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The Progressive Economics Forum

Calgary Stampede – Census related, of course

A research colleague from Calgary sent along news of the latest Calgary Herald editorial on the topic. I am copying the email with permission, on condition of anonymity.

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Here is a link to the lead editorial in yesterday’s Calgary Herald. This is the second editorial on this in the past 3 weeks. You know you’re in trouble when the official spokespaper of your party can’t even get onside.

On a related note, The Herald also ran an online poll the day before asking “would you fill out the long form if it weren’t mandatory?” The results were 52% “No”. Even recognizing the inherent limitations of such online polls, the Census would clearly be in deep deep trouble if even close to half the population refused to complete it. As we’ve been saying all along!

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This second point may be the greater sit-up-and-and-take-notice comment. It speaks to the distinction between the “air war” (uncontroversially lost by the Conservatives) and the “ground war” (perhaps not lost by the Conservative strategy).

Whatever the final outcome of the census brouhaha, the well has been tainted. That may have been the point all along.

As mentioned in a recent post, the likelihood is growing with every passing day that some workable resolution will be found.

The Harper team has focused its political fighting power for weeks on getting Canadians to a) be wary of questions, any questions, from the census and b) understand that the Conservatives are on your side should you choose not to answer questions posed by “the state”. Just short of telling people to break the law, they have moved the game to the place where penalties for non-compliance will surely be softened. The effect will be that more people will walk away from this exercise.

Now the challenge is to make clear to everyday Canadians – if you don’t tell your story when you are asked (as rare as that may be) you won’t count.

Having the data doesn’t guarantee that governments or even marketers will address the needs and desires of people just like you. But without such data, you’re as good as invisible. Voice and visibility will be increasingly the preserve of those who can buy it.

Perhaps we can help redirect the stampede of refusniks, turning their concern in another direction. In the era of facebook, credit info, and resales of personal info to floggers of merchandise, Canadians can and should distinguish between what is a bogus threat to your personal privacy and what is not.

But there is a legitimate cause for concern in this trumped-up census affair: the less information about people just like you there is out there, the less your interests are going to get represented in the democratic process.

The Americans went through this a few years ago. Here’s an inspired way to capture what’s at stake. Pretty sure this wasn’t what the Conservatives had in mind, but a whole new generation of Canadians might just get turned on by politics because of the summer-time buzz they just wouldn’t kill. To quote the lyrics of this amazing video: “We gonna get counted, No way ’round it…..Young like that, To amount like that….We all matter…..” That’s what we’re talkin’ about.

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Comments

Comment from Kathleen Lahey
Time: August 2, 2010, 2:16 pm

Also note at the end of the proposed National Household Survey that Person #1 gets to report on which other members of the household — including children under the age of 15 — ‘elect’ to not have their census information made public in 92 yrs.

k

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