Census change is about smaller government

I received a call today from a reporter around noon about what he conceded was “the story that just won’t go away”. He was, of course, talking about the census. He wanted to know if I could pass on a few names of possible interviews for right-wingers that support the government’s stand to scrap the long-form census. Of course, there are the folks over at the Western Standard who are taking up their obvious position against the mandatory “burden”, but in broader view, it got me thinking about who opposes the government’s plan and why the story would not just go away.

Every day it seems that there’s a new group of people lining up to bemoan the Industry Minister’s announcement that the census would forego the long-form. Certainly, this illustrates a serious problem that Stephen Harper faces as Prime Minister. Facing an opposition that can’t get its act together is one thing, but a nation where the voices of special interests are louder than ordinary citizens is another.

Indeed in this country, there are two groups of people. In fact, some would call these groups the haves and the have-nots. This is an not inaccurate way of describing it, but those that would might have the two switched. Canadians form two groups: those that receive from the government and those pay to the government. Those who form — or are constituent to — organizations dependent on government policy (and spending) are firmly against the changes to the census. Those on the other side are largely ambivalent because they are the large, unorganized and unsubsidized net taxpaying masses.

The conservative/libertarian Fraser Institute think tank’s motto is “if it matters, measure it”. The untruth of the inverse of this statement is at the centre of why this government should follow through. “If you measure it, it matters” is the motto of those net tax receiving organizations who only matter if they can make their case. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has tried the ideological argument against these groups for years. But ideology is by its nature debatable; removing the framework of debate is his shortcut to victory.

If Stephen Harper succeeds in moving in this direction, he will be in the initial stages of dealing a huge blow to the welfare state. If one day we have no idea how many divorced Hindu public transit users there are in East Vancouver, government policy will not be concocted to address them specifically. Indeed if this group were organized (the DHPTUEV?) and looking for government intervention, they’d be against the census change. The trouble is that in Canada, the non-affiliated taxpayers not looking for a handout have not organized. Indeed, the only dog they have in this fight is the amount of tax they pay (aka “transfers”) to sustain the interests of others.

QMI’s David Akin exclaimed surprise that from his cell within the beehive of special interests that is Ottawa, he was shocked to find that a full half — that other half — of Canadians aren’t upset about the changes to the census when it seems that’s the only thing the other bees seem to be buzzing about. The story that “just won’t go away” is a flurry of activity “inside the beehive”, because until you go outside, you can’t see the forest for the trees.

The other recent Lockheed Martin-related news story of the past couple of weeks was the Conservative government’s huge sole-sourced $16 Billion contract with Lockheed Martin to buy F-35 fighter jets. Perhaps I was a bit naive to think that every part of that sentence should be offensive to the Ottawa media… sole-sourced… American arms dealer… flying war machines… Conservative government. No, this largest military purchase in Canadian history didn’t even make a significant blip on the Ottawa establishment radar, simply because it didn’t challenge the position of any special interest groups. There’s no bevy of community/cultural/government organizations ready to line up to criticize/laud such a move. If the government had taken $16 Billion out of HRSDC’s $80+ Billion annual budget to pay for it, however, there’d be a swarm.

I believe that this Prime Minister has a few objectives in mind as he integrates seemingly transactional initiatives into something transformative. First, he merged the Progressive Conservative party and the Canadian Alliance to challenge what seemed to be entrenched Liberal electoral domination. Through initiatives such as financial starvation via election finance reform and ideological force-feeding on the policy front, Stephen Harper seeks to diminish or destroy the Liberal Party to replace them with the Conservatives as Canada’s default choice for government. His greatest challenge is to dismantle the modern welfare state. If it can’t be measured, future governments can’t pander. I imagine that Stephen Harper’s view, Canada should be a country of individual initiative, not one of collective dependence “justified” through the collection of data.

Freedom-Government crossroads

freedom-crossroads.jpgI’d like to pose a simple question: “Could the Canadian government censor the Internet?”

Now, depending on your political leanings you might respond, “you Conservative wacko conspiracy theorist, the government wouldn’t do that!”

However, consider that the government already regulates the content of television and radio through the CRTC. The government body has the power to pull a station’s licence if they don’t play enough Canadian content or if they happen to be quite outspoken against the government in Quebec (see: ChoiFM). The Canadian government has incredible power over magazine publishers and think-tanks as well as these groups receive millions of dollars of government grants and support. Many Conservative think-tanks (e.g. Fraser Institute) and magazines (e.g. the Western Standard) are proudly independent of government subsidy and thus do not have to worry about publishing contrarian opinion and getting their funding cut.

In a discussion with Gerry Nicholls of the NCC over the weekend, we discussed the gag laws and the dissemination of Liberal-harmful news and message over the internet. Considering Jean Brault’s publication ban failure and the eventual NCC election gag law loss in the Supreme Court of Canada, Gerry mused that the Internet technology may have caught up with political censorship and thus gag laws have become pointless.

It is actually possible to censor the internet in Canada. The government would merely require that Rogers/Cogeco/Telus/Bell include a couple of lines of code within their global settings on their networks. The government can require that these companies ban connections to certain IPs or even ban pages automatically with certain keywords.

“But they only censor the internet in repressive third world countries”, you might say. However, consider that I, along with several Blogging Tories, and Brian Neale of Nealenews were facing potential charges for breaking the Jean Brault publication ban and consider that this very ban on Internet linking (!) is a circumvention of our right to free speech. Now consider that the Internet is the only unregulated medium in Canada (satellite television signals, that float through the air, are also regulated for CRTC-approved content). Also consider that more and more people get election news from the internet and that blogs will be front-row-centre(-right) during the next election. Furthermore, trends such as these mean that the government will either make a globally embarrassing move to regulate “the great democratizer” that is the Internet, or it will make no move at all. If the latter is true, government pressure on broadcast TV, radio, satellite, thinktanks and magazines will become less relevant as the Internet provides more freedom of information for all Canadians.