The Harper-cons have decided to cut down the long census form from 63 to 8 questions, and are instead sending out the cut questions in a voluntary survey.
Such is Harper's level of infatuation with US conservativism. If they had an uproar over the census, then darn it, Canada should have one too - even if it means Harper has to fabricate one himself.
But really, I think Harper had other very good reasons to shorten the census. Reasons that are good for him and his plan to shift the Canadian political spectrum to the right, not good for Canadians.
This isn't about privacy. It's about information. It's about the anti-intellectualism of neo-conservativism. It's about crippling the opposition to Harper's policies by making it more difficult to confront his ideology with facts.
The questions that have been cut have to do with disability, language, race, ethnicity, mobility, level of education, unpaid household labour and care-work, employment status, income, and home ownership.
Eliminating these questions harms equality-seeking groups, by lowering the quality of the data they need for advocacy, for determining where services are needed, and for tracking what kind of progress is being made. Harper has made no secret of the fact that he has a hate-on for such groups; one of his earliest actions in office was to scrap the Court Challenges Fund, which partially covered the costs of equality-based Charter challenges.
Those who complain about these questions claim that they are not relevant. And they aren't, to privileged people who don't have to deal with systemic inequality. Getting rid of the long census form will make it easier for privileged folks to ignore everyone who is not them. I've been doing surveys over the phone for several years now, and the only people I've heard complain about the "ethnic origin" demographic questions are Anglo-Saxon or mixed European people whose families have lived in Canada for many generations. Typically they've been older, and more often than not they've been from the prairie provinces.
This isn't about privacy. It's about wedge-politics. It's about exploiting the urban-rural divide.
Tony Clement claims that in 2006 there were about 160 000 complaints about the long census form, out of the 2.5 million homes it was sent to. Honestly, I've given up hope that the cons will listen to anyone who doesn't already agree with them. But we can try to flood Clement's in-box with emails supporting the long census form.
Office of the Honourable Tony Clement
Minister of Industry
C.D. Howe Building
235 Queen Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H5
Tel : 613-995-9001
He has more contact info for local offices here.
And don't forget to contact your MP.