OTTAWA – The Harper government has adopted a deliberate strategy of hiding information from Canadians in order to advance a right-wing social and justice agenda, Liberals charge.
Liberal MP John McCallum pointed Thursday to two recent examples to prove the point: The government’s decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census and its refusal to release a favourable report on the effectiveness of the long-gun registry.
He called the approach “a triumph of ignorance over knowledge, a triumph of ideology over science.”
And he said the recent moves demonstrate that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is afraid of an informed electorate.
“Stephen Harper doesn’t like to let facts or truth get in the way of his ideological agenda,” McCallum told a news conference Thursday.
“He will stop at nothing to dumb down debate to a catch phrase.”
McCallum said the decision to turn the compulsory long-form census into a voluntary survey is “one of the most visible examples of one of the most fundamental shortcomings” of the Harper governemnt.
He said it’s aimed at robbing federal, provincial and municipal governments of the reliable data they need to deliver progressive social programs, skewing “the picture of what Canada really looks like” because low-income and minority Canadians will be less likely to fill out a voluntary form.
The move to a voluntary survey has been widely denounced by some 300 groups, including statisticians, social scientists, economists, religious groups, educators, doctors and town councils.
McCallum said Liberals will introduce a private member’s bill as soon as the House of Commons resumes work next month that would restore the 2011 long-form census and prevent governments from tinkering with it in future without the consent of Parliament.
He cited the government’s refusal to release the annual RCMP evaluation of the gun registry’s effectiveness as another example of Harper’s penchant for stifling facts.
Opposition parties maintain the government has been sitting on the report for six months and wants to keep it hidden until after a crucial Sept. 22 vote on Tory backbencher Candice Hoeppner’s private member’s bill to scrap the controversial registry.
According to the CBC, the report concludes the registry is cost effective, efficient and “an important tool for law enforcement.”
“Clearly the Conservatives want to prevent parliamentarians and Canadians from seeing important information about the cost and effectiveness of the long-gun registry before an important vote,” McCallum said.
“I am calling on Stephen Harper to get over his fear of facts, to release that report and to prove that he is not afraid of having an informed electorate.”
Earlier this week, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews maintained the RCMP has still not signed off on the report. In any event, he said it is irrelevant to the debate.
“Canadians don’t need another report to know that the long-gun registry is very efficient at harassing law-abiding farmers and outdoors enthusiasts, while wasting billions of taxpayers’ dollars,” he said in an email statement.
“They don’t need another report to know that the registry does nothing to prevent crime.”
That’s the same line his office gave last spring when documents obtained through Access to Information showed the government kept the 2008 report on the gun registry secret until after the first vote on Hoeppner’s bill last fall.
According to the documents, the government was required by statute to table the report by last Oct. 22 but did not do so until Nov. 6 — two days after Hoeppner’s bill passed at second reading, with the support of eight Liberals and 12 New Democrats.