2 min

Let the grilling commence

The Commons industry committee comes back today to hold a full day of hearings into the census issue, and Tony Clement is supposed to be first up to testify. Will he actually show up? I guess we’ll see. But like I said – it’s going to be a full day, which is going to be very exhausting for all involved.

Meanwhile, the National Statistics Council has weighed in and given their ideas for changing the mandatory long-form census to make it more palatable to some. Of course, the minister isn’t returning their calls. Nevertheless, the warning cry is going out about the unintended consequences of this government disparaging the census and the data that it collects.

Apparently Harper has been planning this census push since December, and it stems from some apparent deep-seated libertarian views – even if he did use census data for his master’s thesis.

There has been other musing about investigating the census alternatives employed in some Northern European countries. I can tell you right now – not feasible AT ALL. Part of their data mining comes in the form of municipal population registers, which we certainly don’t have in Canada. These registers link into all kinds of other databases, which is not going to happen in Canada for a very, very long time. Why? Because we have no centralized record-keeping structure in this country. In fact, we haven’t even got the building blocks for such a concept, and as someone who spent a few years in a previous life working in government records departments, I can speak with a bit of authority on this. We can’t even get electronic health records off the ground here – how the hell are we going to get anything resembling a municipal population register when we’ve got such wildly divergent levels of government, and robust privacy legislation on top of that? That’s one of the comforts that many of us should have – Big Brother isn’t watching us in this country, because nobody between departments talks to each other and certainly can’t pass your records back and forth. A Scandinavian model would be that much more intrusive, which goes against the argument that Tony Clement, et al, have been putting in the window.

The other big story of the day was the WikiLeaks revelation of all those Afghan documents, which had some Canadian connections in there as well. Some of it has to do with diplomatic concerns over countries that may be offering support to the Taliban, and the relationship with Pakistan in the region. Meanwhile, DND and families of fallen soldiers are unimpressed with talk that four of our casualties may have been due to friendly fire (which the Americans are known for having an appallingly high rate of). Jack Layton, meanwhile, says this is proof that the war cannot be won by military means alone.

It looks like the Conservatives killed an environment committee report on the tar sands in order to hide the fact that the government isn’t doing its job enforcing regulations. Not that this should come as a surprise to anyone.

Also, we’ve levelled new sanctions against Iran. Totally not a distraction from the Afghan document leaks.

Up today – Liberal MP Scott Brison is holding a press conference on “the Harper government’s secrecy and disrespect for democratic institutions.” Could be fun.
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