Thursday, July 22, 2010

Political storms move through Mr. Harper's most uncomfortable summer

There are lies, damned lies and statistics.-- Mark Twain

We're not sure what it is about vacation time that sends the Harper Government into stupid mode, but once again while the nation would best be content to finding a beach, soaking some sun and having some fun, our political class have found a way to intrude on our restive slumber of all things political.

The latest in the fumbles of the Conservative government comes from the world of statistics of all things, as the head of Statistics Canada tenders his resignation, frustrated to the point of quitting from the interference of the Government in the wonderful world of statistical gathering.

Chief statistician Munir Sheikh packed up his number 4 pencils today and launched a serious rebuke at the Conservatives for their decision to cancel the long form census, a project which one in five Canadians participates in providing a more thorough interpretation of the things that make us tick as Canadians.

Mr. Sheikh, took exception to the concept that he and his officials at Statistics Canada were onside with the Conservatives with the plan to replace the mandatory long version of the census with a shorter voluntary version, or as he put it, as reported by the Globe and Mail:

“I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion ... the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census,” Mr. Sheikh wrote. 

“It can not,” he said. 

 “Under the circumstances, I have tendered my resignation to the prime minister.”

It's not very often that a senior public official so strenuously objects to a change in Government policy and the fact that he quickly repudiated the impression that he was onside with the Government shift suggests that the government, once again, didn't fully examine its decision and certainly didn't fully express the feeling of their own statisticians when they suggested that Stats Canada was onside.

And as Steven Chase and Tavia Grant explain in the Globe and Mail today, not only are the senior bureaucrats against the plan, but so to it seems are the majority of the department's 6,000 workers who are said to be demoralized over the latest steps by the Government.

For whatever reason, the Harper government can't seem to help itself when it comes to creating a crisis where none need be created.

They chose not to accept the advice of Ontario and Toronto officials when it came to the circus of the G8 and G20, and while in a more sensible world, hosting a major economic forum in the nation's largest city probably shouldn't have been a problem. Considering the annual cycle of violence that these events have come to attract, it really would have been a more sensible path to have hosted the circus in a more remote and less accessible location to the roving bands of malcontents.

With the vision of burning police cars, stampeding protestors and then a push back from the police to regain its streets, the early summer days for the nation were spent watching a view of anarchy in a normally peaceful city.

Any photo ops for the Prime Minister hosting the world's powerful were quickly passed over for the vision of smoke rising from the streets and glass tumbling to the ground, which image do will stand the test of time from that show we wonder.

Adding to the PM's summer of woe will be the prospect that he may have jumped the gun when he tossed cabinet minister Helena Guergis out of the inner and outer circles. Turns out that maybe he should have waited for the RCMP to conclude their investigation, for as things have turned out, she seems to have been found innocent of all charges.

Of course, it was Christmas time a year ago when the Harper Government interrupted our Christmas observances with a constitutional crisis, that of the proroguing of Parliament.

It may have put to a halt to the questionable tactic of a coalition taking power without benefit of endorsement from the public, but by its introduction it suspended the normal course of democratic representative government for too long a period of time.

Leaving Canadians to wonder as to the democratic tendencies of all those that end up taking a desk on the Hill.

It also leaves us to wonder if anyone on the Hill knows what they are doing.

While those that oppose the Conservative viewpoint might disagree, the Harper Conservatives have held a fairly steady hand on the minority government tiller, but every once and a while it seems they develop a serious case of the stupids.

Statistics Canada no doubt could provide us with some data highlighting the number of mistakes it takes before a Government finally comes to the end of its time in power, we imagine that short form or long form, the results will be the same.

Patience more than anything else could prove to be the strategy that the Liberals and NDP should adhere to in Ottawa, at least considering the state of Conservative woe that  Kelly McParland recounts in the National Post.

At this rate of self destruction, Mr. Harper may find that he's handing over the keys to 24 Sussex sooner than later.

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