people that volunteer information will not represent the entire population. See the US experience for a good example (their 2003 voluntary census information was thrown out because the information was unusable). The same reason internet polls on radio station websites aren't used as accurate predictors of anything: because respondents self-select, and certain groups will or won't do so.

  19. Aley

    Rikia, how do you know the data will be “absolutely useless”? Lesser quality, sure, but will that make it “absolutely useless”, and for all purposes? Maybe the churches will be able to get by with less than perfect data? And maybe transit planners will still be able to design bus routes with less than perfect data? Maybe a lot of those user and interest groups jumping on the bandwagon will get by quite fine with less than “absolutely useful” data. And was data from the long census “absolutely useful”? How much has that data actually been used in such a way to contribute to the betterment of Canadian society? Do we have any measure of this? My bet is that once the statisticians resign themselves to the demise of the long census and apply themselves like experts to the challenge (rather than as politicians lobby for policy) we will discover that they are quite ingenious in working with the data from the new survey. Time will tell I suppose.

  20. Mark

    exactly, so I say that the survey he used, by his standards and yours, isnt accurate, but then I am attacked and told that I am challenging the survey people, so I asked, which is it? cant have it both ways. And where did you read they threw out the 2003 census, I thought they just determined it didnt reflect as well as they liked?

  21. Toppsy

    By the way, thats wasnt an agumentative question at the end there, I really did miss where they threw all the info out

  22. Mark

    HAHA, I have been a union member for years including bcgeu. for you to say there is nothing partisan is funny. I recieve the mailouts and both the unions I am in right now are very socialist anti conservative, but, agreed they are not liberal as we all generally hate Campbell, but thats personal because of the wage cuts and job losses.

  23. Holly Stick

    Can you provide evidence of “many promandatory people saying they will purposely skew all info” please?

  24. brentonwalters

    You have an issue with selective reading, maybe? What I said was the BCGEU is not involved in this issue for partisan reasons, as they almost exclusively deal with provincial politics.

  25. brentonwalters

    From the Globe and Mail: At the behest of Congress, The U.S. Census Bureau conducted an experiment in 2003 using its compulsory American Community Survey to see what would happen if some people were given the choice of filling it out.The result? The data was degraded so much, fixing it would be too expensive. The idea was quickly abandoned.

  26. brentonwalters

    I'm not a statistician, so I can't discuss the validity of some data over other data. I have heard many statisticians say, however, that voluntary sampling is not as reliable as mandatory. Full stop.

  27. Mark

    no, I read what you said just fine, as I am a member of both that union and the heu I have experience with the union reps and members and in my experience they almost all dislike conservative governments both federally and provincially. the majority I have experience with prefer the ndp provincially and the liberals federally. That obviously doesnt apply to all as I dont believe any union truly can say it represents the feelings of all of their members outside of their direct needs in a work environment. My point is simply that although they are provincial, they still dislike right leaning govts and prefer more socialist especially in relation to health care

  28. Mark

    The idea was abandoned, not the data, if you do a quick check you will see they have statistical data from 2003. They have also gone to a slightly different format in the states now where they will be sending out the American Community survey every year as opposed every ten years (the regular census for population etc will continue as it is constitutionally mandated) The ACS will go to a different smaller group every year and will allow for more accurate info immediately rather then relying on old info that could be outdated.

  29. Mark

    just read the forums … specifically the facebook forums.…You would need to look through all the links to all the articles and the comments at the bottom of articles and I have no intention of going back to each one find and quote them all. Regardless of whether you “believe” me I have read it and ask a fair question, if the intent is to prove something inneffective “as a protest” according to these people there remains a likely hood that they might actually do as they suggested. Another person has suggested that their group would just burn the voluntary census rather then answer honestly because they believe it to be useless. (that is also at that link) Mind you, these are the same people who are saying they want a criminal penalty for the census because … “it is so important” but they will burn them or ruin them instead of answering honestly …hmmmm *scratches head.By the way… before you go assuming that I dont agree with the census let me be clear as I have tried to be at every comment in various articles that I have made… I am not against the LF census and especially not the short census, I personally dont believe we need all the questions that are on the long and I dont like that there is a threat of criminal prosecution for the LF. My personal opinion, and that is all I claim

  30. brentonwalters

    The idea of a voluntary census was abandoned because the data was degraded so much. They have info from the 2003 census because they reverted to a mandatory census. (As I understand it, anyway.)

  31. Holly Stick

    Sorry, but this whole business is about intellectual integrity. The Harper Conservatives have none. They lie to Canadians repeatedly and I will not accept anything they or their supporters say without independent evidence.The point about Harper deciding that the long-form census should be voluntary is that it makes the information gathered less trustworthy and thus less useful to people who are trying to deal with reality, not with ideological fantasies. Harper has now damaged the credibility of the census, even if he does grow a brain and decide to retain a mandatory long-form census. We have to get rid of his destructive, wasteful, dishonest government.

  32. Mark

    see, now that tells me that the census thing isnt the real issue with you, clearly its Harper and his government in general, ergo my earlier comments about partisanship. Almost exclusively everyone I have talked to about this who is all fired up eventually comes back to issues thay have with Harper that go farther back then the census issue. Many specifically upset about the proroguing cuz they didnt get their coalition. (dont know if that applies to you, this is about the others I am speaking right now)My opinion is whatever happens happens and I dont think society will fall apart with a voluntary form but thats just my opinion. If he changes his mind great, if he doesnt, fine, I will answer honestly and return the census, if others dont, well, thats their decision. The info that really matters will still be mandatory so I'm not gonna get all knotted up over it.We will have to just disagree, which is the beauty about Canada, we all have a right to our opinions.Have a good day

  33. Holly Stick

    The census is one of many issues showing what bad governance the Harper Conservatives are providing to Canadians, and showing Harper's basic dishonesty. There are many things wrong with Harper.But that does not mean the stupid decision to gut the census is not an important issue in itself.

  34. J Nicole

    Fines and jail time? Come on people. Are you kidding me?People and governments and the courts follow and support good laws. Governments and the courts will fine and jail people for breaking the law if its a good and neccesary law.People and governments and the courts will not prosecute or support bad laws. When you have a law which the government and courts are unwilling to enforce, and which large numbers of a population do not obey, you must seriously question if this is because it is a bad law.Over 53,000 people listed themselves as Jedi in New Zealand's 2001 census. New Zealand had the highest per capita population of reported Jedi in the world that year, with 1.5% marking “Jedi” as their religion. The city of Dunedin had the highest population of reported Jedi per capita.[1] Statistics New Zealand treated Jedi responses as “Answer understood, but will not be counted”. If Jedi were counted it would have been the second largest religion in New Zealand. The percentages of religious affiliations were:Christian: 58.9% No religion: 29.6% Object to answering: 6.9% Jedi: 1.5% Buddhism: 1.2% Hindu: 1.2% If you look at the above data, you see that at least 8.4% of the respondents to this mandatory census broke the law. (Object to answering 6.9% plus Jedi 1.5%) .So you have a law which the government and courts are unwilling to enforce, and which large numbers of the population did not obey. You should seriously question if this is not a bad law. There is nothing in place to stop an activist prosecutor from actually prosecuting someone some day for claiming on the census their five year old son is a jedi knight, or maybe a single mother who objects to answering questions from the state that are unwanted and make her feel uncomfortable. Maybe the Supreme Court would strike down this law as unconstitutional, but isn't it obvious well before it reaches this stage that this is a bad law?Do you really think that this law accomplishes its purpose, and that the above data is accurate? Are you really going to make important policy decisions based on the above data?I picked New Zealand because if I picked Canada's census data, everyone has allready taken a stand, and I don't think people are looking at the other side of the story on this issue.


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