Alright, I confess. I am the kind of gal who has RSS feeds set up for all the major university research departments and who has been known to devolve into a fangirl while interviewing a researcher in a field I am particularly passionate about. But this is about so much more than that: it's about an attack on public data for purely political reasons. Partisan political reasons, at that.
As a journalist, author, mother, and a Canadian, I am offended by Stephen Harper and Tony Clement's decision to mess with the data that will be gathered during the next Canadian census. As Haroon Siddiqui so eloquently explained in his column last Saturday, the data gathered every five year during our national census is relied upon by businesses, governments, and non-government organizations across the country and around the world. It provides them with a vital snapshot of our country and its people.
What makes the situation even worse is that, by messing with the quality of the data that will be gathered during the next census (in 2011), Harper and Clement will reduce the value of the data that came before. (You can't compare apples to oranges.) What a waste.
If this were simply a cost-cutting measure, you could almost forgive Harper and Clement. After all, isn't fiscal Conservatism supposed to be their schtick? But changing the Census rules is actually going to cost more. $30 million more.
So what's this about, then? "Harper’s penchant for secrecy, obfuscation and controlling information," according to Siddiqui. In other words, he's willing to contaminate the data pool to prevent inconvenient truths from floating to the surface.
But wait! It gets worse. Several other surveys that report on and analyze how Canadians are faring at work and at home, are being chopped or redesigned, Siddiqui reports. One of my favorites, the Survey of Household Spending, which provides a powerful snapshot of how the economy is affecting the lives of upper, middle, and lower income Canadian families is on the list of surveys that provide too much information, at least in the opinion of Harper and Co.
There's only one way to ensure that Stephen Harper comes to his "census": let him know that he's on the wrong side of public opinion on this one. Write to your MP. Write a letter to the editor. Talk to your friends (both online and in the real world). Spread the word that a pseudo-census is no substitute for the real thing.