July 23, 2010

Making Sense of the Census

By admin

Or … Dear Tony, Please Don’t Count Me In Your Numbers

There’s an insane level of noise happening with respect to the census and the Conservative plan to drop the mandatory aspect of the long-form.  There’s very little clarity.

As part of his defense, Tony Clement is suggesting that with the last census, several Canadians did not submit the long-form census on the grounds that they were concerned about their privacy.  This is only half true.

I am one of those Canadians, but allow me to explain myself.

I did not submit the long-form census because I was concerned about my privacy.  That’s a fabrication that’s being spread by the Conservatives because they don’t like statistics and the reality that they reveal (eg. lower crime rates or people dropping out of organized religion).

Unlike the Conservatives, I trust Statistics Canada with my personal information and also trust that it will be aggregated to show general trends and observations about our population, our needs as citizens and where investments should be made by our various levels of government, just to name a few ways in which we rely on this information.

That is a basic principle of statistics that I think Tony Clement and the rest of the Conservatives have failed miserably to understand:  statistics are about larger numbers, not individual details.  There are no privacy concerns if you trust the institution.

But let’s get to my personal choice to remain absent on the last census.  I refused to fill this document because the data is being stored and managed by a third-party called Lockheed-MartinYes, that Lockheed-Martin.

In fact, in 2006, there was a substantial grassroots movement that tried to stop the Canadian government from outsourcing this critical data collection exercise to a company that manufactures weapons of mass destruction.  It was called CountMeOut and details can be found here.

What’s fascinating to me is that the Conservatives have successfully taken a public protest against the government and turned it into some kind of libertarian boogie monster pep rally that has all deep blue Conservatives getting their pitchforks blabbing about the ills of big government coming to take my family away.

What’s worse is that this campaign makes all protesters of the original long-form census hypocrites.

The point of all this: when Tony claims that thousands of Canadians are refusing to submit to the long-form census because they’re concerned about privacy, maybe he’d better check his stats.

Oh yeah … he doesn’t have any.  Or he soon won’t.

Welcome to Stephen Harper’s “Conada”, where lies are truth and truth is terror.