The numbers are easy enough to understand, but it's the efforts to extrapolate them that tend to get a bit confusing.
As the Southlands proposal makes its way through municipal hall and a public hearing on the Century Group's application appears likely, both sides in Tsawwassen's longest-running drama are gearing up for what could be an epic showdown. And it seems the best way to show the might of their respective positions is to push the number in their corner as high as it can possibly go.
Be it a letter, survey, petition or some other way of expressing an opinion, the higher that figure, the more clout it should carry with civic decision makers. Or at least that's the theory.
At last month's Delta council meeting, staff informed politicians that 1,076 pieces of correspondence had been received opposed to the development proposal while just 248 were in favour. That more than four-to-one discrepancy didn't prevent council members from directing staff to prepare a report for preliminary approval.
Now, I'm not second-guessing the decision, but council's actions speak to the weight, or lack thereof, that is sometimes put into these figures. It would seem to make sense that decision makers only count those that have made their views known, but as always the million-dollar question - or a whole bunch more in this case - is whether those that have spoken are reflective of the larger population.
Are 80 per cent of Tsawwassenites against the Century plan? That number seems far too high to me. However, if you flip it on its ear and view it in terms of just over 1,000 registering an objection in a community of more than 20,000, does that mean only five per cent oppose the project? Hardly.
The real number lies somewhere in between, but exactly what that might be is darn near impossible to quantify short of municipal types showing up on every doorstep to conduct a head count.
I suspect the Ipsos Reid survey of a few years ago might be the most accurate measurement, although the 62-38 split against Southlands development was realized when a larger housing proposal was before the public. It stands to reason those numbers have inched closer together now that Century has scaled back on the housing and increased the amount of land to be deeded to Delta.
Should the current proposal make it to a public hearing, only a certain percentage of the population will be heard, leaving civic leaders to determine where that ever-elusive silent majority sits.
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