Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Myth of Pragmatism

Knowing how deeply unpopular the ideological right wing's beliefs are with an unshakable majority of Canadians, the government of Stephen Harper has devoted considerable effort to trying to soft-peddle and obscure them.

'Pay no attention to the mean-spirited, racially insensitive, woman hating religious fanatic behind the curtain.' is the message of Harper's government. Forget about the Conservative Party's long, well documented tradition of attacking women's reproductive rights, making hateful remarks about the poor and the non-white and the non-Christian, gloating over doing nothing about the environment and attacking civil society. Ignore the far right socially conservative attitudes of the base, held in abeyance only by the desire to win a majority and really stick it to the cultural groups they cannot hide their contempt for.

What they really want to be seen as, is sober small 'c' conservative managers, but the weird paranoid ideology keeps seeping out like pus from a wound.

Hence the census, and the decision they thought they'd get away with. Catering to the paranoid, 'fluoride is a communist plot to violate our precious bodily fluids' whackos over the mandatory long form census, an invaluable tool for government, industry and civil society.

As I've suggested here before, underneath the paranoid looniness is the cold-blooded calculation that accurately counting Canadians can only be a bad thing for a Conservative government wedded to a strategy of deliberate neglect for Canadians most in need and a hold on government so tenuous that anything that could cause electoral boundaries to shift is an unambiguous threat to their power.

They've begun the traditional final stage of scandals over their real agenda: lashing out viciously at those who disagree with them. StatsCan head Munir Sheikh felt he had no choice but to to resign and respond publicly to Industry Minister Tony Clement's false claim that StatsCan had signed off on the vandalism of the census process:
“I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion ... the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census,” Mr. Sheikh wrote.

“It can not,” he said.
The Conservative response was as predictably sleazy and vindictive as we've come to expect from these vicious clowns:

“Our approach is about finding a better balance between collecting necessary data and protecting the privacy rights of Canadians,” the Tory “info-alert” said.
“It is unfortunate that Mr. Sheikh did not share these objectives.”
'And when did you stop beating your wife?'

These extreme yahoos are going to continue their sub rosa attack on civil society at any and every opportunity until the day they convince or hornswaggle enough Canadians into giving them a majority when they can do this stuff openly and to the extremes that are their real goal.

The public resignation letter that the government is now censoring reprinted here in full, hat tip to Challenging the Commonplace:
Media advisory: 2011 Census

July 21, 2010

OTTAWA — There has been considerable discussion in the media regarding the 2011 Census of Population. There has also been commentary on the advice that Statistics Canada and I gave the government on this subject.

I cannot reveal and comment on this advice because this information is protected under the law. However, the government can make this information public if it so wishes.

I have always honoured my oath and responsibilities as a public servant as well as those specific to the Statistics Act.

I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion. This relates to the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census.

It can not.

Under the circumstances, I have tendered my resignation to the Prime Minister.

I want to thank him for giving me the opportunity of serving him as the Chief Statistician of Canada, heading an agency that is a symbol of pride for our country.

To you, the men and women of Statistics Canada – thank you for giving me your full support and your dedication in serving Canadians. Without your contribution, day in and day out, in producing data of the highest quality, Canada would not have this institution that is our pride.

I also want to thank Canadians. We do remember, every single day, that it is because of you providing us with your information, we can function as a statistical agency. I am attaching an earlier message that I sent to Canadians in this regard.

In closing, I wish the best to my successor. I promise not to comment on how he/she should do the job. I do sincerely hope that my successor’s professionalism will help run this great organization while defending its reputation.

Munir A. Sheikh

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