Munir Sheikh’s principled decision to resign as Chief Statistician is yet another reflection of what the Harper government is really all about: control, control, control.

Public servants rightly pride themselves on their objectivity.  They serve the people.  The Reform Conservatives don’t understand this:  for them every institution of government is a body to be controlled, directed, and partisanized.

So it is that Mr Sheikh’s blunt statement that a voluntary census just won’t work is met by a flood of partisan rhetoric in Tory e-mails attacking Mr Sheikh for not sharing the “objective” of balancing collecting necessary data and “protecting the privacy rights of Canadians.”

What this rhetoric ignores is a very basic fact about our country.  We’re not afraid of the census takers (or even Revenue Canada) because we have faith that information will not be abused and that privacy will be respected.

What the Tories are really saying is “government can’t be trusted”.  That is the real mantra, and this is what lies at the heart of the Harper experiment.  By treating government as a partisan plaything, attacking independent judges, commission chairs, and anyone who gets in their way, they’re deliberately undermining public confidence in politics and government.

The issue is no longer the long form.  It’s about the deep corruption of Canada’s best political traditions by a party and prime minister whose motives and objectives are exposed for all to see.

Munir Sheikh should not be resigning.  Stephen Harper and Tony Clement should be the ones to leave.

Bob Rae is a former member of Parliament and former premier of Ontario.