How to decide the ‘right thing to do’ in politics

I like Tony Clement.  I saw him speak once and he seems to be a bright guy which puzzles me all the more on this Census thing.  Stockwell Day I could see being paranoid about government and personal information but Tony Clement?

He’s quoted in the Globe today as saying:

“I know I don’t have very many allies in the media on this. I’m kind of alone out here,” he said. “All I can tell you is that I do believe it’s the right thing to do and in politics if you start not doing the right thing because some people criticize you, why would I be wasting my time

So this is an interesting point for me. How does something get to be ‘the right thing to do’ in politics? 

If Clement was trying to make a decision on taxes or health care spending or where to put a new road and 200 of the expert organizations you talked to were against it and three were for it (and the three all have close ties to the PM – the Taxpayer’s Federation, the Citizen’s Coalition and Fraser) – how could be be so sure it’s the ‘right thing to do’?

I have said on this blog on many issues that I lean towards believing expert opinion on subjects that I don’t have a deep knowledge so in this case, if I was Clement, I would default to the expert opinion on this and maybe set up some type of commission to study it and report back to the Minister.

It just doesn’t make any sense.  Clement and Day keep talking about putting people in jail for not filling out the form when no one has ever been put in jail.  Then the backup argument is that it is somehow just not fair to force people to fill out a form like that – why not?

Somebody sent me an email today – not a fan of the Conservatives – saying the real motivation behind this is to make it harder over time for the government to develop social programs.    It is true that many of the big social policies out there rely heavily on long form data but I don’t necessarily agree with his opinion – I never really liked conspiracy theories – someone tried to put me into one during the recent NB Power debate and it’s not fun.

It’s probably more simple than that.   A few key influencers – the few Libertarians we have in Canada – didn’t like it and kicked up a rumpus during dinner with Harper and got the thing scrapped.  And that’s not a good way to set policy – particularly on things that are hard to reverse.

2 thoughts on “How to decide the ‘right thing to do’ in politics

  1. I’m not entirely sure that it would qualify outright as a conspiracy theory to suggest that the Conservatives are scrapping a tool that can be used by future governments to measure how they might intervene in the economy. They don’t believe that there should be intervention in the economy by the government. They don’t like social programs. If they scrap the long form census, causing self-selection bias to degrade the quality of the information available, it will lead to government agencies being less efficient. Conservative politicians on future campaign trails will then be able to campaign on the basis of cutting inefficient government programs. It is a particularly canny move.

    Were Harper primarily a pragmatist leader rather than a cynical politician, this interpretation of their motivation could well be considered a conspiracy theory. In light of Harper’s displayed commitment to ideology and branding above functional necessity (climate change would be the best example), electing future Conservative majorities seems the only incentive worth all the trouble that this decision has caused.

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