Eric Stern looks to Mark Twain for help on data Mayor chooses to make her point.

By Eric Stern

February 7TH,  2024



On Monday, February 5th the Committee of the Whole received and filed the 2023 community survey results. For some months now our mayor has been quoting from this survey with statements like this “57% of Burlington residents were in favour of increases to taxes or services”. This survey was conducted, at taxpayers’ expense, by Deloitte.

Our mayor refers to this survey as being statistically valid. Apparently, the city’s online survey, showing much lower support levels for tax increases, was not statistically valid.

Mark Twain coined the phrase “figures don’t lie but politicians figure” to explain what the Mayor has done

Of course, we are dealing with the City of Burlington. A city with a “Community Engagement Charter” promising to “use plain and clear language in documents and public communications”. Not surprisingly the words honesty and truth don’t appear in the engagement charter at all.

Another, mathematically valid, way to look at these results is to say 82% of respondents support maintaining or cutting services.

Increase taxes to maintain service at current levels:    39%

Cut services to maintain current tax level:                     22%

Cut services to reduce taxes:                                            21%

Total % asking to maintain or cut services:                    82%

Very clearly only 18% of respondents support an increase in taxes to enhance services while 43% support cutting services. Deloitte and the mayor choose to ignore 43% of the respondents.

The Civic Square project has been on the books for years, does it qualify as maintaining service levels? Bike lanes on Prospect?

Back to the engagement charter. The city is using plain and clear language in a way to communicate their position. The question becomes is the city’s position aligned with the clearly stated, statistically valid, position of the people surveyed.

You can listen to the mayor here:

Eric Stern is a retired Information Technology expert who has delegated in the past on what city tax rates have actually been and what the city has said they were.


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2 comments to Eric Stern looks to Mark Twain for help on data Mayor chooses to make her point.

  • Perryb

    Fun with numbers indeed. The survey did not offer all the possible options. Where was “increase services and cut taxes”? While this is an unlikely possibility, it is necessary if you believe that efficiency is not directly tied to how much money you spend. Such a possibility is the foundation of competitive private enterprise, but is anathema to government bureaucracies.

  • David

    “It’s a pleasure to be here. My name is Paul Sharman. I’m a ward 5 councillor for the city of Burlington in the region of Halton. I am also the deputy mayor of strategy, budget, process and performance”
    “I’m a data freak, and I’d start off with the numbers”
    You just finished bigging yourself up? Are you in charge of this?