Many years ago, I became one of the lucky recipients of the “long form” census from Statistics Canada. When I read through the 20-some pages of questions, I became concerned: there were too many questions of a personal nature, and I did not feel that my anonymity was adequately protected by the census procedure. My concern was fueled, in part, by the fact that I just finished reading Edwyn Black’s book, IBM and the Holocaust, which detailed how the Nazi state used census information collected by way of IBM tabulating machines to quickly locate and round up Jews in occupied territories.
Indeed, I became sufficiently worried that I wrote a letter, addressed to the then Chief Statistician, Ivan Fellegi, expressing my concerns. Much to my surprise, I received a phone call a few days later from a senior employee at Statistics Canada, who politely listened to my concerns and seemed genuinely interested.
I was hoping for some reform that might alleviate my concerns. Never did I dream that one day, Canada will have a government that will disastrously undermine the statistical integrity of Canada’s census by replacing the mandatory long from census with a voluntary variety.
This is one of several acts of this government that show the depths of their scientific illiteracy and indeed, their hostility to proper science. And the damage is lasting; even if a future government restores the mandatory long form census, valuable and important data have been lost for good.
A government that shows such contempt towards scientific integrity does not deserve to govern. Perhaps minding cats is a more appropriate vocation for Mr. Harper and his colleagues.
Here is another one of the Harper government’s unforgivable sins: the abuse of omnibus bills.
Bills in a legislature are called omnibus bills when they contain unrelated pieces of legislation. Tacking on such unrelated clauses to a bill are common in the US Congress, but lest we forget, the US Congress differs from Canada’s parliament in two very important respects: First, there is no party discipline and second, the executive is independently elected and has veto power.
These checks and balances are absent from Canada’s parliament. This is why the Harper government’s inclination to use omnibus bills as a matter of routine is so troubling. Particularly insidious are omnibus budget bills. For instance, the latest budget bill, which included provisions about creating a Parliament Hill police force, dealt with suspected terrorists’ passports, and the records of the defunct Long Gun Registry.
While not illegal, this practice should be considered exceptional, used only in the rarest of cases. I hope that the next government will recognize this and refrain from the practice of putting expediency ahead of the basic principles of parliamentary democracy.
A few days ago, in defense of his government’s decision to limit health care to refugee claimants, Mr. Harper described his policy as being supported by most new, existing, and, ahem, old stock Canadians.
Just what exactly did he mean? As an immigrant, a naturalized Canadian who became a citizen a mere 24 years ago, what do I qualify as? Am I a new Canadian? An existing Canadian? Surely not “old stock”? Or could it be that it’s not how long you have been a citizen of this country but where you come from, what your background happens to be, or heaven forbid, the color of your skin that determines who is “old stock”?
This looks like yet another wonderful example of just how divisive Mr. Harper and his Conservative Party have become. To most of us Canadians, there is only one kind of Canadian. Not to Mr. Harper: and that is why I sincerely hope that after October 19, Mr. Harper will have a lot more time on his hands that he can devote to helping shelter cats.
Sorry, Donald Sutherland. Move over, Wayne Gretzky. Not to mention another 1.4 million Canadians who are living abroad and who are no longer allowed to vote. Step aside please… don’t hold up the line.
It’s not the worst sin of the Harper government, to be sure. There are legitimate reasons to deny the vote to those who do not live with the consequences. Some countries allow expats to vote; others do not.
Nonetheless, why now? Was this a serious concern, expat votes skewing Canadian election results?
Or is this just another example of a prime minister for whom Canadians living abroad are not “old stock” enough to be allowed to vote?
Ostensibly it is all about cost savings and moving on to more modern forms of digital content delivery.
Whatever the rationale, in recent years Mr. Harper’s government closed several federal research libraries, the contents of which: books, journals, other print material, mostly ended up in dumpsters.
Meanwhile, it appears that only a small fraction of the destroyed material has been digitized.
This wholesale destruction of knowledge is simply appalling. Not trying to draw any false analogies here but nonetheless, images of Nazi book burning come to mind. And one has to wonder: is it simply a result of ignorance, is it a sign of this government’s ideology-inspired contempt for science, or is it something more sinister, specifically targeting areas of research the results of which are incompatible with the conservative political agenda?
Whatever it is, a government that is trying to save taxpayer money by burning or trashing books is not fit to govern. I even wonder if they can be trusted to clean a cat’s litter box.