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I’ve heard a lot of desperate Conservative supporters try to muster arguments on why scrapping the mandatory long-form census is a good idea, even as opposition mounts. I thought it would be fun to debunk a few of the arguments, because most of them are simply ridiculous.

  1. Scrapping the long-form census will save taxpayers millions – Actually it will cost an extra $30 million dollars to operate the optional long-form census because it will be sent to 1/3 of Canadians instead of 1/5.
  2. Most European nations, including those bastions of socialism in Scandinavia, are scrapping their census – Yes, in fact they are. They’re scrapping it because they already have detailed registers about you’re personal life, your home, and where you work. Is that really what you want?
  3. An optional census can be just as accurate as a mandatory one. Polling companies produce lots of reports with voluntary surveys. – Polling companies are constantly struggling to account for bias in their models, and it’s not easy. The main way to account for bias is to track the demographic information of your respondents and then weight the results based on data from Statistics Canada’s census. But now that the census data has bias in it, pollsters will be screwed. Compound bias will really mess things up.
  4. If you want the data, you should pay to collect it yourself – This is Tony Clement’s most recent argument. It’s not that the Conservatives don’t realize the value of having good data. They keep a giant voter database with lots of private information on you and me. They just think businesses, organizations, and local governments should pay to collect it themselves. First it would be a huge waste to have every business and organization pay to have the same data collected. Second, the government is still collecting the data (at an extra cost of $30 million), it’s just crap data now and I’m not sure how anyone could get better data because any voluntary survey will be plagued with the problems noted above – mainly compound bias.
  5. The questions on the long-form census are an invasion of my privacy – This is the only valid argument I’ve heard, but it is still pretty weak. You can read the long-form census here. It’s pretty dry stuff. Facebook and Google know more about me than Statistics Canada does, and they don’t have near the privacy scrutiny and regulations placed on them that Statistics Canada does.

All of this leaves me to believe there is a different reason why the Conservatives want to scrap the mandatory long-forum census – so the government can make up statistics at will. Sound far-fetched? Too much like a Stephen Colbert skit?

Just this week, the Conservatives announced that we are going to spend $9-billion to build more jails, even though statistics indicate crime rates are dropping across the country.

Although the official crime rate is going down, a senior Harper government minister says there is reason to disbelieve the statistics and spend billions of dollars on new prisons: an “alarming” increase in unreported crime.

First, they “disbelieve” the statistics, as if faith is necessary to understand them. Second, even if there was an “increase in unreported crime” (a great made up statistic if I ever heard one), why are we spending $9-billion on new jails? If the crimes is unreported, I’m guessing no one is being convicted.

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