Wednesday, May 18, 2016



I have never understood the fuss over the census.
It is a valuable source of information for me as a journalist. I didn't feel it violated any confidentiality deal with the government which routinely shreds our publicity.anyway.
I was a census taker back when they went door to door, and rather enjoyed it.
As a compassionate conservative, or so I like to think, I thought the Conservative objections to the census were dumb.
And, finally, I actually changed a major question on the census and was credited as a newspaper editor for doing so by StatsCan after I threatened through Sun editorials and my columns to drag them through every court in the land, including the one of public opinion.
As a result of my lobbying, backed by Doug Fisher, the respected dean of the Ottawa press gallery, we are allowed to call ourselves Canadians and not forced under threat of fine to declare that we came from English and Dutch stock when our grandparents had left there nearly a century ago.
I found out as a young reporter trying to save enough for my marriage that the bureaucracy would be ecstatic to use me in controversial areas like Rosedale where residents were used to complaining about everything. They figured I could handle the hassles diplomatically and reduce the number of beefs to important pols.
It was a unique experience. I remember the Toronto General nurse who had to answer the questions of the long form which she almost did while standing nude before me.
Believe me, I was not about to torpedo my wedding which was five weeks away by taking the bait if that was what it was other than a demonstration of how much she hated men.
I sensed trouble even before she refused to answer the income question. Later I phoned a supervisor at the hospital and got the general salary range for such a nurse.
Only a few doors away from that lovely home turned cramped boarding house, the long form had to be answered by Mrs. Walter Gordon, a legendary finance minister worshipped by the Toronto Star.
There were no problems because I had told her that my brother-in-law lived across from their country estate and that her husband had been thrilled to his Canadian soul to have the local farmer run a trapping line on his property.
As I recall, the top income category was around $34,000, a considerable sum to me because I was making less than $5,200 annually.
But Mrs. Gordon waved a gentle hand in the air when I asked if her husband made more than $34,000 a year and said "I should hope so."
Rosedale was filled with such contradictions -  noted politicians and bank presidents and architects in their huge homes vs. roomers in converted mansions just scraping by.
I found as a columnist that the census figures for a riding were invaluable in figuring out election results. And there were surprises hidden everywhere like mines in a turnip field.
I found in my riding of Etobicoke Lakeshore a half century ago that there were a number of homes not connected to sewers, that there were homes without furnaces, that a WASP looking street actually was occupied with first generation immigrants.
So the usefulness of the census in predicting the appeal of various political pitches made me a great supporter, except for that insistence that it was against the law to count yourself Canadian when it came to ethnic origin.
Since my father had come here in 1879 and my mother in 1905, I felt myself Canadian and not Dutch-English and resented the bureaucracy's insistence that Canadian was not a valid ethnicity even though Canada was older than half the countries of the world.
My father in the 1930s as a Tory power in Toronto introduced a young lawyer named John Diefenbaker to a former mayor and predicted Dief really would be Canada's PM.
I didn't much like this spitting quivering PM when I covered him but I thought he was wonderful for trying to pry the hyphen out of Canadianism.
To hell with French-Canadians and German-Canadians and even African-Canadians (which activists tried to use in the Maritimes and got shot down.) Wouldn't we have better relations with natives if we called them Canadians and not native Canadians?
When I got the letter about filling out the short form information on the Interenet,  I responded immediately to discover that once again the feds screwed up a simple task.
All the info I seemed to get when I went to the site defended the process and asked for census workers. But I perservered, and I hope the info is used properly, and not just by ethnic groups claiming that their minority needs more money to celebrate its roots.
Dief the Chief was right. The sooner people identify and act like Canadians instead of using our great country as a hidey hole from the storm before they move on, the better for them and us.

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