Saanich council welcomes the findings of a survey used to guide its financial and strategic decisions, but also questions whether it reflects the full breadth of the community.
Perhaps the most succinct critiques of the Saanich Citizen Survey came from Couns. Rebecca Mersereau and Colin Plant during a recent meeting.
Plant said he was concerned that the survey did not capture the ethnic diversity of Saanich. According to the survey, 73 per cent of respondents self-identified as “White (European, North American, etc.)” with another 11 per cent identifying as Canadian. While like-to-like comparisons with categories used by Statistics Canada are not easily possible, Saanich’s survey under-represents Saanich residents who claim Chinese and South Asian ethnicity.
According to Statistics Canada, they respectively make up 8.6 per cent and five per cent of the local population. But these two groups only make up three and two per cent of survey respondents.
Plant also expressed concern that the survey disproportionately reflected the views of individuals who participated in the last election. Just over seven out of 10 survey respondents said they voted in the last municipal election. Yet Plant pointed out that 38 per cent – fewer than four out of 10 residents – voted in that election.
In other words, he suggested, Saanich is hearing from people who are already engaged, but not necessarily from those who are not.
Mersereau echoed these concerns about diversity and engagement. Saanich, she said, would do well to pay more attention to individuals, who might be less engaged.
She and Coun. Zac De Vries also suggested that the survey might not fully capture the concern of renters. According to Statistics Canada, 30 per cent of households rent – 11 per cent more than the number of renters who participated in the survey.
Coun. Karen Harper also suggested that future editions of the survey should use a five-point instead of a four-point scale to judge satisfaction with various services.
Consultants presenting the survey results broadly promised to consider this feedback.
The survey – which included a companion survey of local businesses – showed overwhelming support for the quality of municipal services, level of taxation relative to the quality of services, and the overall direction of the community.
This said, the report also highlighted concerns about the state of housing, as well as road safety.
Coun. Susan Brice said the report affirms that Saanich has handled issues important to the community well, while also warning against smugness.
Coun. Judy Brownoff said the findings will help the community address areas where the public has expressed growing dissatisfaction with the municipality, such as helping the economically disadvantaged, and land use planning among other issues.