As if Saskatchewan didn’t have enough strikes against it — flat, boring, really flat, really boring, etc. — recent news reports revealed some gophers on that unfortunate province’s vast grasslands have the plague.
Parks Canada officials are, as you’d expect, monitoring the situation to see how widespread the outbreak is.
They downplayed the danger, of course. The likelihood of a flea transmitting bacteria to a human, they stressed, is highly remote. Nevertheless, they advised people walking in the affected area in southern Saskatchewan to use lots of insect repellant, tuck their pant legs into their socks and leave their dogs at home.
Other than that, carry on as usual. Don’t worry. The last time someone contracted the plague in Canada was 1939.
But still. It’s the plague.
Strangely, the original Canadian Press item gave no background information. It didn’t mention the plague’s history. What were they thinking? After all, it’s the plague.
Somebody at CP apparently realized the story needed more than blithe reassurances from officialdom. An updated version of the story included the plague’s curriculum vitae: source of the Black Death; killer of millions in the Middle Ages; wiped out one-third of Europe’s population.
That background was vital to the story. It is, after all, the plague.
Missing information is everywhere. Sometimes you don’t even realize it’s missing because, well, it’s not there.
Consider, for instance, the ongoing uproar over the federal government’s plan to get rid of the mandatory long-form census and make all census questionnaires voluntary.
Various voices from the left are tinged with outrage. According to many liberals, NDPers, academics, activists and commentators, this is tantamount to shredding the very fabric of our nice, caring culture.
I’m no fan of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but I say, shred that mandatory census.
The opponents of a voluntary census are leaving out some vital information, such as: when exactly did leftists start endorsing statism? Since when do idealists support the power of the state over the rights of the individual? Is big, bad government only big and bad when it’s in Washington, not Ottawa?
It has been said, many times, that the mandatory census is needed so the government can base good social policy on it. If you believe that, please send me your name, address and bank account information.
Good social policy comes about when people want good social policy. Statistics don’t have anything to do with it. The federal government, with support of all political parties, declared in 1989 it would wipe out “child poverty” in Canada by the year 2000. Child poverty still exists, a full decade past its expiry date. Did the government fail because people couldn’t agree whether 13 per cent or 16 per cent or 18 per cent of Canadian children live below the poverty line? No. It failed because it, and Canadians, weren’t really serious about eradicating child poverty.
One letter writer wailed about educational policy. How, he demanded to know, could governments plan school construction without the information from a mandatory census? Easy, Einstein. Check school registrations. If the feeder schools’ registrations are rising, it’s likely that in a few years you’ll need to either expand the local junior high school or high school, or build a new school.
Supporters of a mandatory census leave out this huge piece of info: all the information gathered under threat of jail by the state is obtainable elsewhere and with other, less obnoxious methods. (See: tax returns.)
Read the census questions. Ask yourself, as a citizen, whether the government should force you — under threat — to answer questions about your race, your religion and your family.
Personally, I won’t tell them whether my spouse is a woman or a man. Instead, I’ll write in, “None of your business, big fella.”
Brian Jones is a desk editor at
The Telegram. He can be reached
by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org