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The Progressive Economics Forum

Will the Real Stephen Harper Please Stand Up?

Stephen Harper’s 1991 master’s thesis used census data to make his case about “political business cycles” and he even noted how disruptive changes in methodology could be for long-term analysis in understanding how Canadian political behaviour changed over time.

He ran a model to show the links between variables such as unemployment and changes in government.

The unemployment data is based on the Labour Force Survey in more recent years, but originally came from the decennial census

The census prior to the Labour Force Survey was much longer and “intrusive” with regard to questions on employment than the short form is now, and was mandatory for everyone to answer.

The two-stage questionnaire didn’t come into use until the 1971 census, and up to that point the Census questionnaire became longer and longer. Statistics Canada provides a fascinating description of the history of the Census. Even enumerations back in the 1700s, prior to census-taking, asked highly personal questions regarding the amount of stock in a household, the number of swords and guns, and religious beliefs – highly political given the Protestant/Catholic clashes of that era. On top of everything, given widespread illiteracy, the questionnaire was filled in face-to-face, and likely by people who knew you. We’ve come a long way baby.

I thank Tracey Lauriault of the awesome project who provide a reference to Harper’s thesis via the french story that ran in cyberpresse on Saturday “Quand Stephen Harper aimait le rencensement”.

We all change over time. It is doubtful that if the Stephen Harper of the 1990s were the one running the show today this whole census fiasco would have occurred.

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Comment from Cara
Time: July 26, 2010, 11:09 am

I can’t help but think that it’s because Harper understands how useful the census is, and how disruptive changes in its methodology can become an obstacle in doing effective research, that motivates him to getting rid of the mandatory long form census. Harper has stated clearly that Canada is a ‘welfare state of the worst kind’ and a key to changing this is to make accurate data hard to come by. After all, if your data can be challenged as unreliable your credibility is damaged.
The long form census seems to be Harper and the libertarian movements’ Rubicon.

Comment from Joe Colangelo
Time: August 8, 2010, 9:41 am

If by welfare state of the worst kind Harper means tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations are higher than those who have to work for a living then he is correct-Canada’s tax system is grossly unfair. if on the other hand he means that our so called social safety net is to generous he is dead wrong. We are only slightly better than the USA which ranks last among G8. The census would illustrate that every truth claim made by Harper concerning reality is dead wrong. That his policies are not justified-to the point where ministers refer to unreported crime rates as an excuse to spend billions on private prisons when crime is going down. This is just one example. Perhaps the biggest falsehood spread by Harper cocerns our banking system. The only reason that our banks were not raided the way other nations were is because we do not adhere to a de-regulated liberal banking system and our banks are very protected. No one can earn more than 10% of a bank whether national or international for one thing. Secondly, While our banks may have escaped the sub-prime mortgage fiasco-the Canadian taxpayers are still on the hook. What Harper did was to set up the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation a crown corporation that used to provide mortgages for low income non-profit housing and turned it into a version of America’s AIG. When interests rates go up on these over valued homes and the job market continues to falter we will be on the hook for at least 5 hundred million dollars worth of bad paper. Interest rates only have to hit around 5.5 -6 % before this happens. Since Canada cannot recover without a strong recovery south of the border we can expect even tougher times ahead especially since Harper is pushing his neo-liberal agenda to the limits with this last budget-ever crown corporation is on the block from Canada Post to Atomic Energy of Canada-just when we need it most and when that industry is set for a renassaince. Harper has the Midas touch in reverse-everything he touches turns not to gold but crap. It is a shame really it took a century of hard work and sacrifice for Canada to build up these national treasures-in a few short years like a man on a drunken bender the country will be left destitute a shadow of it;s former self-our national identity-those things of which we were most proud will be gone sold off to Wall Street mandarines and unaffordable for most Canadians-from health care and electricity to education and our environment. Destroyed.
Joseph Colangelo

Comment from Dr Frankson
Time: August 13, 2010, 11:56 am

The reason Mr Harper urgently needs to cut the census is

the economy is a mess.

The census would reveal this .

Voters vote against parties that are in power during massive unemployment,

( Witness Mr. Obama’s challenges in US mid term elections…)

That the same reason the UK plans to scrap their census…

Comment from mj49
Time: November 26, 2010, 5:54 pm

Harper isn’t that bad…he was declared a living saint by the pope after all. have you seen it?

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