Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Censuses, Bedrooms and Bathrooms

Could a journalist or two please start pointing out the absurdity of the Conservatives' "bedrooms and bathrooms" talking point in their articles about the census fiasco?

To wit: at least one level of government ALREADY KNOWS how many bedrooms and bathrooms are in your home. They know, because the plans for having your dwelling built and/or renovated were submitted to a government authority for approval and/or inspection at some point in the past.

The nice thing about providing this information again in the census is that this information can then be cross-referenced en masse with other anonymized data collected by StatsCan and stored in the same place to allow for public policy planning. The manuscript census data of individual records is not released outside of the government for at least 91 years, so in many respects the census data is more secure than the data that is already on record.

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8 Comments:

At 7:07 am, Anonymous ck said...

It's not about privacy for ol' Sweater vest Steve; never was.

http://sistersagesmusings.ca/2010/07/19/the-rare-time-i-agree-with-tasha-kheirriddin-too-bad-privacy-isnt-the-real-issue/

 
At 10:54 am, Anonymous Eamon said...

To add to your point, Matt. After working in a municipality, I was shocked to discover that anyone can ask for the plans to any house for little or no reason.

For example, I could get the plans for your house right now (if I knew the address). Talk about lacking privacy/security. Thank God more criminals don't know about that.

So to add to your point. Government already knows how many bedrooms and bathrooms you have... and anyone who wants to know exactly what the layout of your house is can get it for a few bucks at the local City Hall...

 
At 10:58 am, Blogger Matt said...

Eamon,

I'm reminded of all the action/thriller movies where the criminal breaks into the municipal offices to get the plans for the hotel/casino/whatever -e.g. Ocean's Eleven. Methinks the criminals do know about this, at least the smart ones.

 
At 3:13 pm, Anonymous Eamon said...

Yes... but apparently they aren't smart enough to just go ask for the plans... no need to break in... though they may need the paractice...

 
At 4:35 pm, Blogger Random University Student said...

True, some of this information is already collected, but the census provides a one stop place to get it all. If it's already collected, why does the government care what's on the census. To me, this is pandering to their core, but I'm not an authority on politics or political strategy. This one stop place makes it currently useful for contemporary researchers, NGO's etc. (the information at least that's compiled and released as stats) and later for historians. For example, can you imagine being an historian 91 years from now and having to track down both the housing plans and the census info for the number of people living in the house to create a correlation? It's slightly mind numbing.

 
At 4:42 pm, Anonymous Eamon said...

@RUS - I've worked on one of those historical census projects, and I agree that it would be terrible to have to track down two sets of information.

I'd also be concerned with records retention laws if a municipality was maintaining a data source. In many cases a municipality only needs to retain records for seven years... I'm not 100% sure what those laws extend to. I know it was a killer for my previous research when I found out that important documents (at least, documents that were important to me) were destroyed after only 7 years...

Imagine being that researcher in 91 years and only being able to find half of the information you need because it was subject to municipal retention laws...

 
At 10:02 am, Anonymous Maurice said...

What bothers me the most, aside from the obvious need to maintain the long census form, is how time and time again this government has managed to get away with things. It's rather amazing considering its minority status, but I suppose that speaks more to how unfocussed the opposition is.

 
At 3:53 pm, Anonymous Eamon said...

Is it a lack of focus in the opposition? Or is the conservative party just doing a good job of rolling with the punches?

I agree though... it does seem to be very difficult to get anything to stick. Even in the last year we've had the "Big Conservative Cheque" controversy, the prorogued parliament, the Jaffer/Guergis issue (kicking a member of your party out of caucus for no reason shows a lack of judgement), the G8 fumble, the torture info, the misplaced portfolios, and now the census mess. We also have less known things like the distribution of infrastructure money favouring conservative ridings...

I think that they escape many of these things by either blaming public servants, which is wrong (ask Matt for the historical basis of that point), or they throw a junior member of their staff under the bus... it is sickening... but people aren't getting mad. They shouldn't need a focussed opposition to get mad with these things going on, but even with a focussed opposition I don't know how well these things would stick...

 

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