Musings —07.26.2010 06:12 AM—
I received the long form questionnaire many years ago. I thought the questions were pretty personal – stuff about race, sexual orientation, income and so on. I wouldn’t have minded answering some of it, I guess, were it not for the fact that governments generally stink at safeguarding peoples’ privacy. I mean, there’s only so many times that you can hear about health records being found in a dumpster, you know?
I received the form when John Manley was Minister of Industry, whenever that was. I recall letting him know about my census conscientious objector status. He said he thought a stint in jail would improve my character. I didn’t disagree.
Now, if the long-form census becomes a voluntary process, I suppose it’ll address the concerns of some people. But for me, I objected to, one, the nature of the questions and, two, all governments’ seeming inability to keep secret the answers we give. The fact that they threaten to take you to court for failing to go along with such a process obviously makes it worse.
Some Liberals have said I shouldn’t offer my opinion about this issue – a few have even said I should be kicked out of the party over it! When they calm down, or get medicated (or both), I suggest they do a Google search. The sad tale is there for all to see: over the years, there have ministerial resignations, investigations by privacy commissioners, and many, many media stories about governments – of all stripes, at all levels – losing people’s private information.
For me, this isn’t some libertarian thing. When governments get serious about protecting our information, I’ll get serious about their demands that I provide very personal information. But in the digital age, their sloppiness has only gotten worse, not better.
But does this mean I think Tim’s team has handled it well? Um, no. I think Clement et al. were throwing a bone to their neo-con and so-con base, but they didn’t expect the big blowback they’ve gotten from everyone else. They’ve politically mismanaged the file from start to finish.
But that doesn’t mean it’s an unhelpful debate. I think it’s good that we’re talking about this.