Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Canada Understanding Itself

I read with dismay our government's plan to cancel the long census this coming year. I was one of the lucky participants of the long census four years ago. Now, Maxime Bernier, Conservative MP, calls it "invasive". Maybe so. But it is invasive and anonymous.

My deep concern is if the government is not interested in the shape and trends of it's own people, how can it govern intelligently? Good, solid, hard-core facts are needed to make solid decisions.

To get a handle on the trends on our society, there needs to be some consistency in the questions asked from year to year. I read with interest StatCanada's report on marriage. Divorce rates are down, a reversal of a long trend and largely held belief that divorces continue to rise. The report suggests that as couples wait later to marry, they have a better chance of success. That's an important bit of information, and policymakers should sit up and take notice. I don't want an inept government chasing fading issues. I want my government to be current, timely, and on the ball.

Another example of our silent nation is a dearth of information on our food supply. Erik Millstone's The Atlas of Food: Who Eats What, Where, and Why has a wealth of information from around the world including the UK and the United States. Canada, by comparison, is bare. Why? I checked the references and bibliography in Erik's book , and Canada either doesn't collect or won't release aggregate information on our food. Again, as a nation, are we deliberately blind?

There are reports that Canada is weathering this world-wide economic storm relatively intact. That's a cosy thought, and it will help me stay warm as I wrap myself in my flag this winter. But if I were a policymaker, I'd like to know why. Is there more than spunk and grit involved in our relative success? Knowing why we are doing so well can help our government know when they can step in to help, and when they should get out of the way.