Make surveys public

It’s always nice when the government decides to consult the people on important issues. We’re all in favour of responsive, accountable leadership.

But when the white knights of government go to all the trouble and expense to commission gaggles of tele-surveyers, reams of mail-outs and extensive public consultations, results aren’t just a desired effect — they’re an absolute necessity.

Two such public opinion crusades have arisen as a result of the NCC’s proposal to redevelop Metcalfe Street. And while we applaud the efforts to listen to the public’s concerns, the only problem we have is that we’re still waiting to hear the results of these summer-time surveys.

The NCC surveyed residents as to which one of four options they would prefer with regard to the proposal. The options ranged from widening the street, thereby creating a grand boulevard similar to Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, to an adding an open square near Sparks Street or Albert Street.

The NCC promised it would have its survey results ready for the public in November. Three months later, the NCC is now saying we won’t see any kind of a report for a few more weeks because of technical delays.

Similarly, Ottawa Centre MP Mac Harb conducted his own survey towards the end of the summer, this one of only Centretown residents — those most affected by the proposal. And what a success it was, with roughly 0.5 per cent (approximately 500 of 100,000) of the surveys coming back to Harb’s office.

Months later, we’re still waiting to hear what the respondents had to say to Harb about the Metcalfe redevelopment proposal. Sound familiar?

Harb says he won’t even release the survey results, calling them unscientific.

“It was an indication to me as to what the public feels about the issue,” he said in an interview in January.

He later tipped his hand with regard to the survey’s results, saying many respondents didn’t select any of the options on the survey. Is it fair to assume that those people didn’t like any of the options for the redevelopment?

All this dithering about survey results raises a number of questions, ones which likely won’t be answered until we see results from Harb and the NCC.

Why the delay? Unscientific or unwanted results?

What is the point of these surveys if the people who conduct them aren’t prepared to make them public?

After lending us their ears, it seems as though Harb and the NCC have gone completely deaf.

— James Raiswell and Jared Adams