Some of the top results from a citizen’s survey done in Penticton recently did not come as much of a surprise for city councillors reading the report.
“I think we all knew that the most important issue facing us is lack of jobs and poor economy,” said Coun. Helen Konanz. “And that’s what we have been working on since the term started for this council. But I am surprised that affordable housing wasn’t a higher priority for people as an issue.”
Jobs and the economy garnered a striking result, with 41 per cent of the 401 people contacted for the phone survey singling that out as their top issue. Affordable housing, a long-standing issue in Penticton, only attracted eight per cent of the vote.
Other responses were even less surprising, like the fact that 34 per cent of the respondents said that the climate was their favourite thing about living in Penticton.
Coun. John Vassilaki was concerned by the response to a question about future development. Downtown topped the list for development at 74 per cent, but a significant percentage selected the Skaha and Okanagan lake waterfronts.
“I was surprised to see that 23 and 27 per cent of the those that you contacted want development on the lakefront at Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake. We always keep hearing, leave those areas alone,” said Vassilaki. “Is it actual economic development they want to take place down there, or is it they want the beaches and the lake areas improved? The way that question was asked, it doesn’t tell me one way or the other.”
Communications office Simone Blais, who oversaw the survey process for the city, suggested that results might have been a little skewed as the survey was done in September, while there was considerable controversy over plans for the Okanagan Lake waterfront.
That question might return a very different result, she explained, when the survey is repeated, and the beach is not such a hot topic. The survey was implemented to establish a baseline of citizen satisfaction with city service levels and provision and is expected to be repeated on a regular basis.
“The best value that we can get is a year over year comparative data,” said Blais.
Kelowna has been doing a similar survey over the course of 15 years.
“You can see the satisfaction ratings change as their spin changes in the city,”said Cale Lewis of Discovery Research, the company contracted to do the survey. “It’s important to do it either every year or every second year. You have to allow for some time for changes to take effect.”
In addition to the 401 participants contacted by phone, at random, 477 people filled out the survey online. Their answers, however, are listed in separate columns.
“The issue with an online survey is there is a degree of self-selection bias. Sometimes, people who are motivated to complete a survey … they’ve got maybe a bone to pick,” said Lewis. “When we do a self-selecting methodology, we have to be wary of that. But allowing the online survey lets everyone speak their opinions.”
The full 2012 Citizen Survey report, including the online survey results, is available on the City of Penticton’s website at www.penticton.ca.