A Liberal MP from Vancouver has said the Conservative government’s move to scrap the mandatory long-form census and make it voluntary is “definitely part of a pattern that is very bad for democracy and bad for Canada”.
“This is also part of the pattern of trying to control the independent agencies and offices of Parliament that are the oversight to government and are a very important part of our democracy,” Joyce Murray, the MP for Vancouver Quadra, told the Straight by phone today (July 22). “Having those neutral agencies and voices to be able to speak to Canadians is a very important [part of] governance. And that is what separates a government from a tyranny.”
On July 21, Canada’s chief statistician, Munir Sheikh, resigned over the move and fired off a parting letter claiming a voluntary survey cannot replace the mandatory questionnaire.
“It is highly unusual,” Murray said of Sheikh’s resignation. “I take it as a very strong indication that the minister [Tony Clement] has not been telling the truth on this issue. The minister has been saying one thing and then a well-paid and respected civil servant publicly resigns. That tells you that the minister has not been telling the truth. But there has been a pattern of intimidation and retaliation. We have a list of probably two dozen high-level civil servants.”
Murray cited the 2008 firing of Linda Keen as head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission as an example.
Charlie Angus, the NDP for Timmins-James Bay in Ontario, told the Straight the census controversy is a “completely manufactured crisis”.
“You see this attack on the census very much in the American right,” Angus said. “It has had no traction here in Canada as far as I can see. I’ve never had a complaint and never heard of this as an issue. Then, when the Conservatives started getting some major pushback from the banks and from academics, the provinces, and the municipalities, they sent out their attack dogs. When you put [Stephen Harper’s spokersperson] Dimitri Soudas and [Nepean-Carleton Conservative MP] Pierre Poilievre on a file, you can expect that serious trashing is going to happen.”
The Straight left a message for Poilievre, who didn’t respond today.
Asked if he thinks the Conservative government is moving toward tyranny, Angus said, “I think what is worrying is that this is a government that is trying to lead the slide, but I don’t think the Canadian public are going there. I’ve never gone into a Tim Hortons in Canada and had someone rail at me about big bad government spying on them with the census, but I am hearing this from Conservative cabinet ministers. I think the public is shaking its head.”