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Summer Holiday

A voice in the wilderness: <br/>Bob Rae weighs in on census Add to ...

Bob Rae may not be on a national bus tour (a la Michael Ignatieff) but that hasn't stopped him from giving his own tour (walking) and pronouncing on the issues of the day via Facebook and his blog.

"Harperites have a new theme song - it's called 'Twist and Shout', Stock Day outdid himself yesterday," Mr. Rae wrote this morning. (His Facebook picture features him fishing at his Big Rideau Lake cottage, although he notes there is a "family edict against emails from the fishing boat.")

The Toronto MP is among the many politocos who weighed in and criticized Stockwell Day's defence Tuesday of spending billions of dollars on new prisons in fragile economic times when the crime rate appears, in fact, to be declining. The Treasury Board President said that Canadians are simply not reporting crime.

And then there is the issue of the scrapping of the compulsory long-form census, which has created much controversy for the Harper government. In a recent blog post, Mr. Rae says the issue is important even though many Canadians find it boring.

"What could be duller, and less consequential, than an argument about statistics?"

But the census matters because the Harper government's decision, Mr. Rae says, has cast doubt on the neutrality and accuracy of data collected by Statistics Canada and fractured public trust that the information will remain confidential.

Mr. Rae suggests there is an easy solution to the imbroglio: "Drop the jail sentence for not answering questions (they're never used anyway), but keep fines, and increase the penalties for divulgation of secret census data."

Calling the Conservative government "Tea Party North," he says that when the Catholic bishops, the premiers and the Governor of the Bank of Canada "all agree, and the world is watching what Canada does, it's time for Mr. Harper to come to his senses."

"It would also save money. If it makes him feel better, he can even say the compromise was his idea."

As for the summer tour, last week Mr. Rae led a three-hour stroll of Kingston. The Liberal foreign-affairs critic walked with 50 people, who each paid $50, through the old haunts of the city's most famous resident, Sir John A. Macdonald.

In 1967, Mr. Rae served as a research assistant for a book on Sir John A.'s letters, so he is very knowledgeable. The proceeds from the tour went to help fund a book by Queen's political history fellow Arthur Milnes on Arthur Meighen, Canada's ninth prime minister.

More than 20 people had to be turned away because the Kingston tour was sold out. About 30 people from the group were from Ottawa - and they are planning to do it again. No Liberal Express for them, just the Bob Rae pedestrian tour.

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