On Monday, Industry minister Tony Clement took to Twitter's ramparts and resumed the Battle of the Census. "Data is valuable to many," he tweeted. "But personal questions you would like to force Cdns to answer on pain of jail is just plain wrong." Bad grammar, but the point was clear: The mandatory long-form census must go.
Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, who has increasingly been taking the lead in defending the government, was even more explicit. "Fundamentally, my position is that whatever the presumed usefulness of these data, I don't believe it justifies forcing people to answer intrusive questions about their lives, under threat from a fine or jail time if they don't."
So it's agreed, then. The mandatory long-form census has no place in a free and democratic society that respects the privacy of its citizens. This is a matter of the highest principle to these principled politicians and the principled government they serve.
Which is why I am sure they will be alarmed at what I am about to reveal.
To turn statistical methodology into a political controversy, a government has to really screw up. But to make statisticians shriek and flap their arms like wounded albatrosses, to cause policy wonks to turn purple with rage, to compel retired civil servants to dispense with a lifetime of discretion and denounce the government's gobsmacking jackassery to reporters ... Well, that's something special.
Now, personally, I adore discussions of statistical methodology. Can't get enough. And so, I must admit, I was a little tickled when Industry Minister Tony Clement ordered Statistics Canada to change the census without the slightest public consultation.
Nobody takes Paul the Octopus seriously. We're too clever for that.
As most of the planet knows by now, Paul the Octopus, the star attraction at an aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany, was asked to "predict" the outcome of Germany's matches at the World Cup by choosing between two boxes placed in his tank. One box bore the flag of Germany; the other, the flag of Germany's opponent. Inside each box was a tasty mussel. Paul's first stop for a snack determined the winner.
Paul went eight-for-eight, including correctly picking Spain to beat the Netherlands in the final. He even nailed Serbia's upset win over Germany in the opening round.