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City's 2016 survey contentious among Barrie councillors

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner

Passengers prepare to board a Barrie Transit Bus at the downtown bus station.
MARK WANZEL FILE PHOTO

Passengers prepare to board a Barrie Transit Bus at the downtown bus station. MARK WANZEL FILE PHOTO

Satisfaction? Sort of.

Barrie's 2016 community survey shows that just more than 70% of residents are highly or moderately satisfied with the city's overall programs and services.

Approximately 67% of Barrie residents surveyed also said the quality of life here was excellent or very good, and 66% remain satisfied with city council.

Chris Bandak of Forum Research presented the survey's finding to councillors Monday night.

“The main objectives of the study were to look at the quality of life in Barrie, satisfaction with the municipal government, satisfaction with the city's major services, importance of city services,” he said.

But there was hardly complete satisfaction from councillors on the methodology or results from the survey.

“I'm not even sure why we do this. I'm really not,” said Coun. Doug Shipley, pointing to one survey question about whether someone is connected to the community.

“I would think, (those of) us on council, we would get that question, a little bit,” he said. “But you ask anyone over the phone, if you feel connected to the community, I bet you most people don't even know what you're talking about.”

Coun. Peter Silveira pointed to a low satisfaction level of 55% with Barrie Transit.

“Why in the survey don't we ask what's the reason and what's the answer,” he said.

The Ward 5 councillor was told the same benchmark questions are asked every three years, so comparisons can be done.

And those answering questions on transit might not even be users.

“So it could be just a perception as opposed to a reality,” said Rebecca James-Reid, executive director of Access Barrie, the city department which co-ordinates the survey.

“If there are areas of concern, you have to dig deeper,” Bandak said. “Have some sort of a focus group, perhaps reach out to people who are using transit and have a secondary study.

“This particular vehicle (survey) is not the way to get at that.”

Silveira wasn't impressed.

“So we have no answer there. We have 55% of nothing there,” he said. “Because we don't know. We don't know if it's a user of the system or not.

“So to me, in that part of the survey, (it) didn't give me any answer.”

Coun. Bonnie Ainsworth wanted to know why speeding cars wasn't on the survey, since it's the biggest complaint she gets from east-end residents in Ward 1.

“Because it wasn't a question before it wasn't a question now, but could it be a question next time please?” she asked.

James-Reid said yes, in three year's time when the next survey is done.

But Shipley didn't think it necessary.

“What are you hoping to learn in (three) years by a survey? If it's rated as a concern, you know it's a concern,” he said of speeding cars. “We know it's a concern.”

And the Ward 3 councillor said numbers cannot always be taken on face value.

“Some of them paint our issues and services in not a great light,” Shipley said. “I saw the police one there that 50% aren't happy with their last interaction with the police.

“They've probably just got a ticket or they're been charged. I would expect it to be almost higher.”

The 2016 survey showed 75% of residents are highly or moderately satisfied with Barrie police, up from 70% in 2013, which was down from 74% in 2011, also down from 78% in 2008.

“So some people can take these numbers and do anything,” Shipley said. “I'm not really sure why every three years ... what value it really brings to council.”

Bandak disagreed, saying Shipley had picked out a few obscure results in the survey to paint the entire document.

“If everybody went by that rationale, you know it's the 20% or the 5% of people that scream the loudest. It's always the polar ends of the scale,” Bandak said. “So if you did nothing that sort of reaches out in a scientific way to get opinions that represent the population, you would be taking your feedback from people who are either very, very angry or very, very happy, but you would miss the entire part of the population that isn't outspoken or doesn't have a major complaint.

“And this (survey) is a vehicle to understand, what does your community think at large, and represents them in a scientific way.

“If you just sort of wait to hear about it at a doughnut shop or a person who calls into the city and they're super-angry at that particular moment, you're going to have a very skewed view of what the true opinion is in the population. As well, how do you make changes, how do you know if you've improved?

“I hear what you're saying for particular examples, but I don't think it's applicable to the entire study,” Bandak said to Shipley.

“I appreciate the sales pitch and we'll see you in three years,” Shipley said.

Forum did 1,004 interviews of Barrie residents (18+) for the telephone survey, each about 18 minutes long, on evenings and weekends from Oct. 12-25. The response rate was 9.4%.

The results have a margin of error of plus or minus three, 19 times out of 20.

The 2016 Barrie Community Survey: Detailed Findings can be found on the city's website, barrie.ca.

bbruton@postmedia.com

 

 



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