Ottawa's census move: "gobsmacking jackassery"

A stats-obsessed columnist revels in the uproar

Industry Minister Tony Clement’s decision to end the longstanding practice of sending one-fifth of Canadian households a long census form, which they were required by law to complete, has turned into an unexpected political nightmare for the Conservative government. Many groups that rely on accurate census information are protesting loudly. Clement argues the form amounted to overly intrusive government. Among pundits, the Ottawa Citizen‘s Dan Gardner is unusually interesting on this issue, since he’s the author of a stats-soaked book called Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear. Gardner is simultaneously delighted that his obsession is now big news, and horrified (like Maclean’s columnist Andrew Potter) that Clement lacks rudimentary understanding. Gardner calls the census move “gobsmacking jackassery” and entertainingly chronicles the story up to now. Retired stats guru Ivan Fellegi’s protest against the end of the long-form census, was, Gardner observes, “rather like Moses returning from the mountain and explaining to the wayward Israelites that, no, you can’t worship a golden calf, you idiots.”

Ottawa Citizen