Census ‘reform’ aims to disappear the poor

The federal Conservative government took much heat this summer for its decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census, and replace it with a voluntary survey. Hitherto, twenty per cent of the adult population was required to complete the long-form.

Statisticians agree, starting with Statistics Canada head Munir A. Sheikh who resigned on July 21 in protest, that a voluntary survey will result in less reliable data collection because it is less likely to be filled out by poor Canadians, immigrants and Aboriginal peoples.

And that suits the Tories just fine. If people are unaware of the extent of poverty, they may be less concerned about policies that fail to address the problem, or that make it worse.

The census ‘reform’ has nothing to do with “protecting privacy”, contrary to what Industry Minister Tony Clement claims. It has everything to do with implementing the G20 austerity agenda. For the ideologically-driven Stephen Harper it is also an extension of the 1990s campaign of the ultra-right wing Fraser Institute which sought to discredit the way StatsCan calculates poverty, arguing that children are not poor as long as they have food and shelter, even if they lack books, toys and school supplies.

This latest gambit to disappear the poor is marketed by the Tories as a way to reduce the heavy hand of the state — even though no one has ever gone to jail for refusing to fill out the long census. The ruse of promoting freedom from intrusion and punishment is merely a cover for enforcing economic repression and the tyranny of the market. The discreet charms of late capitalism seem to require such camouflage. -Barry Weisleder