Wednesday, April 6, 2011

DAY TWELVE: Campaign Quick Hitters (#2 in a series)

Not discussed in any detail yet on this campaign was the gutting of an important Canadian institution: Statistics Canada. For those with short memories here is a sample of the fear-mongering, that preceded their doing away with the mandatory long form census, that came from the mouth of Industry Minister Tony Clement: “I cannot support the opposition's belief that Canadians not wishing to answer these questions are criminals,” Mr. Clement said in a statement released Tuesday evening. “It is truly regrettable that the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois will not take a reasonable approach to addressing personal privacy rights of Canadians in the pursuit of invasive data.”

 Mr. Clement decided to double down and deliberately misled the Commons Industry Committee (in the real world such acts are referred to as lies) about how the head of the agency felt about such changes to Stats Canada by telling the Globe he assumed Dr. Sheikh found the change acceptable. In response Munir Sheikh iterated that... No statistician would have made such a recommendation, said Dr. Sheikh, who struggled with his emotions as he addressed the committee. “It really cast doubt on the integrity of the agency,” he said. “And I, as the head of that agency, cannot survive in that job.” So to hold on to his integrity Mr. Sheikh felt he was left with no options other than to resign.

The importance of Stats Canada can't be overstated: Every kind of industry, labour, academic and charitable organization had sent petitions, letters and press releases saying the same thing, backed by a truckloads of statisticians and economists, said in effect that a voluntary survey would effectively gut the census. For a list of those that opposed the Tory move go here and see for yourself the wide array of diverse organizations who were dependent on the once reliable information Statistics Canada could provide.
Census surveys form the basis of much of Statistics Canada’s other analyses, including vital labour force measures such as the unemployment rate. It drives everything from corporate fundraising drives in Toronto to the deployment of B.C. lunch programs for school kids; and from the layout of suburban subdivisions to the prescriptions of think tanks of every ideological bent.

Restaurants use information from the long form to help determine where to locate and how to target their marketing. Census information turns out to be an unexpectedly effective fundraising tool.

Census data such as mother tongue and family income also allows provincial education officials to target resources for services such as B.C.'s breakfast programs for schoolchildren and English-as-a-second language instruction in Ontario cities with large numbers of newcomers. In Penticton, B.C., two elementary schools receive extra funds for a hot-lunch program thanks to census tract data that reveals which neighbourhoods have relatively high concentrations of poor families.
I mention all this because there's a report in today's Globe and Mail about how Corporate tax cuts do not spur growth their analysis reveals. Guess where the information for this analysis came from?
...an analysis of Statistics Canada figures by The Globe and Mail reveals that the rate of investment in machinery and equipment has declined in lockstep with falling corporate tax rates over the past decade. At the same time, the analysis shows, businesses have added $83-billion to their cash reserves since the onset of the recession in 2008.
This is an important issue because the Conservatives are using this issue to claim that the Liberals are raising taxes and hindering job growth and recovery from the recession. The Liberals are pledging to roll corporate taxes back to 2010 levels to free up billions of dollars for their platform which includes spending on family-focused social programs, including day care and tuition. The Globe analysis puts the lie to the Harper regime's claims and supports the a plank central to Ignatieff's platform.

Getting rid of Statistics Canada was more than throwing a bone to the Conservative base it serves to get rid of information that's inconvenient to the narrative the Tories are trying to spin. It's a way to marginalize the poor and given a majority one wonders how many other inconvenient Canadian institutions would be got rid of?

DAY TWELVE: Campaign Quick Hitters (#1 in a series)

This is rich! The Liberals have quickly put a very timely ad out there about Canadians being denied the right to attend Harper rallies if they're wearing the wrong t-shirts or have the wrong bumper stickers on their cars or have befriended sketchy liberal types on their facebook pages. The quick turnaround so far as this ad goes is very impressive. Have a good laugh and ask yourself if this reminds you of anything?