A pollster who designs survey questions for a living said a referendum question being put to voters in Port Moody as part of the Oct. 20 civic election isn’t clear enough to give city council definitive direction on whether it should sell the old fire hall site and public works yard for redevelopment.
Mario Canseco, the president of Research Co., said a question with a Yes or No answer, as the one the city published on its website Monday, “needs to have clearly defined guidelines.”
He said differences in whether the property is sold, partially sold or leased can elicit different responses because the city’s course of action is not clearly defined.
“Do voters want a sale, a partial sale or a lease? It’s impossible to know,” Canseco told The Tri-City News, adding the next council could interpret a Yes vote as an endorsement to sell the land when most voters might rather it be leased or only partially sold.
“The key issue here is that the city is not allowing voters to express their view on the three options individually,” said Canseco, who has conducted pubic opinion research in Canada, the U.S. and Britain for more than 15 years.
He said the referendum’s preamble, which outlines possible community amenities that could be realized by proceeds from the sale, partial sale or lease of the sites is also problematic.
“Maybe a voter will say ‘Yes’ because he or she wants more seniors’ housing, but the improvement that the city may ultimately approve is the reconstruction and expansion of Kyle Centre,” Canseco said. “It’s too confusing.”
Canseco said a properly designed, clearly defined question presented with relevant facts and figures that voters can review and assess can help city governments make a decision.