Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Halted for teabaggers?

This op-ed piece in Le Devoir today (translation) seems to make some sense with the rationale it offers for the Harper government's decision to cancel the mandatory long form census. The author suggests that the driving force behind the decision would have been the recent American census experience, where the teabagger crowd and Republican right wing pols, media and citizens objected to the intrusiveness of the census and publicly agitated for people not to fill it out. The theory is that Harper et al. feared that the same thing might happen here, that there could be a similar public campaign waged against the census. So, sensing that this American precedent might move north, the Harper brain trust decided to make a pre-emptive move. Just cancel the mandatory long form census, make it voluntary instead and increase the sample size. This pre-empted the need, were a U.S. style teabagger anti-census movement to spring up, for a Conservative government to have to enforce census participation and against those who are inclined to vote Conservative. Problem avoided.

This has a ring of truth to it. There is the echo of the chess master being too clever by half in making a decision by picking over such events and not seeing the Canadian backlash that might ensue. That this government would be so influenced by American goings on rather than the Canadian census experience that has been peaceful, without significant privacy complaints or uproar, also seems to be quite plausible.

But, as is suggested by the piece, it's perhaps turning out that the backlash, where group after group is rising up to oppose the government's census change, is leading to a convenient polarization that suits Harper's wedge politics in any event. The political opposition lines up reinforcing a commitment to a mandatory long form. They're becoming the baddies in the eyes of any census resenters, not Harper. And the Conservatives are now seizing the moment to reinforce that dynamic with op-eds like this one from Tony Clement.

Maybe. At the moment it certainly doesn't seem like the issue is necessarily going to pay off in Harper's political interests given the voices speaking out against the move. There seems to be a serious level of discontent in the air that's growing.

An interesting theory, that's for sure, especially for what it might say about the influences driving the decider-in-chief.