Census Update and other chuckles

Sorry for the lack of posts this week, blog was offline for a bit. (For geeks out there, I now have a company managing my blog for me and we we’re moving from a shared hosting service to a virtual private server – I should have less down time in the future – very excited).

Sadly, in that time there have been a bunch of fascinating developments on the census. As some of you may be aware a new poll by EKOS emerged today that has the Liberals and Conservatives dead even. More interesting however is how the census is playing a key role in the shift:

In seeking an explanation for these movements, we need look no further than the government’s ill-received decision to end the mandatory long form census. Not only does the shift of the highly educated support this conclusion, but a direct question on public approval for this decision provides compelling evidence that this move precipitated the current woes that the Conservative Party now faces.

When asked whether they felt that the privacy intrusion of the census justified a voluntary census or whether the lack of representativeness would cost us vital data, a clear majority of the public (56%) picked the latter (compared 26% who felt the mandatory long form was a violation of privacy). Even among Tory supporters, this appeal is not selling and there is an overwhelming lean to disapproval in the rest of the spectrum. Opposition to this decision is strongest among the university educated.

Of course, one of the retorts from pundits in favour of scrapping the long form census has been that only a few people care about this issue, it won’t matter in the medium term and it certainly won’t impact any election. For example:

Two things: I still standby my thesis that I believe that chucking mandatory nature of the long-form is a move to dismantle the welfare state (and that this is a move in the right direction). And two, nobody cares outside of the beehive. It’s the media that is pushing the story outside of the beehive walls propelled by the loud buzz of special interests.

Sigh, I suppose that 56% of  Canadians represent “a special interest.”

For me, both groups (56% and 26%) have legitimate concerns. As such, efforts by those in favour of this decision opposition as “special interest” driven are wrong and, frankly, disingenuous. Happily, they have failed. Indeed, the more these pundits try, the more they seem to make this a wedge issue in favour of those opposed to the decision. Mostly, I just think it would have been nice to have the issue debated before a decision was made.

More interesting has been another effort to defend trashing the long form census. I think Jack Mintz has thoroughly damaged his credibility with a terrible, contradictory and misleading op-ed in the Financial Post. Rather than dive into it, I encourage everyone to wander over to Aaron Wherry’s fantastic (and, unlike this post, short) dismantling of it. He’s already done all the heavy lifting.

Finally, just because I could help but notice the irony… I see that Conservative MP Garry Breitkreuz has an oped in the Mark in which he is worried about the role that the police is taking lobbying to keep the registry alive:

Taxpayers should be incensed at the CACP for co-opting the role of policy-maker. When law enforcement managers try to write the laws they enforce, history has taught us we risk becoming a state where police can dictate our personal freedoms.

I, of course, agree that it is dangerous for the police to get involved in policy debates. I now eagerly away for Garry Breitkreuz to demand that the RCMP own up to the funding of fake “research” in an effort to distort the debate on Insite and harm reduction policies. It would seem that someone at the RCMP, or higher up, doesn’t believe that should happen.

But on further review, maybe we shouldn’t get to excited. Looking at Garry’s website, and specifically, this PDF he’s made available for download, it seems like he’s actually quite keen to have police force members be outspoken about the gun registry as long as they agree with his view.

Ah, hypocrisy. If only he didn’t make it so easy.

4 thoughts on “Census Update and other chuckles

  1. Ron_b

    “ Sir, I am not sure why you prefer a society with unregistered firearms but I can say that I am relieved that you are not my next door neighbour. My experience as a former police officer is that most shootings are performed by the “he was such a nice man”, not the hardened criminal who makes it to the front page. If I were still a police officer, I would certainly routinely be querying residents for registered firearms before entering. Of course a negative result doesn’t mean there are no firearms, but a positive result is VERY useful. ” Rob Yale

    A former police officer commenting on one of Gary’s earlier Mark opinion pieces.

    1. David Eaves

      Ron – I’m in favour of the registry… but the thrust of my piece is about how public policy gets debated and how you can’t say one thing in one place, while saying something else elsewhere…

  2. Michael

    Since the census discussion has raised awareness of the importance of statistical/scientific concepts like “selection bias”, I think those who are quick to jump on this poll to support their positioning on the census should consider this: Presumably, some number of people contacted for this poll declined to participate. Would there not be reason to suppose that selection bias would skew the poll question on the census, since presumably people concerned about privacy would have been more likely to decline to participate? I have asked Ekos to comment on this, and to indicate how many people they contacted elected not to do the poll (I would have declined, for example), but have not heard anything from them. If we think science is important, we think science is important right? Even, and especially, when it gives us answers that undermine our prejudices and lobbying points.


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