Make your own Commons

No sketch today on account of commitments elsewhere.

In lieu, here is today’s exchanges between Marlene Jennings and Carolyn Bennett with Tony Clement on the subject of the census. Add your own world-weary bemusement.

L’hon. Marlene Jennings (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Lib.): Monsieur le Président, la Fédération des communautés francophones et acadiennes du Canada se bat contre la décision conservatrice d’abolir le recensement détaillé parce qu’elle va menacer les services en français. Hier en cour, nous avons appris que le gouvernement sait depuis le tout début que l’abolition du formulaire obligatoire détaillé allait rendre les données inutilisables pour plusieurs institutions fédérales. Alors pourquoi persistent-ils quand ils savent que leur nouveau questionnaire sera plus cher et qu’il rendra le gouvernement moins efficace? Pourquoi?

L’hon. Tony Clement (ministre de l’Industrie, PCC): Monsieur le Président, comme je l’ai déjà dit, nous ne jugeons pas approprié d’obliger les Canadiens à fournir, sous la menace de sanctions, de l’information privée et personnelle. Nous avons une approche équitable et raisonnable qui peut équilibrer les intérêts de ceux qui veulent les recensements, mais en même temps respecter la vie privée des Canadiens. Ce sont les positions d’un gouvernement très raisonnable.

Hon. Marlene Jennings (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government knows its decision will make the census more expensive and less effective. It knows that the information will be useless to many federal institutions, but also useless to businesses, useless to charities, and useless to the central bank of Canada. They know all this, yet the Conservatives still want to make the government less expensive and less efficient: why?

Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Industry, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that the Liberals and their coalition partners have a very cavalier attitude when it comes to protecting the rights of Canadians to be free from the coercive intrusion of a government when it comes to very personal information. We on this side of the House try to respect the rights of Canadians, try to find an equitable way to get the data, useful and usable data, in the words of the chief statistician, and at the same time respect the rights of Canadians. That is why we are a fair and reasonable government.

Hon. Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul’s, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Canadian doctors and nurses have been clear: they need accurate census data to prepare for pandemics like H1N1, to make decisions where to put our hospitals, where to put the ambulance stations, where to put vaccination clinics. The Conservatives knew all along that the voluntary survey was not as good, and yet they killed the mandatory long form census anyway. Why are they attacking the ability of our doctors and nurses to deliver health services to Canadians?

Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Industry, CPC): Mr. Speaker, not at all. As I have said, as the former chief statistician has said, as the current chief statistician has said, there is useful and usable data to be obtained through a voluntary long form. What we are doing on this side of the House is balancing the interests in certain institutions and businesses to have access to the data, with the rights of Canadians to be free from coercion when it comes to intrusive and very personal questions. That is the obligation of a fair and reasonable government, and we are meeting that obligation.

Hon. Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul’s, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the doctors and nurses are fighting to retain the census because they need the information to properly look after Canadians. The statisticians have been very clear the information is not as good. So why will the government not listen to the doctors and nurses and the public health departments? Why is the government putting the health of Canadians at risk?

Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Industry, CPC): Mr. Speaker, if I may say parenthetically, I will take our record of listening to doctors and nurses when it comes to making sure we actually deal with pandemic situations rather than their record any day of the week. We are in fact listening to Canadians. We are listening to those who are concerned about the intrusive and coercive aspect of the long form census in its previous form, a 40-page form. We think we have found a way to have a fair and reasonable balance that serves Canadians well and gets the useful and usable data that is necessary.

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