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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 08.03.10
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Short-tempered in Canada about the long form

Absolutely everyone in Canada is talking about the Conservative government's decision to eliminate the mandatory long-form questionnaire in the Canadian census. There hasn't been this much chatter since Revenue Canada revised the RD310 Statement of Fiscal Inclemency.

While critics on both sides have been arguing the pros and cons of the long form, pausing only occasionally to argue the merits of the hit television show "Glee," we've seen far too little of the actual questions themselves.

Are they really as intrusive as the Conservatives claim they are?

And will the tainted tetrazzini scandal at William McKinley High School prevent the Glee Club from performing their medley of Freddy Fender ballads at the Hagwallow Seniors Home Exotic Dance Contest?

But before we analyze the questions, let's look at what the long-form census is. The long-form census is a long form. One out of five Canadians receiving the census is commanded to fill out the long form, which takes a long time to fill out.

Long things are boring. Except fireworks displays; they can never be too long, don't you think? No matter how many you see explode, you never get bored. BOOM! Ahhh... Ka-POW! Ooooo...

Speaking of boring, the Conservative government has a number of concerns about the long-form census. For example, who exactly profits from this data gathered at taxpayers' expense? I'll tell you who: academics. And academics are notoriously left-leaning, dare we say LIBERAL thinkers.

And what will they do with this data? Write papers, start thinking outside the box, maybe push the envelope. Papers, boxes, envelopes: is this a census or a stationery store? Thinking should stay in the box where it belongs! Academics too.

The big problem, though, is the nature of the questions. The Conservatives claim that they have listened to Canadians, and what Canadians have told them is that the questions on the long-form census are too intrusive.

It's good that the Conservatives listened. If only they'd listened to Canadians when we asked that our next Governor-General be Bubbles from "The Trailer Park Boys." But I guess we'll take what we can get.

So just how intrusive are the questions?

Believe it or not, there are questions about language, how much time you spend playing with your kids, how many rooms are in your house, even whether you have plumbing problems. Plumbing! I feel personally violated.

Here's another example:

"I am: White; Black; Asian; Latino; Arab; Canadian-Arab languishing in a foreign prison since adolescence for allegedly committing a terrorist act confessed to under dubious interrogation techniques; other."

You see? The government doesn't need to know that kind of information. In fact, the government would much prefer to turn a blind eye to such facts.

Here's another question:

"How do you travel to work: on foot; car; bicycle; bus; hovercraft; other."

The only purpose such a statistic could have is to justify the huge subsidies handed out to the powerful hovercraft industry. Let those shady hovercraft lobbyists collect their own data, thank you very much.

Here are some more highly personal questions:

"How many statisticians have you dated in the past five years: between 5 and 10; between 2 and 5; one; none, but I'd be very interested in chatting with hot statisticians on-line."

Or:

"Who would you prefer to be rescued by from a raging river: Tony Clement; Peter MacKay; Jim Flaherty in hip waders; other."

Or:

"Wouldn't you agree that actor Gerard Butler always looks like he's just recovering from major dental surgery? Honestly."

Or:

"Do you believe political ideology should be allowed to interfere in the pursuit of knowledge: yes; no; whatever Mr. Harper says."

Here's one final example that shows just how intrusive and unnecessary the long-form census is: "What kind of carpet do you have in your home?" Imagine! As former prime minister Pierre Trudeau once said, there's no place for the state in the broadlooms of the nation.

Ross Murray's collection, "You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You"? is available through www.townships.ca

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