Canadian Business editor Steve Maich has written a brave and bracing column in the magazine's issue dated September 13 in commenting on the closing of prison farms and the ending of the mandatory census. He notes that casual dishonesty in defence of such actions is a staple in government:
"But in order for this tradition of mendacity to be tolerable, the deception has got to be at least somewhat plausible. Instead, too often, Stephen Harper's government starts with an ideology that most Canadians do not share and works backward — mixing in spin, argument and transparent justification to arrive at a-wink-and-a-nudge public policy."
As Maich puts it, the spectacle of industry minister Tony Clement trying to square a circle is "cringe-inducing".
"Clement isn't a halfwit, but he's sometimes required to play one on TV."
As for the prison farms, Maich tears a large hole in the argument that the farms lose money and that inmates who work on them don't get out and go into farm work.
"This is like saying the army is worthless as job training because so few go on to paramilitary work after their discharge.The point is about the experience acquired, not the industry in which it's used. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of farm work can tell you it involves a wide range of useful skills, from welding and metalwork to logistics and computer skills. More important, the prison farms taught work and social skills to people who were often woefully unprepared to hold down any sort of job — things like teamwork, personal responsibility and reliability."
(In a recent posting on Twitter, Maich points out that the column will probably get him "branded as a moron by the Sun's editorial board".)