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LETTER: Group questions MPP's methodology behind SCS survey

'This is not the time to interfere, nor attempt to sway opinion through a blatantly biased and leading 'survey',' says letter-writer
2021-05-12 11 Innisfil St. RB 1
The proposed location for a supervised consumption site (SCS) in Barrie is at 11 Innisfil St.

BarrieToday welcomes letters to the editor at raymond@barrietoday.com. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is from Barrie resident Alyssa Wright on behalf of Engage Barrie in response to a story titled 'MPP's office surveying neighbourhood residents for thoughts on SCS proposal' published on Oct. 29. A supervised consumption site (SCS), alternately known as Consumption and Treatment Services (CTS) by the province, has been proposed for 11 Innisfil St., in Barrie. 
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The experts at SurveyMonkey give one set of answers in their article “five common survey question mistakes that’ll ruin your data." The five mistakes are: leading questions, loaded questions, double-barrelled questions, using absolutes in questions, and not being clear. Although described in this article as a three-question survey, Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte MPP Doug Downey’s questionnaire somehow manages to break all five of these rules.

For instance, question No. 3: “Would you be in favour of a different location, or are you opposed to the CTS entirely?” alone hits the first four of the five mistakes, starting with the question’s presumption that the respondent is opposed to the proposed SCS/CTS location to begin with. 

As well, Engage Barrie received numerous questions from people who weren’t sure how to answer the “were you consulted?” question, even though they’d taken part in the surveys, neighbourhood meetings, and facilitated consultation, because they were worried “consulted” meant only formal private meetings with the applicants. Given the obvious bias of the questionnaire, there were also several who were reluctant to give their personal information, in order to submit their answers.

When is “community engagement” not community engagement?

As outlined in Engage Barrie’s 2020 Position Paper on Community Engagement, public participation at the “consult” level or above — for which surveys are a common tool  is meant to collect feedback from the public, not steer the conversation in a single, partisan direction.

It is our opinion that this highly biased “survey” shows more interest in swaying public opinion than encouraging public engagement, and undermines the true public consultation that the SCS applicants have been undergoing thoroughly and extensively since 2019. 

Community consultation on the SCS – as required by the province’s application process – has already included multiple stages and forms of gathering feedback: surveys, community meetings and engagement sessions, neighbourhood consultations, focused neighbour and business feedback meetings, facilitated community consultation sessions, and community participation in the site selection committee. A more thorough description of the consultation process can be found here

The SCS application has already been submitted to the provincial and federal ministries of health, and will be assessed according to the guidelines MPP Downey’s own government put in place.

We understand that Mr. Downey and some residents may still be opposed to an SCS at the chosen location, or opposed to an SCS in general – not everyone can be expected to agree on every issue, as we’re sure any politician is aware. But the MPP interfering in the application and consultation process at this late date not only undermines the application process and the over two years of public consultation conducted, it completely undermines the democratic process. 

This is not the time to interfere, nor attempt to sway opinion through a blatantly biased and leading “survey."

Simcoe County lost over 130 people to the toxic drug crisis in 2020, with Barrie having the third highest opioid mortality rate among all large municipalities in Ontario. Every delay, every interference in this application process causes even more people to die.

Mr. Downey needs to put his bias aside and start listening to our community leaders – including the City of Barrie, County of Simcoe, Barrie Police Services, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit – who are asking for help in getting this essential tool in place to help relieve our city’s opioid crisis and start saving lives.

The public has already spoken, the medical community has already spoken, city hall has already spoken. It’s time to listen. No more delays. No more deaths.

Alyssa Wright
Engage Barrie Organization

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