Friday, August 6, 2010


I haven't quite been able to engage this debate over the brouhaha involving the Long-Form Canadian Census. Perhaps it's because I have never seen the form nor (obviously) have been among the chosen to complete it. I am grateful for that because at between 40 to 60 pages long, I am not quite sure that by the last twenty or so pages, I wouldn't have been tempted, despite the penalty of jail time, to fudge some of the answers.

Be that as it may. When this began to unravel about a month ago, I frankly thought that it was one of those Ottawa political tempests in a teapot concocted by the National Parliamentary Press Gallery somewhat bored in the afterglow of the two Toronto Summit gatherings and the Queen's successful Canada Day holiday tour. But the damn story seems to have sprouted legs and engaged statisticians, politicians, pundits, hangers-on and wannabees from even beyond Canada's borders.

In an age of rapid communications when one can hardly turn around without being asked for an opinion, an idea, a survey, life's personal details, obligations, and / or a viewpoint on practically any subject on God's green orb; you'd think just about every Canadian and the organizations who represent them would have wanted to steer real-clear of any contentious debate over another matter how apparently precious to our Nation's well being. That's the part I still don't get; but I am of the opinion (poll me if you want) that the government had the same practical idea when it decided to make the long-form requirements voluntary rather than a legal obligation. By the way; lest I digress, that is all that is at stake here - Nothing more!

What's clear to me now; and a series of nationwide focus groups (Jeez more polling!) carried-out by Ipsos Reid acknowledge; is that Canadians are frustrated with the Harper Government's..."lack of communication, leaving them in the dark about the Tory agenda." It seems that there is a certain whiff of uncomfortable arrogance which has swept-over Prime Minister Harper's best efforts to tightly control the Government's messaging skills.

In Ottawa parlance: The PM, through the PMO, gags the PCO - To wit: In the four and a half years since the Conservatives were elected; the Prime-Minister's Office, frequently through the bureaucratic arm of Government, the Privy Council Office, has been accused of strong-arming strict messaging practices which a) Script the words spoken by politicians and the few bureaucrats allowed to speak publicly and b) Gag just about every other effort by journalists and the Media to inform stake holders.

The Ipsos Reid focus groups were conducted amongst a cross-section of Canadians in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Mississauga, Halifax and Trois-Rivieres. According to the Canadian Press, which claims to have seen the report, the client was the Communications and Consultation Secretariat of the Privy Council Office. Or as I read it: (Ready for this?) - The CCS of the PCO, paid to be told the PM and his PMO, are micromanaging the talking points; and Canadians are uncomfortable about that!

It's an obsession over the control of information for which the script was written south of the border in the aftermath of the sad and shattering events of September 2001. - From which the continued practiced has derailed far too many decent efforts to improve the lives of American people. - And: The aggressive pursuit of which in this country threatens to paralyze our own institutions of government over silly political partisanship. At the very least you'd think we'd learn from just watching.

Ipsos Reid claims the Canadians who took part in their research were..."perturbed by the trickle of information from...the government." Critics have been more vocal claiming the tightly scripted messages, Media lines, soundbites and photo-ops undermine democracy and transparency.

A seemingly clear case that the Voodoo some do, and their impulsive control over the release of information can eventually undermine their message and blur their vision.

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