Statistics alone don’t make case for a park

While survey shows support for national park, proponents must still demonstrate the need outweighs potential disruptions

Though there is no record he ever said it, Mark Twain cites Benjamin Disraeli as the source of one of his most pithy epithets, “There are three types of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics.”

Twain or Disraeli, nothing could be closer to the mark for describing how the results of a 2010 report are being used to both support and oppose the concept of a national park in the Okanagan-Similkameen.

The secret is that the results of a poll can be made to read anything you like, depending on the values you attribute to the results. In this case, those results were 39 per cent for, 19 per cent against and some 41 per cent undecided.

To the government, 19 per cent against is a strong lobby and the undecided vote is assumed to be happy with the status quo. To those in favour, 39 per cent means they outnumber opponents two-to-one, and the undecided contingent are just those they haven’t reached out to yet.

So the decision has to go back to what really counts, whether the need for a national park in the area outweighs the disruption it would cause for lives and livelihoods of neighbouring residents.

B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake previously said he acknowledges there is support for a park, it’s just not at a high enough level for the government to want to impose something on the local area. After the long-awaited report was released, he was still saying much the same thing, that even 39 per cent support wasn’t enough to justify the disruption to logging, ranching, hunting and other income-generating activities in the region.

So numbers aren’t going to make the case.

If they truly want the provincial government to put the idea of a national park back on the table, supporters need to switch tactics. Instead of relying on statistics that have been suspect on both sides all through this eight-year-long argument, they need to focus on the facts of why creating a national park is a necessity, not just a desire.