So I was busy at the end of last week and missed the chance to comment on the Tories’ decision to scrap the full, proper census in favour of a “less intrusive” short form. David Eaves explains well enough that removing the long-form census hobbles government’s ability to perform social services for the general public (and of course it’s shocking that the Harper government would hobble the government’s ability to deliver public services) and Counternarratives pointed out that the reasoning behind the removal of the long-form census – privacy concerns – is stupid, considering that census participation is anonymized and then analyzed only in a giant aggregate mass.
But this isn’t about privacy, because that’s a silly concern, and Harper might be a bit of an ideologue but he’s never been a stupid one. And it’s not about the delivery of social services either, although that’s of course a wonderful bonus when you’re talking about a government which has made it quite clear they’re disinterested in providing them. This is, when you get to it, about accountability. Eaves mentions this when he points out that with less data, private citizens are less able to argue against government action (or, for that matter, large business action). But that’s just one aspect of it.
Censuses, at their heart, are the best single measure of longterm government performance, because they demonstrate longterm societal trends: population migration, demographic change, economic stability. When you consider the Harper government’s general lack of interest in accountability, them killing the census makes even more sense than it previously did; census data is among the best ways to hold a government accountable for their actions because it provides big-picture data, and a lot of it.
God, what a useless government we’ve got.