By Ryan McGreal
Published July 27, 2010
In an opinion piece for the National Post, conservative policy analyst Stephen Taylor reveals the real reason the Conservative Party has announced they will be eliminating the long form census:
The conservative/libertarian Fraser Institute think tank's motto is "if it matters, measure it." The untruth of the inverse of this statement is at the centre of why this government should follow through. "If you measure it, it matters" is the motto of those net tax-receiving organizations who only matter if they can make their case. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has tried the ideological argument against these groups for years. But ideology is by its nature debatable; removing the framework of debate is his shortcut to victory.
If Stephen Harper succeeds in moving in this direction, he will be in the initial stages of dealing a huge blow to the welfare state. If one day we have no idea how many divorced Hindu public transit users there are in East Vancouver, government policy will not be concocted to address them specifically. Indeed if this group were organized (the DHPTUEV?) and looking for government intervention, they'd be against the census change.
In other words: if social policy advocates (and university researchers, and journalists, and municipal planning staffers, etc.) no longer have access to the demographic data that comes from the long form census, they will no longer be able to make evidence-based arguments for a particular public policy.
I've been arguing for years that Harper is following an incremental approach in his long strategy to transform Canada into his more socially conservative, more economically libertarian vision. In Taylor's conclusion, he confirms this:
I believe that this Prime Minister has a few objectives in mind as he integrates seemingly transactional initiatives into something transformative. First, he merged the Progressive Conservative party and the Canadian Alliance to challenge what seemed to be entrenched Liberal electoral domination. Through initiatives such as financial starvation via election finance reform and ideological force-feeding on the policy front, Stephen Harper seeks to diminish or destroy the Liberal Party to replace them with the Conservatives as Canada's default choice for government. His greatest challenge is to dismantle the modern welfare state. If it can't be measured, future governments can't pander.
So for Canadians on the sidelines wondering what the big deal is about, understand that by eliminating the clear, statistical picture Canadians have of our own country and its citizens, Harper is hoping to eliminate our capacity to decide what, if any, social policy we should be trying to follow.