Maxime Bernier has released a statement intended to clear up any census-related confusion. It reads as follows.
I would like once and for all to set things straight with regard to the many reports that have appeared recently in the media regarding my position on the census.
First of all, the CBC has obtained some internal correspondence through an access-to-information request saying that Industry Canada and Statistics Canada only received a few hundred emails of complaint related to the census in 2006. Some commentators have concluded that this was proof that I had been lying when I claimed to have received about a thousand a day for a couple of days.
But I had clearly indicated when I made this declaration back in July that these emails had been received at my MP office on the Hill and not at my minister’s office. It was a discussion with my MP office staff that had led us to recall receiving these emails. Contrary to the correspondence received by the ministry, which is kept by civil servants, the email correspondence at my MP office has all been deleted.
This access-to-information request thus has nothing to do with what I had said.
What I told the CBC journalist however is that I cannot say for sure today, four years later, what proportion of those emails were complaints against the questions or the compulsory character of the census. Another campaign was going on at the same time by groups opposed to a contract that Statistics Canada had awarded to the American firm Lockheed Martin to manage some data. All these emails were identical but sent by different people.
Also, a Liberal MP, Bryon Wilfert, unveiled a letter from 2006 where I was responding to the concerns of one of his constituents regarding the information collected in the census, where I said that it was important and that the confidentiality of the data was rigorously protected.
Again, there is not much new in this “revelation”. I continue to believe the same thing. However, I also believe that the coercive nature of the census is unwarranted. I had been named Industry minister a few months earlier when I signed that letter and most of the decisions regarding the census had been taken by my predecessor. Since then, I have had time to reflect upon it and yes, I have changed my mind when it comes to the threat of a fine or jail time for those who refuse to fill it. This is why I am convinced that my government is doing the right thing.
This position is entirely consistent with everything I have been saying or writing for many years on the importance of individual freedom, a principle which motivates my whole involvement in politics.