Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On live issues

It's undoubtedly for the best that Munir Sheikh has offered a suggestion to save the long-form census. But the most crucial point is one that I've made before:
I urge the government to rethink its position on the census. We still have time to reverse the decision. One option – and the government would need to consult Statistics Canada on this – would be to send the long-form questions for printing as scheduled. If the decision is reversed in the weeks following debate and analysis, one could simply put the short form and the long form in one envelope for the 20-per-cent sample with a letter from the chief statistician highlighting the mandatory nature of both, at the time the census process begins. If the voluntary survey decision stands after a careful rethink, a letter from the chief statistician could simply confirm the voluntary nature of the long form, sent separately from the short forms as currently planned.
Of course, the Cons have done everything in their power to present the decision as final and irreversible. And it probably isn't by accident that Stephen Harper's first emission of his party's talking points coincided with both the artificial deadline for material to "go to the printers", and an all-out proxy assault on continued coverage of the census.

But the reality is that there's no reason for either the groups who rely on long-form census data or the media to let up just because the Cons think they're entitled to decree an end to any consequences for their choices. And the sooner the Cons learn that they can't simply declare the issue closed, the more likely they'll be to reverse course.

Update: I'm sure the Cons will ignore Frank Graves' take. But he's absolutely right that they really only have two choices, and barging ahead with the elimination of the long form census without paying a political price isn't one of them:
Mr. Graves added that the government now has a choice: continue to be “battered” by its unpopular decision on the census or “flip flop on the basis of poor polls.”

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