During the 9 years in which Stephen Harper server as Prime Minister of Canada, the official opposition loudly opposed his every act, as is their wont and their duty. Elected in 2015 in his stead though, they found themselves with a long history of loud complaints, and a dim recollection of why they had complained in the first place.
Wasting no time, new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began implementing his principled plan of do-the-opposite-of-whatever-Harper-did-regardless-of-logic-or-reason. Tax free-savings plans were an early target of attack, because despite people’s fondness for keeping their own money, this was a policy that Harper had championed, and any record of his deeds must be stricken from the history books. Where Stephen Harper had a plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees, the new Liberal government would bring in 25,000, because despite obvious logistical problems, 25 was a bigger number than 10.
Their next target became Stephen Harper’s bold, authoritarian decision that his government wouldn’t send people to jail for not filling out paperwork. In Trudeau’s Canada, this maniacal stance of not incarcerating people could not continue. In December, Trudeau’s Liberals proudly proclaimed the return of jail time and fines for anyone who dared to not fill out a census. They used the phrase ‘robust communication plan’ instead of ‘propaganda’ though, so some weirdos got excited by the promise.
To add a level of Orwellian creep to the matter, the publicly-funded CBC corporation published news stories claiming that everyone was super excited to be filling out their mandated paperwork. Census employees phoned and visited citizens to hound the delinquent. School teachers were provided lesson plans to lecture their students about how exciting the census is, and the importance of prompt acquiescence to authority.
It would be easy to argue that the government gets all the accurate head count data it needs annually via Revenue Canada, and that any information regarding language, ethnicity or education could be easily extrapolated from voluntarily collected data using the ancient and arcane practice of statistics. It would also be easy to make the argument that the government has no practical way of enforcing an obviously empty threat, and that one could easily lie, dodge, or bluff their way out of answering the census questions.
The purest argument against this silly charade though is that in Canada the government should not be jailing people for the crime of not answering a questionnaire. Incarceration is a serious and severe form of punishment. Accurate census data is undoubtedly valuable, but surely not worth a person’s freedom to secure. Even if this is merely an empty threat designed to improve turnout, the Canadian government should not be in the business of threatening its citizens.
Most of all, Canadians should be wary of a government that dispatches its own media and education system to push a message, and should question the reasoning behind any such campaign. Sometimes it’s just a petty feud to support the ego of a party more defined by their opposition than any sensible policy of their own.