Two paths are open to a government when it makes a dumb decision such as transforming the current mandatory census process into a voluntary one.
It can tough it out, hoping that the political consequences of its decision have been over-estimated or that they will be transitory or that the public will eventually come around to its way of seeing things.
Or it can seek as elegant a climb-down as possible in the circumstances - such as by eliminating some of the penalties for not filling out the long form.
What a government must never contemplate is to whet its opponents appetites by appearing weak and indecisive. Which is precisely what former Chief Statistician Munir Sheikh is advocating in recommending that the Conservative government send out a notice to Canadians indicating that filling out the long form may or not be mandatory depending on what it eventually decides.
The job description of a deputy minister is to be operationally neutral but politically sensitive. Mr. Sheikh's latest advice - coming on the heels of near-universal condemnation of the voluntary process he was prepared to go along with until things got too hot - suggests that he may not have been up to snuff in the latter category.