Countering Rapid Transit disinformation
Yesterday The Record ran a column by Peter Shawn Taylor commenting on the latest Region of Waterloo Rapid Transit report. It contains blatant falsehoods about the Environmental Assessment process, and thus I just sent the following complaint to The Record:
I believe the May 14 article “All aboard? Light rail transit plan is leaving the station way too early” by Peter Shawn Taylor was written in bad faith. It deliberately distorts the data in order to support its viewpoint. To see this, please take a look at page 6 of the Region of Waterloo’s latest Rapid Transit report: http://rapidtransit.region.waterloo.on.ca/pdfs/E-09-056_PREFERRED_RAPID_TRANSIT_SYSTEM2.pdf
Paragraph 4 of the article cites specific numbers about what seem like general meetings, when in fact they were meetings solely for “property owners and tenants living and/or working directly adjacent to the short-listed rapid transit routes”. It is abundantly clear from the information on the report that outreach to businesses was actually very good.
Regarding the general public, that report page states:
-“Rapid Transit newsletters have been sent to more than 250,000 residential and business addresses on four different occasions;”
-“Approximately 3,500 people have attended 33 Public Consultation Centres (PCCs), Workshops and Focused Consultation events and provided 1,039 official formal comments;”
-“Information about the Rapid Transit Initiative has also been provided at an additional 63 different public outreach events such as community stakeholder meetings, public events, presentations to groups, and educational displays where attendance was not recorded.”
The central premise that Peter Shawn Taylor uses in that article to advance his ideological position is in direct opposition to the data he ostensibly cites. This kind of blatant disregard for the truth is unacceptable, but especially so in a newspaper.
[Update, 2009/06/01: It’s been over two weeks, and I’ve received no response from The Record, so I must assume they condone the printing of falsehoods.]
Regarding the update: in case there was any question about the Record and journalistic integrity, they published another article by Peter Shawn Taylor on May 28 that included this bit:
“Three weeks ago Seiling said he couldn’t ‘recall ever a process where there’s been as much public participation’ as the region’s rapid transit proposal.
The centrepiece of this process was a series of 12 public information meetings involving 9,500 invitations, 72 attendees and ‘approximately 12’ written submissions. That’s a total response rate of 0.88 per cent.”
Hmm. I attended three of the public forums in Waterloo last year, and have been on the rapid transit mailing list for quite some time, and I thought Peter Shawn Taylor was exactly right.
The forums were more PR campaigns than consultations. We were told that rapid transit had been decided on and was definitely coming – and were told that all we could disccuss was route and technology. Even worse, I asked a lot of questions at each forum and didn’t get any answers – just “it hasn’t been decided yet.”
The people who attended the forums were not representative of citizens and there were a lot of repeats. At one Waterloo meeting I sat at a break-out table with a bunch of ex-politicans from Kitchener with their spouses.
I serve on a Waterloo city hall committee and the rapid transit folks came to give us a presentation last year. My committee spent a ton of time last year researching the issue and we had a lot of suggestions and questions. We were all struck by how nobody from the region took a single note.
I agree with Taylor that this project is being rammed through too quickly. It is ill-thought out, especially for Waterloo; and the whole premise needs better justificiation.