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Survey says: Census plans crash and burn in Quebec Add to ...

The Conservative's plan to get rid of the mandatory long-form version of the census questionnaire has not gone over well at all in Quebec.

A Presse Canadienne story published last Thursday declared that the Quebec government is " resolutely against" scrapping the long-form census. The article quoted Quebec Culture Minister Christine St-Pierre, who said she was "having difficulty understanding" why the government would do away with such "an essential tool" for researchers and policy-makers.

In an editorial published on the same day, Le Soleil's Jean-Marc Salvet argued that although it can be "tedious" and "annoying" to fill out the long census form, it is a necessary evil. Mr. Salvet called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Industry Minister Tony Clement to reverse the government's decision to abolish the obligatory long questionnaire. Mr. Salvet dismissed Mr. Clement's claim that the decision to abolish the questionnaire was the result of several complaints from citizens. "If we decided to eliminate everything that displeased a few citizens, there would quickly be no government left at all!" he exclaimed.

La Presse business columnist Claude Picher accused Mr. Clement of being "disconnected from reality." Mr. Picher questioned Mr. Clement's claim that many citizens considered the census too much of an intrusion on their private lives. He noted that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada had received a grand total of three complaints about the census in the last 10 years. "And so it is to please this infinitely tiny handful of whiners that [our government]is prepared to scrap one of the most credible, useful and effective instruments used by Statistics Canada," he wrote: "Somebody pinch me."

In a post on La Presse's editorial blog on Monday, Ariane Krol took on Quebec Conservative MP Maxime Bernier's claim that he had been inundated with complaints about the census when he was industry minister. " It's possible," Ms. Krol wrote, "But what he is forgetting to mention is that these complaints were likely not about the questions on the form, but about the fact that Statistics Canada had awarded a [census software]contract to [American firm]Lockheed Martin."

Fertility treatments "a strictly political decision"

Quebec's decision to start providing free fertility treatments has been met with mixed reviews in the francophone press. Whereas an editorial in The Globe and Mail praised the decision last week, editorialists in Quebec have been more critical in their assessments of the new plan.

Le Soleil columnist Brigitte Breton called it a " strictly political decision" that was not "logical or rational." Ms. Breton opined that the government should have followed the advice of Quebec's Commission on Ethics in Science and Technology, which did not recommend recognizing the right of all citizens to bear biological children. "It's true that it seems horrible to refuse a woman treatment who is devastated by her incapacity to have a child. But we must not lose sight of the fact that maternity and paternity are accessible through adoption," she wrote. "In the interest of equity, will the government assume the adoption costs of infertile parents who make this choice?" she wondered.

In a La Presse column published last Wednesday, Ariane Krol criticized the new plan's eligibility requirements, which do not exclude women over a certain age. "Is not being able to conceive in your forties really a medical condition that we need to treat?" she asked. Ms. Krol went on to question how the government planned to pay for the new plan under its already over-stretched healthcare budget. "By refusing to raise the health-care budget to accommodate these new services, the government is making other patients, who are already without the services they need, foot the bill," she wrote.

In a follow-up column on Thursday, Ms. Krol compared Quebec's new law on assisted reproduction to similar ones in other countries, concluding that Quebec now offers the most generous publicly funded plan in the world. "The Quebec plan will without a doubt raise the birthrate," she wrote. "But when did we decide to privilege technological solutions to our demographic problems? And to take money away from the health-care system? This debate never happened. And judging by the reactions so far, this is not exactly the idea of the century."

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