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Tim Powers

Come to your senses on the census, please Add to ...

For the last four days I have been dealing with a sick elderly parent whose life is not changing for the better. But in my spare moments away from the hospital I have managed to see a variety of exchanges about the Harper government's decision to make the long-form census a voluntary thing.

Maybe the circumstances that have occupied me over this recent period have clouded my thinking about what really matters, but all the Twitterverse and comment page outrage over this decision seems over the top. In some cases it's entirely self-interested. In others we are witnessing the creation of litter-box lining for a sleepy summer news season. It is not like Michael Ignatieff's bus can break down every day so new news fodder is necessary.

What I haven't seen much of in this elite-driven orgy for maintenance of the census status quo is a discussion about what is happening elsewhere. Here, courtesy of The Economist, is a snapshot.

Mother Britain is thinking of ceasing its census after 2011. Germany is making changes. Denmark hasn't had a census for decades. You get the picture.

If anything, Canada might be a little behind in the data-collection modification business. Yet if you look at this debate in a vacuum -- as many have -- you might be of the view the Harper government was taking Canada back to the Dark Age.

The government deserves criticism, which I suspect they'd readily accept, for not having a compelling narrative explaining why the change is necessary. The sales job to date has been weak, but what they are imposing is neither revolutionary nor will imperil how governments across the country function.

While the battles rage in rarefied salons about sampling deficiencies, most of us Main Street dwellers have more immediate things to worry about.

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