Yesterday, May 10, was Census Day, the deadline for the completion of the 2016 Canadian census. This year marks the reintroduction of the mandatory long form census, which was made voluntary by the Harper government in 2010. Failure to complete the census could lead you to be fined, imprisoned or both.
This struck me as odd. Since when did giving the government personal and private information become cool? In the age of Snowden, the NSA, and Bill C-51, isn’t handing over piles of information to the government something we’re supposed to protest and be scared of?
Bill C-51 was an overhaul of Canada’s anti-terrorism laws and was met with vehement opposition.
One of the biggest criticisms of C-51 had to do with privacy concerns. Opponents feared the prospect of the government collecting personal data like their internet browsing history or travel habits, and sharing it between different departments of government.
Yet many of these same individuals welcome the return of the long form census. What could possibly explain this apparent contradiction?
The easy explanation is partisan bias. Bill C-51 was a product of the “evil, anti-democratic” Conservative government led by Stephen Harper who is either “Hitler, like Hitler, or worse than Hitler” depending on which Harper-hater you asked.
However, the return of the mandatory census was, of course, the product of the “enlightened, data-loving, evidence-based-policy, quantum-computing expert” Justin Trudeau’s government. I guess as long as the government has a friendly face leading it, its collection of personal and private information is perfectly acceptable.
This cognitive dissonance brings to mind government plans to ban menthol cigarettes, in order to keep them out of the hands of children, while simultaneously working to legalize marijuana…. in order to keep it out of the hands of children. It seems that sound and consistent logic is too much to ask for in government policy.
Cognitive dissonance, inconsistency, and disingenuousness in public policy debates, regardless of which political camp it emanates from, is aggravating to say the least; it would be nice to see less of it in the future.