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unlikely ally

1. Tony Clement's best friend. The Harper government's decision to abandon the mandatory long-form census questionnaire is finding support in an unlikely corner: veteran Liberal Warren Kinsella.

The Toronto lawyer, author and spin-doctor comes out as a census refusnik to The Mark. And he predicts the federal Liberals can't make big political hay out of what the Conservatives have done.

"I don't want the government asking questions about my family," Mr. Kinsella says. "I am not losing any sleep over [the change] I don't think you threaten an election campaign over it either."

Mr. Kinsella reveals how he once refused to fill out the long-form questionnaire, which asks Canadians more than 50 detailed questions about their home, work life and ethnicity.

Ultimately, he said, the census takers simply gave up trying to make him complete it. "When I got the long form census many years ago, I thought it was very intrusive," he said.

He said he challenged census staff to punish him. "I said 'I am not going to change my mind. Put me in jail. I dare you'," Mr. Kinsella explains. "So they gave me an exemption."

He predicts Ottawa would have run into problems if a Canadian challenged the mandatory long-form in court as an affront to privacy rights.

2. And his fiercest critic. Ottawa Citizen columnist Dan Gardner, however, thinks the Tories have messed up royally. His latest begins as follows:

"To turn statistical methodology into a political controversy, a government has to really screw up. But to make statisticians shriek and flap their arms like wounded albatrosses, to cause policy wonks to turn purple with rage, to compel retired civil servants to dispense with a lifetime of discretion and denounce the government's gobsmacking jackassery to reporters ... Well, that's something special."

He goes on at length from there.

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