You should warn a person at least once before they go into a barnyard. That is sufficient for them to look around and be aware of the dangers that lurk underfoot. It is far more important that the farmer can easily get the cows to and from their milking than to worry about the shoes of city slickers.
Tunney’s Pasture in Ottawa is very much like that barnyard. The government departments located there have always been prideful of their ability to lay minefields to ward off the unwary politician bent on disrupting their way of life. For many years, Statistics Canada was a guardian at the gate of Tunney’s Pasture, locked in its demands on Canadians for it ten-year cycle of queries about the number of our indoor toilets.
And then along came Mr. Harper and his effete band of Conservative ideologues. They just marched into the pasture to enforce their ideas of small, less intrusive government. Their delicate Italian-made shoes were never designed to withstand the cowflaps that were there in the pasture for them.
Tony Clement, Stephen Harper, et al were not raised on farms. They had little understanding either of the reasons for counting inside toilets. They thought it was intrusive and they reasoned that there was no need for such count. Mind you, they relented, if someone wishes to tell you such information, you may collect it. They had no way of knowing that making the details voluntary would destroy the statistical viability of the information. It would be useless.
And the people they hurt are not civil servants who think the information is important. They hurt their business supporters who need that information to be able to forecast the needs of the Canadian marketplace. The rate of change from outdoor privies to indoor plumbing, for example, tells the porcelain manufacturers how many toilets to mould in the coming year. Having too few can be just about as bad as having too many.
Canadian business trusts Statistics Canada. For many years, they have bought increasing complex studies based on the reliability of the five and ten year analyses. For the Harper government to toss their bombshell into this relationship is not only foolish and ill-thought. It gives Canadian a very good example of the danger of turning ideologues lose in the federal government.
It is one thing to tighten the screws on civil servants to increase productivity. It is an entirely different situation to tell them how to do their jobs. Some of them take quite justifiable pride in their work. The resignation of the head of Statistics Canada was a very understandable outcome from an honourable person.
Back on the farm, we would have said that the Right Honourable Stephen Harper stepped into a really warm, squishy one this time.
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