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LETTER: Grumpy Taxpayer$ say Island Corridor survey off the rails

Grumpy Taxpayer$ has examined the conclusions of the Island Corridor Foundation survey (Rail survey finds strong support for revitalized service on Vancouver Island, Victoria News, Oct. 16) and awarded them their not-really-coveted top Pinocchio Award.

The ICF survey coincided with the release of the provincial South Island Transportation Study on Sept. 18. In it, the commuter rail between Westhills and Victoria was barely mentioned and described as neither short or medium-term priority, but long-term.

The foundation claimed in its press release that the ‘Support for rail on Vancouver Island is clear,’ based on results from its ICF 2020 Survey conducted between Sept. 18 to 26. There are numerous failings of this voluntary online survey.

The ICF press release failed to mention the relatively low sample size of 1,000, and the level of confidence of 90 per cent and statistical margin of error of three per cent. A 95 per cent level of confidence is generally the industry standard.

The survey was distributed through the ICF website and shared through social media platforms. ICF website visitors have a point of view, which may have prompted biased responses from ‘Friends of the Corridor.’ While not distributed directly, the ICF has about 2,500 ‘intrinsic respondents’ and 1,000 Facebook members of a group dedicated to restoring rail.

The survey gathered 3,533 total responses, of which 2,979 respondents gave a valid postal code for Vancouver Island regions adjacent to the rail corridor, so 554 respondents were discounted. Residents living closer to any proposed resumption of rail service are more likely to be supportive, especially passenger rail. The ICF stacked the deck to get a more favorable response, leaving out other Island residents who also would pay for any additional tax burden.

The questionnaire is clearly focused on passenger rail service – not commercial rail – which is not clearly indicated in the press release and survey results. At one point the questionnaire muddies the waters by stating, “We need to revitalize and modernize the rail service on Vancouver Island for public and commercial use.”

Selective results and ‘highlights’ were conveyed to the public from the entire survey.

Pinocchio Award (4 out of 4) – In its press release announcing the survey the ICF stated, “ICF remains 100 per cent committed to the restoration of full rail service on Vancouver Island. We continue to advocate for immediate action from our provincial government as it will not only provide a lasting and viable transportation option but will bring both immediate, and long-term, economic benefits and stimulus to Vancouver Island.” With that declaration, taxpayers pretty much learn about the purpose behind the survey.

The issue of what to do with rail on Vancouver Island is important, complicated (five regional districts and 14 First Nations), exceedingly expensive, and a critical transportation issue that may or may not be viable.

Taxpayers aren’t helped by this voluntary online ICF survey. (Nor is this charity helped, by the way, by not posting the 2019 or 2020 budget documents).

Stan Bartlett, chair

Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria