The Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce said it’s standing by its position to support the Northern Gateway Project despite criticism that too few of its members filled out the survey.
The Chamber had canvassed its 290 members with a series of questions related to whether they agree with the Gateway project that would pump Alberta crude to a terminal in Kitimat for marine export by tanker.
Despite the fact that only one in seven – or approximately 40 members – filled out the survey, the chamber board still released the results and declared its support for the project.
Several people did a statistical analysis of the survey method to see if it could accurately conclude that more than 50 per cent of the overall chamber membership is actually in support of the Enbridge project.
Councillor James Cordeiro said that according to a statistic equation he learned at university the sample size of 40 out of 390 would mean a 14 per cent margin of error. In other words that if the survey was repeated any number of times support could be anywhere from 36 to 64 per cent support.
“You can’t say they are or are not against it based on those numbers,” said Cordeiro.
But according to chamber director Carol Fielding, the decision was made to share the numbers that they did have not as an act of science but rather to communicate the results they did get.
“The committee got together and were disappointed because we didn’t get the return we had hoped for and promoted to get. They felt there was good information in what we did get and we wanted to figure out how to share that information,” she said.
“We have a couple of statistically thinking minds on the board and they took the numbers and decided that was what the message would be.”
Others wondered why the Chamber hadn’t followed through on a previous decision to not release the numbers if less than fifty percent of members filled out the survey.
“We did what we said we were going to do,” Fielding explains. “We said we would do a survey and we did. The only thing that shifted was when we didn’t get 50 per cent responding, we then felt there was information we wanted to share…. It was quite innocently done, actually.”
“Some people might have been worried that the information would leak out,” she said of the majority of vast majority of businesses who stayed silent.
This story generated a lot of online discussion. Bruce Bidgood weighed in with this comment through Facebook:
“A statement of statistical support cannot be concluded from these data particularly in light of the psychometric bias in the construction of the survey wherein every single question presumed construction of the pipeline. All questions were founded on a WHEN basis…not a question queried about whether the pipeline SHOULD be constructed. Finally, the study itself was UNETHICAL in requesting disclosure of identity…”
Fielding said that the names of businesses were not looked at by the board when the count was conducted.