Halton Hills and North Halton newspapers
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR...Surveys preferred to vocal interest groups
Independent & Free Press (Georgetown, ON), 7 Apr 2006, p. 6

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Dear editor, I was getting caught up on my reading of the local newspapers and came across an article in The Independent & Free Press, dated February 22 and entitled, `Councillors question validity of survey'. I was surprised at the reaction of councillors, not only to the survey results, but about the validity and usefulness of such surveys. The article stated "some councillors were reluctant to trust a survey that represented the views of a minority of all citizens". Councillor Moya Johnson is quoted, "Why does 400 people out of a town of 50,000 people or so give us a reliable sample of what people really want". In the article, Councillor Johnson points out that the survey says 34 per cent say transit is important, yet when councillors were considering implementing one last year, "the hue and cry was this is the last thing we want". Councillor Bryan Lewis agreed, "I don't want to challenge (the survey) but I'm having a great deal of difficulty understanding that one per cent of our population should be telling us where we should be putting the bulk of our money". Out of 50,000 people, how many people raised the "hue and cry"? On what basis is their opinion considered more representative than the survey? When is the last time 400 people, especially an unbiased random cross-section of residents, attended a council meeting? This letter is not about transit, it is about the basis upon which our council gauges public opinion. Perhaps surveys using a random representative sample and a proven statistical approach may better capture the opinion of the silent majority than the vocal residents or special interests who make their opinions known at council meetings? As councillors, please be reminded that you are more exposed to the opinions of those vocal interest groups. The danger is that this may skew your view of where your constituents are on any particular issue. I do not blame you, it is an unfortunate weakness in our system. However, these types of surveys may be a useful new tool for councillors to gauge the opinions of "the rest of us" who can't or won't attend council meetings. Council meetings serve an important public access role, however in this day and age should not be the only means to gauge public opinion, especially on major issues. Thanks for taking the time to read this, your efforts on behalf of all citizens is appreciated, even if we all don't voice that opinion as frequently and loudly and publicly as we should! Steve Teichtmeister, Glen Williams

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7 Apr 2006
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Teichtmeister, Steve ; Johnson, Moya ; Lewis, Bryan
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR...Surveys preferred to vocal interest groups