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Census is too intrusive, says Idiot.

July 16, 2010

Oh my God, I can’t believe Warren Kinsella is such an idiot.  I’m sorry, did I say that out loud? I didn’t mean to read this story, it just happened, and now it can’t unhappen and I’m very upset.

Call me crazy, call me anal, call me “someone who understands statistical methods” or “someone who believes in a Social Contract between citizen and government” but this guy needs to be put in his place by disapproving, cranky school principal kind of guy.

I’ll try to explain this calmly.  You may recall, that recently the Conservative cabinet unilaterally decided to scrap the long form census which has been an essential data resource for government agencies, businesses, public charities, non-government organizations and scientific researchers for decades.   I commented at the time why this was  a very stupid thing to do and why this is clear to anyone who knows how the data is used or understands statistics at all, which one would assume someone would include people with masters degrees in Economics, whether they are currently Prime Minister of Canada or not.

As an update on this:  it turns out the Privacy commissioner was never consulted by the government about this decision even though one of the arguments given was that many citizens are concerned about an intrusion of privacy, the commissioner says they received  a grand total of two complaints about the last census in 2006.

Well, the Liberal party and all other opposition parties have been quite vocally against the change but it seems not all rank and file Liberals are, well, keeping rank.  Mr. Warren Kinsella, who apparently has lots of sway in Liberal circles, thinks its a grand idea even while he criticizes the Conservatives for creating such a scandal. From the CBC:

“I don’t want the government asking questions about my family,” Mr. Kinsella says. “I am not losing any sleep over [the change]. I don’t think you threaten an election campaign over it either.”

Mr. Kinsella reveals how he once refused to fill out the long-form questionnaire, which asks Canadians more than 50 detailed questions about their home, work life and ethnicity.

Ultimately, he said, the census takers simply gave up trying to make him complete it. “When I got the long form census many years ago, I thought it was very intrusive,” he said.

He said he challenged census staff to punish him. “I said ‘I am not going to change my mind. Put me in jail. I dare you’,” Mr. Kinsella explains. “So they gave me an exemption.”

Can we retroactively charge this guy with not filling in his census?  This is outrageous.  Mr. Kinsella certainly has his right to his opinion.  But he also has  right to be an idiot and to be called out for being someone who advises political parties while simultaneously advising citizens to break the law and disregard one of their essential duties to their nation.

Let me explain how bad this is.  For someone to publicly brag about refusing to fill out the census is just as bad as someone explaining how they got out of jury duty even though they had no valid exemption reason because they didn’t want the hassle.  Or its the same thing as someone explaining in detail how they got out of required military service (if we had conscription during a time of war) because they felt it was just the state asking too much.  OR its the same thing as explaining to the CBC how you generally hide some of your money offshore to avoid taxes, or simply don’t claim some of your income because you think Revenue Canada get enough money as it is.  In other words, its completely unacceptable behaviour for any responsible citizen who claims to speak with authority on issues of the day and improving our society.  MPs and pundits and party advisors don’t go around encouraging people to avoid paying taxes, to skip out jury duty or to avoid voting.  Filling out the census is exactly as official and important as all these other civic duties.  And its absolutely essential data needed for running any form of government that cares about its citizens.

For a lawyer, here’s the kicker:

He predicts Ottawa would have run into problems if a Canadian challenged the mandatory long-form in court as an affront to privacy rights.

Oh really?  He’s saying a court would strike down reasonable information being collected by an official government agency for the purposes of providing services to its citizens?  I think that kind of precedent would start people worrying about the legality of levying taxes on citizens.  If a long form census is too intrusive why is the short form ok?  The right of the government to collect taxes, to collect relevant data about its citizens held in privacy for use in providing services, for requiring its citizens to perform other public duties like serve on a jury or defend the nation from attack; no court would ever strike down these basic rights of government.  If that’s what you want, then you want to dismantle the basic powers of government, the basic point of having a government.  In which case, while I definelty cannot speak for the Liberal party, I don’t think they’re the one you’re looking for.  You’re looking for a Libertarian party or an anarchist party.

This man should not be allowed to say another word on television without being harangued about this endlessly or until he retracts his statements and admits what a fundamentally irresponsible, self-centered person he is.

that is all.


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