Why IT must oppose Tories on long-form census

Let’s cut to the chase: The Conservative government’s position on the long-form census is wrong-headed, regressive, and willfully ignorant. (Let’s not forget the dissembling part, too – Stastistics Canada recommended eliminating the mandatory long-form? Puh. Leaze.)

This is not based on an ideological bent. In fact, my fear is that, as many wiser commentators than me have noted, the elimination of the long-form is rooted in ideology. It is reflective of what one pundit called the Conservative government’s aversion to fact-based decision-making.

This should be very, very, very alarming to the IT industry in Canada. In fact, to any industry in Canada. But particularly IT.

This is the government that is taking into consideration submissions on strategy for growth in the knowledge economy. Yet it appears to want less accurate data upon which to base decisions. Excuse my French, but WTF?

A knowledge economy is based on better decisions based on better data. A voluntary long-form census is about as accurate as a Web poll because of the phenomenon of self-selection – those who don’t fit into the demographic of self-interest don’t fill out the poll. It introduces not only a bias in the data collected, but a completely unpredictable bias. It can’t be remedied through science.

(Oh, and by the way, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty: You said Canadians would fill out the long-form voluntarily “for the good of the country.” If it’s for the good of the country, why would you eliminate it?)

Industry Minister Tony Clement has consecutively argued that a) StatsCan recommended the change, which has shown to be a untrue, and that 2) people have complained that the long-form is intrusive. Yes, people have. Three complaints were made to the Privacy Commissioner in almost 15 years. Actually, four: One of our readers complained about its intrusiveness in response to a story on our Web site that included a whole lot of head-shaking by a professional demographer (what a cool job title, BTW) over what the point of the whole exercise was.
The future of the knowledge economy is based on better decision-making, based on better data collection. Those in the IT industry, regardless of political orientation, have a responsibility to demand that this government make a return to fact-based decision-making instead of government by ideologically informed fiat. The Loyal Opposition doesn’t have the guts to force the issue. You must. Call, e-mail and harrass your MP until your voice is heard.

Or, as another of our readers put it – sarcastically, I hope – just eliminate StasCan and save the money. A Ouija board in every boardroom will do.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
Dave Webb is a freelance editor and writer. A veteran journalist of more than 20 years' experience (15 of them in technology), he has held senior editorial positions with a number of technology publications. He was honoured with an Andersen Consulting Award for Excellence in Business Journalism in 2000, and several Canadian Online Publishing Awards as part of the ComputerWorld Canada team.

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