The long form rationale in plain sight

The Conservative’s rationale to scrap the mandatory long form Census is starting to crystallize for me.  I had proposed it as a conspiracy theory earlier but it seems I just wasn’t looking at it close enough.  It’s not about a violation of the Geneva Convention as Stock Day suggests or any of the the trivial arguments that have been put out there.  The Fraser Institute restates the main point in a fundraising letter:

The census has simply become a cheap way for academics, economists, and social scientists to get information.

This is the nub of it and they have been saying it all along.  It makes perfect sense now.  I still don’t agree with the decision but I now understand why they did it.

They want to hobble those folks that use Census data for social policy debate and development.  It is absolutely true that the largest users of long form data are government departments (federal and provincial), social policy advocacy groups and academics looking to ground the debate in robust data.    

Hobble might not be the right word.  They don’t want government paying for the data that the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives then uses to anchor much of their policy options.   This is not just about external think tanks, however.  Internal government departments use this data widely for internal policy debates.  Now they won’t be able to.

It is true that it will likely create a new industry around demographic and economic research.  But only those with deep pockets will be able to play and they will be able to write their surveys in such a way to ensure the survey findings are aligned with their expectations.  I have no real problem with that when it’s a survey about online banking preferences but when it comes to pay equity legislation?  You want that debate to be had by bouncing one biased survey findings off another (Fraser vs. CCPA)?

Not to mention historical comparison is over for at least some time.  It will be very hard to compare mandatory Census data with voluntary Census data (if at all).

But at least I take comfort that I am not losing my mind.  When Stockwell Day talks about the dangers of telling Statistics Canada you are a Jew – I started to think I am becoming mentally untethered.

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4 Responses to The long form rationale in plain sight

  1. richard says:

    As I said a few post ago, the neocons and libertarians don’t like data. The more intelligent of them realized long ago that properly done data analyses would not support their positions. The solution is to get rid of the data. Once achieved, we are left with uninformed opinions. Things are bad enough now, given the hold those bankrupt philosophies on the mass media. Take away data from the few remaining able to show that the emperor has no clothes, and intelligent public discourse becomes all but impossible.

  2. Paul says:

    I’m surprised it took this long for you to figure that out. It was obvious by the people who opposed the change. The francophone groups are livid.

    BIg Business can buy the information they want, and special interest groups are a drain to government resources. They eliminated government funding for legal challenges, and now this is another change that will make the work of social policy advocates more difficult, more expensive, or impossible to do.

    We have an ideologically motivated Prime Minister. Why is anyone surprised?

  3. I guess I was distracted by the other reasons to scrap it.

  4. The less cynical view is that this is less about cutting off social policy groups and more about privatization.

    Without census data, as you suggest, businesses and organizations will be required to pay for demographic data. It is entirely consistent with Harper’s approach that such services ought to be provided by private enterprise, rather than government.

    If the left-wing social policy activists are disadvantaged, that’s a bonus, but possibly not the core motivation for Harper.

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