Hot! Census debate: It just won’t go away – Opinion/Editorial
Published On Wed Sep 29 2010

The summer holidays probably seemed like an ideal time for the federal government to kill the mandatory long-form census without anyone noticing. But now the summer is over and the respected chief statistician is also gone, and the census debate is very much alive.

The Conservatives are likely to lose today’s scheduled vote on an opposition motion to keep the long-form census mandatory. But they have already served notice they will ignore the will of Parliament. And they dredged up tired old arguments during debate on the motion Tuesday to justify their decision to make the long-form census voluntary. “It’s absurd to put honest citizens in prison when they refuse to say how many bedrooms they have and I even dare to say what kind of cereal they eat in the morning,” said Conservative MP Steven Blaney.

No one has ever been jailed for refusing to fill out a census form, and previous censuses did not include questions on breakfast cereals.

But for the Conservatives, this debate isn’t about reason and logic. Rather, they are scrapping the mandatory long-form census to appeal to their ideological base.

In pursuing this wedge issue, they have succeeded in galvanizing an unprecedented coalition of business, union, academic, religious, and other leaders into defending the long-form census. The Conservatives’ refusal to listen to their appeals suggests a remarkably closed-minded approach to governing

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