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Liberals take poison pen to ideal Tory census – The Globe and Mail

In Canada on July 29, 2010 at 16:29

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 8:31 AM

Liberals take poison pen to ideal Tory census

Jane Taber

1. ‘Have you ever had an independent thought?’ Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals are circulating their version of the “Voluntary Conservative Census Form,” a pointed and mocking questionnaire that suggests hard-right Tory ideology led to the decision to scrap the compulsory long-form census.

At the same time it paints Stephen Harper’s Conservatives as a bunch of unsophisticated autocrats, trying to appeal to their base.

“How many CBC shows do you watch? Do you feel bad about this? How much money do you think the government should waste on the CBC?” is one of the questions.

Or this: “Are there any rooms in your house where you keep books? If so, why?”

And they’ve included a couple of wedge-issue questions for good measure:

“Have you ever been exposed to climate-change propaganda? (Propaganda is defined as any information other than that currently posted on Environment Canada’s website.)”

“Would you agree that giving women the right to vote was a mistake?”

Indeed, the tongue-in-cheek effort reads like a Top 10 list and is intended for Liberal supporters to circulate via social media. The release follows the grilling of Industry Minister Tony Clement on Tuesday by the Liberals, NDP and Bloc and testimony by former chief statistician Munir Sheikh at a summer sitting of the all-party industry committee.

The opposition accused Mr. Clement of making his decision based on Tory ideology; the minister repeatedly said the mandatory aspect of the long-form census was harsh, some questions were intrusive and Canadians shouldn’t be forced by the threat of jail time to answer questions about household repairs.

Given Mr. Clement’s testimony it does not appear the government is willing to change its mind. He refused to comment any further Wednesday morning.

“Have you ever had an independent thought?” the Liberal mock survey continues. “If so please describe in detail, and say where they/it occurred.”

The Liberals are also accusing the government of making this decision in secret without public consultation. Mr. Clement did avoid answering directly questions related to exactly who was consulted about this decision.

Of course we’d like the government to reverse its decision,” a senior Ignatieff official told The Globe Wednesday morning. “We’ve been in power before and we know that having reliable data is important when taking decisions. Otherwise, you are flying blind.

“But no, I don’t think they’ll reverse their decision. Once you throw a bone at Canada’s version of the Tea Party crowd, it is hard to take it back.”

2. Veiled public opinion. A new poll shows a majority of Canadians want burkas banned in public. The poll was inspired by the debate in France, which is now in the process of banning veils worn by Muslim women.

Some critics of the Paris move say it is a ploy by President Nicolas Sarkozy to attract the right-wing vote.

The Leger Marketing poll, published Wednesday by Sun newspapers, finds that 54 per cent of Canadians believe no one should be covering their faces and that this is an issue of public safety and transparency. But 20 per cent of the online survey respondents found that they should not be banned for reasons of freedom of religion and expression.

While the issue rages across the Atlantic – David Cameron’s Conservative government in Britain has dismissed the policy – it has also been raging here.

This spring, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said he supported legislation by Quebec Premier Jean Charest to require Muslim women to expose their faces in government buildings. Prime Minister Stephen Harper also said the move had merit.

The Leger poll breaks down the attitudes of Canadians by province, showing that 45 per cent of Albertans, 53 per cent of Ontarians and 73 per cent of Quebeckers support a ban.

According to the Sun report, the poll of 1,526 people was conducted between July 19 and July 22. Leger does not tally the margin of error for its online surveys.

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