2% Myth

In May, 2010 the Western Canada Wilderness Committee hired McAllister Opinion Research to conduct a phone survey https://www.wildernesscommittee.org/sites/all/files/McAllister%20-%20Okanagan_Similkameen%20Poll%20-%20JUNE%202010_DISTRIBUTION.pdf

The PDF document begins innocently enough:

The results of this report are based on a telephone survey of 405 randomly selected adults aged 18+, living in the Southern Okanagan-Similkameen region of British Columbia. A random sample of 405 would yield a margin of error ±4.8%, 19 times out of 20.

The 2010 phone survey didn’t simply ask questions, it headed participants straight to a moral precipice, corralling them such that if their response was “no” they would either be lying or daft. Between the first and fourth question in the survey, the surveyors managed to take a 2% level of interest in a National Park and twist it into a 63% level of approval. Here is the question #1 from the 2010 McAllister Opinion Research telephone survey:

Q1. When you think about the various issues affecting the South Okanagan – Similkameen region today, what ONE issue CONCERNS you the most?

Believe it or not, this question was intended to secure support for a National Park. You will be surprised at the results. CPAWS and the WCWC have always maintained more than half (more than 50%) of people surveyed in 2010 wanted a National Park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen. What if I told you that of the things foremost on people’s minds, the National Park was not a priority? It wasn’t even in the top 10. There were more people in the survey whose reply was “Don’t know” or who refused to answer the question than there were with a possible National Park on their mind.

The survey results show a MERE 2% OF THOSE SURVEYED believed a National Park was an issue in the South Okanagan-Similkameen. Here’s what the unprompted “issues” were from respondents in the 2010 phone survey question #1, paid for by the Western Canada Wilderness Committee:

Environment/Conservation issues 17% Water Shortage/Quality 14% Economy/Jobs 12% Lack of affordable housing 7% Over development/growth 5% Taxes/HST 4% Healthcare 4% Farms/Food 3% Municipal Issues/Mayor 3% Too much regulation/government 2% Schools 2% Proposed National Park 2% Transportation/Roads/Transit 2% Too many people/overpopulation 1% Politicians/Government 1% Cost of living/prices 1% Other (specify) 4% NOTHING 5% Don’t know/Refused 11%

We will move on. Question #2a in the 2010 phone survey could not have been reasonably be answered by a layman. Why? Because the layman knows neither the amount of available land nor do they know how much of that land has already been protected in the South Okanagan (or South Similkameen). Most likely they believed there is virtually no protected land in the South Okanagan, otherwise why would the person on the other end of the phone be asking such a question?

Q2. Please tell me whether you AGREE or DISAGREE with each of the following statements:

 Q2a. We have protected TOO MUCH land in the South Okanagan already

Without a context of the upside and downside of removing land from the general economy and without at least a vague understanding of the protected areas that already exist in the “Okanagan”, the responses are moot.

Question #2b on the 2010 phone survey is a no-brainer:

Q2b. It is important to protect the natural ecosystem, plant and wildlife species in the South Okanagan in order to maintain our quality of life here

Unless you live under a rock, you know that your environment needs to be protected in one way or another. Water, food and shelter come from our “environment”. For this question, 95% of the respondents agreed with the statement. I, too, agree with the concept. I get it. And so did Abraham Maslow in 1943. He penned a paper called, “A Theory of Human Motivation”. “Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs” is the basis for every introductory class in human psychology. The online reference “Simply Psychology” http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html puts Maslow’s Hierarchy this way:

Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.

  1. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.
  2. Love and belongingness needs – friendship, intimacy, affection and love, – from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships.
  3. Esteem needs – achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others.
  4. Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

Let’s be real. How many people participating in the phone survey equated the steak they had thawing in the refrigerator to a beef heifer or beef steer that was walking around on all fours a month prior, in the very uplands that CPAWS and the WCWC want to protect?

Were participants in the 2010 phone survey told that persons holding a grazing or hay-cutting tenure, permit or lease are held accountable if they damage the environment? Part 5, Section 46 of the BC Forest And Range Practices Act includes the following:

A person, other than a person described in subsection (1), must not engage in any activity on Crown land that results in damage to the environment

If the Ministry approves the activity in advance or something unforeseen like bad weather happens, an exception to environmental damage can be granted. Seems the BC government holds those ranchers accountable.

Were participants in the 2010 phone survey told that the Nature Trust of BC owns over 70,000 hectares (170,000 acres) of land in BC, including part of the White Lake Grasslands Protected Area and part of the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area, both of which are in or right next to the proposed National Park zone?

Were participants in the 2010 phone survey told that the Province has set aside 9,364 hectares in the proposed national park zone calling it the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area?

Were participants in the 2010 phone survey told about the BC Ecological Reserve Act? The BC Ecological Reserve Regulations? The BC Park Act? The BC Park, Conservancy and Recreation Regulation? The Protected Areas Of British Columbia Act? The BC Ministry Of Lands, Parks and Housing Act? The BC Ministry Of Environment Act? The BC Environment And Land Use Act? The BC Land Act?

Let’s move on to question #3 in the 2010 phone survey. Apparently 63% of respondents knew Parks Canada was up to something. In fact, Parks Canada had been studying the National Park proposal for six years. We assume Parks Canada took a thorough look at the prospect, including weighing the economic pros and cons:

Q3. Parks Canada is currently studying a PROPOSAL to create a new Canadian national park in the southern portion of the Okanagan-Similkameen region. This national park would help protect the waters, wildlife and natural systems of this area from population and development pressures. Before today, have you heard about this proposal?

Back to the 2010 phone survey. Question #4 in the 2010 phone survey is the one all of the proposed national park propaganda is based on. It gave the park proponents the leap of faith they were looking for. From question #1 in the phone survey where only 2% of respondents felt a National Park was a priority, we move to question #4 where apparently 63% of respondents were in favour of establishing a national park. Whoa there!

How is that? There was a 61% increase in expressed interest for establishing a National Park in less than two minutes? Are people really that gullible? Did the telephone respondents suddenly decide that all their other concerns mentioned in question #1 were suddenly trumped by a potential National Park? Apparently so! Or at least that is what we are supposed to believe. Such a rapid change of direction seems to me like a double-double, whopper, “Super Size Me” leap of faith. Perhaps the employees of McAllister Opinion Research should be in sales, not surveys.

As far as reliable, clinical data, a conclusion cannot possibly be reached from question #4 in the 2010 phone survey. The variables – the respondent’s awareness and knowledge of the topic – are not qualified nor quantified.  The respondent’s blissful ignorance of any “negative” outcomes for a new national park is apparently not relevant:

Q4.  Given what you presently know, please tell me if you would FAVOUR or OPPOSE protecting a portion of the South Okanagan-Similkameen in a National Park? [PROBE: would that be STRONGLY or SOMEWHAT]

Here’s the responses to phone survey question #4:

Strongly Favour 43% Somewhat Favour 20% Depends/Neutral 4% Somewhat Oppose 8% Strongly Oppose 18% Don’t Know/Not Applicable 7%

One must give the folks credit who wrote the questions for the 2010 phone survey because they aren’t suggesting that knowing anything at all about the topic is relevant. In fact, they are giving ignorance full reign, because question #4 begins with “Given what you presently know…”. If the respondents had never read even ONE of the references included here in my commentary then they likely didn’t know very much at all. But apparently that didn’t matter.

The truth needs to be considered.

Let’s fast-forward to 2015, when another telephone survey was sanctioned, this time by SOSNPN-South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Network. Perhaps there was a rumour amongst park proponents that McAllister Opinion Research does a bang-up job, or perhaps the South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Network understands about “If It’s Not Broke Don’t Fix It.” In any case, they didn’t secure another research company (there are several national companies that do phone surveys). They went with the tried-and-true McAllister Opinion Research.

It would seem that if one asks a question often enough, you might get an answer that you want.  Children do it all the time.  “Can I go to the movies?” will be repeated until the parent either gets mad or says, “Okay, you can go.”  The 2010 phone survey tries to make the national park topic important when in fact, only 2% of the respondents saw it as relevant in the first place.

Exactly like the 2010 study but with even less credibility, the 2015 phone survey questions and conclusions are skewed because the variables – the respondent’s awareness and knowledge of the topic – are apparently not relevant.  The respondent’s blissful ignorance of any “negative” outcomes to a national park proposal are disregarded.  It seems the double-double, whopper, “Super Size Me” leaps of faith are getting bigger https://sosnationalpark.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/poll-briefing-note-final-2015-study.pdf

When one breaks a promise to a child, the child knows it and they resent it.  Thus-far, the general public is not aware of negative outcomes to a proposed national park.  There will be broken promises.

It comes as no surprise that even the news media seems to be in favour of the proposed “National Park”.  Check out the headline in this 2015 news article from the Penticton Herald.  The writer is oblivious to the fact that the phone surveys HAVE NOT been conducted in a “scientific manner”:

http://www.pentictonherald.ca/news/article_10cb0016-de67-11e4-988e-5390b0ded20b.html