Qualicum Beach survey politics

Expect to see results of the survey commissioned by the owner of Pheasant Glen to appear in the Qualicum Beach election rhetoric.

Expect to see results of the survey commissioned by the owner of Pheasant Glen to appear in the Qualicum Beach election rhetoric.

Is it true that a majority (67 per cent, plus or minus 5.7 per cent) of us favour the proposed development at Pheasant Glen? Does this finding truly reflect our opinion, or is this number cherry-picked? We mustn’t forget the caution expressed by Ben Franklin — a closet Canadian, methinks — when he said: “Believe none of what you hear, and half of what you read.”

Few are familiar with the jargon of statistics, so to make a “result” convincing is as easy as adding “plus or minus 5.7 per cent,” for example. But many should recall the axiom: “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.”

In an attempt to validate the reported results of the survey, I asked the survey’s sponsor Craig Dutton to give us more details of the survey — namely, the survey’s design, methods, accrued raw data, and statistical analysis. Dutton kindly declined, saying in essence he would not release any more details and that we must trust the integrity of his reputable U.S.-based polling firm.  Isn’t he asking us to buy a pig in a poke?

Are we quibbling over whether the “67/5.7” is really 61 per cent or 73 per cent, or whether the score of the novice hockey game is 4-3 or 5-3? Who cares? What we do care is what we really want for our town. Do two-thirds want expansion, disregarding and running roughshod over our OCP? Or should development proceed within the boundaries of the OCP?

The irony is, the complete survey results may have answered some of these questions, and could have been invaluable as a framework for revision of the OCP. We’ll never know.

Warren BaileyQualicum Beach

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