A Saanich councillor is calling on the municipality to pay more attention to the interests of business.
Rebecca Mersereau made this appeal as council unanimously increased the municipality’s budget for a series of surveys by 66 per cent from $50,000 to $83,000.
The statistically significant surveys — which the municipality conducts at the start of each new council term — informs many measurements and targets in Saanich’s strategic plan by asking Saanich residents and entrepreneurs a series of questions. While Saanich had initially budgeted $50,000 for the surveys, a request-for-proposal returned four bids in excess of the initial budget, with bids ranging from $83,000 to $99,065.
“I think this is very important input for us, as an incoming council to inform our strategic planning that lies ahead, to give us a sense of levels of satisfaction and priorities in our community with respect to services,” said Mersereau in justifying the increase, with the additional funding coming from Saanich’s strategic initiatives contingency fund, whose current balance stands at $339,580.
Councillors could have had the option to cancel the business section of the surveys, but rejected that recommendation from staff, which said it is uncommon for municipalities to survey residents and businesses separately.
“I personally don’t consider it palatable at this time to look at eliminating the business component of the survey,” said Mersereau in her call for closer ties with the business community. “I think it is important for us to foster closer ties with our business community.”
The surveys themselves consist of a statistically significant phone survey with 1,000 residents and a statistically significant 15 minute phone survey with 400 business owners. All Saanich residents will also be able to fill out a non-statistically significant online survey.
While the questions have remained consistent over the years to allow for baselines and comparative historical trends, according to staff, council will have a chance to sign off on some additional questions next month.
“We won’t be wordsmithing questions with this group — we will take it back to the consultants and make sure the questions meet the requirements and get us the information that we need,” said Laura Ciarniello, director of corporate services.