Crunching the data from County rail trail meetings

by Robin Sukhu

About one year ago Lanark County organized public consultations to get feedback about the rail trail. The contentious part of the OVRT is “should motorized vehicles be allowed through the residential sections of Almonte”.

I attended one of those meetings.  I recall the meeting being advertised as a chance to register support or opposition for the motorized proposal.  Based on my recollection, that was the main objective.  Attendees would make their position clear in person.  Their feedback would be tabulated, and the will of the public would be communicated to the decision-makers, the Lanark Council.

About one week ago I asked Lanark County for the raw data from those public consultations.  I received an electronic copy of 53 written responses from the people who attended. These written responses are from people who took the time to attend and who invested the effort to provide involved detailed responses.

The County also received email responses but the did not provide me with the email responses.

The County can easily verify the names and addresses of the 53 written responses.  The authenticity of the email responses is almost impossible to verify.  My point being that the high-value data from the process is those 53 written responses.

It took me a couple of hours to tabulate the 53 responses.  Here are the results:

In percentage terms:

  • 71% of the written verifiable responses were against the motorized trail
  • 22% of the written verifiable responses were for the motorized trail
  • 7% did not make an unambiguous declaration

When I attempted to verify my findings with Lanark County I was informed that they never tabulated the data.

I asked staff to verify that:

“Lanark Council was provided with the raw data from the public consultations – the council was not provided with an analysis of the data, i.e., x % or respondents in favor of motorized trail  y% opposed”

The answer was “Yes” that is an accurate statement. The council received no synopsis of the raw data.

As I previously mentioned, it took me 2 hours to process the raw data.  I seriously doubt that any councillor on the Lanark Council took the time to analyze the raw data (and councillors should not have to do this clerical work).

I am left wondering what was the point of the public consultations if the most valuable data from the process was not analyzed?  How could Lanark Council make an informed decision without knowing that the large majority of attendees at the public consultations were opposed to a motorized trail?