2 min

Doing the honourable thing

Standing up for his professional integrity, Munir Sheikh, the chief statistician, resigned yesterday. Ultimately refuting the claim that a “voluntary household survey” could ever replace the mandatory long-form census, Sheikh declared that it could not, and he left his post after a long career – hours after he cancelled a “town hall” meeting with his employees on the issue. That must hurt morale. It also pretty much confirms that Tony Clement was putting words in the department’s mouths when he made all kinds of claims that defied all logic or knowledge of basic stats.

What is probably more telling is the way that Clement responded. He returned to his tired talking points about how intrusive it was that the government ask how many bedrooms you have. Err, except that when combined with data on how many people are in the house, it can help assess economic situations, levels of crowding and provide data for housing programs. Yes, that’s terribly invasive stuff. Or the talking point about asking what time you leave for work in the morning, which is a question that has never been asked on any census to date. (Earlier in the day, The Globe and Mail spoke with Clement, and got few substantive answers.)

Other populist assertions debunked include the fact that this census data is not provided free to those who seek it – thanks to Mulroney, they actually charge governments and organizations to use the data. But for all the good it’s going to do, because it looks like they’re going to do away with a number of other social science surveys. After all – who needs quality data on things like workplaces, or the integration of immigrants? Or any of the other things that quality census data provides?

Michael Ignatieff added his reflections on the census debate yesterday from the Liberal Express. “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance,” he said. “And they’re trying ignorance. It’s ridiculous.”

The RCMP has said they’re not going to lay charges against Helena Guergis, which leads to all kinds of new questions as to just why she was dumped from caucus. The Conservatives promptly issued new talking points that remind their spokespeople that she was fired for a variety of reasons, and that the Ethics Commissioner is still investigating. The question now becomes, can a lawsuit be far behind?

Jason Kenney issued a declaration that said that all immigrants to Canada must take a language test in either English or French. Yes, that includes people from English and French-speaking countries. And while the wise-ass in me says that of course Americans should have to take a test to see whether they can speak English – as opposed to American – this is actually another red flag. Why? Not only because it insults immigrants from anglophone and francophone countries, but also because this was a ministerial directive and not legislation. Apparently Parliament is no longer necessary to make sweeping changes in Canadian policy. Doesn’t that make you feel better?

The Liberals want the parliamentary budget officer, Kevin Page, to go over the F-35 purchase. Their concern seems to be the sole-source contract procedures, but I have to wonder if that isn’t more likely the domain of the auditor general.

Government House Leader Jay Hill has said that he will not seek re-election – which ramps up speculation that we will indeed see an autumn election.

Up today – Liberal Rob Oliphant is in Oromocto, New Brunswick, to hold a town hall meeting to talk about the Gagetown Agent Orange issue.
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