View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – A way out exists on the Census Issue – Cornwall Ontario – July 27, 2010

Cornwall ON – Tony Clement had an opportunity to perform today in front of the Industry Committee. One thing that can be said for Clement is that he is always well prepared, knows his files and it’s hard to trip him up. In addition, he always surrounds himself with highly competent staff, who keep him well briefed and prepared. As expected, his performance was pretty solid.

With the government refusing to back down on the long form census issue, they will now have to endure another week of negative press stories. One can always tell where these issues originate. If a minister screws up and makes a bad decision or makes a poor comment, PMO comes down like a ton of bricks on that minister’s staff or even the minister. A clarification from the minister’s office follows shortly after PMO intervenes.

When PMO is the source of the issue and negative stories, all too often they get stubborn, dig in their heels and refuse to budge. A story that should never have been one in the first place thus stretches out over days. In the end common sense usually prevails and political reality wins out. A recent example of this would be the decision to back down on changing the words to the national anthem.

So far on the census issue several respected organizations have suggested ways to solve this problem to everyone’s satisfaction.  These solutions cover some of the contentious issues such as which questions are intrusive and whether or not completion of the census should be compulsory. Today the minister indicated to the committee that he would listen to suggestions from others. This is a positive move. Thus the government has a way out if it wants to move this issue out of the spot light.

PMO has been insisting that ministers are now responsible for everything that happens in their department. In this case it means the minister gets hauled on the carpet for a PMO mistake, but if this policy really does mean that the minister is responsible for running his department then perhaps PMO should keep their fingers out of this issue and let the minister find a solution that is acceptable to all sides.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.



  1. OK, Keith. Just one thing: Clement publicly misrepresented Statistics Canada (aka lied about what StatsCan had said to him). That’s why Sheikh, a man of principle, resigned. These distinctions are important if we are to salvage our badly abused democracy.

  2. In other words, Keith, it’s not so much a “solid performance” as the solid truth that we need from the minister.

  3. On Tuesday Wiki leaks will upload everybody’s email and link it to the phone book. On Wednesday the renegade librarians from the Diefenbaker bunker will up load the water powered star drive engine blue prints for the Avro-Arrow to wiki leaks. On Thursday the data forms of Census Canada for the past fifty years will be dumped on Wiki leaks cross indexed to everyone’s names. On Friday the addresses of every undercover officer will be uploaded. Saturday features everyone’s PIN number and bank card. Can’t wait for next week.

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