TORONTO - Everyone at the Toronto Catholic District School Board and at the Villa Charities Inc must be a boxer: constantly bobbing and weaving, jabbing and parrying in the hope of landing a knock-out blow or avoiding one.
As real estate developers who also double as educational, social and community service providers, they have been on the defensive lately for their opaque and dubious practices, mainly because, as a joint venture partnership, they are alleged to be using publicly owned assets for “private gain”.
It is an unproven allegation that could be put to rest if the TCDSB were to provide a copy of the Purchase and Sale Agreement it reached with VCI in 2015. Or if it were to clarify why the partnership needs to demolish the Columbus Centre.
It is a fact that the “Community of Stakeholders” affected by has manifested overwhelming opposition to the project, on several occasions. Their numbers have been consistently in excess of 300 individuals at every demonstration. Petitions and delegations to the TCDSB and Community Councils have been well-prepared and delivered.
The TCDSB and VCI have responded with a questionable consultation process that included a randomized poll with whose lack of validity speaks to the lack of professionalism by those who commissioned the poll.
First off, Dillon Consulting and Maximum City decided to give all respondents/attendees at their consults equal weight. All statements made and recorded had equal value – no matter how many people made them or how often. It is a method to minimize the intensity and frequency of contrary views. It has the collateral effect of also diminishing the trust and honesty factor of those who asked them to do it.
As to the Poll (the proverbial “icing on the cake”), the methodology employed by Logit Research Etc has the mark of what the industry calls a SLOP survey: the margin of error cannot be estimated, no matter how large the sample. No matter how much lipstick you put on a pig, the animal doesn’t change.
What were they polling? The public’s approval of the demolition of the Columbus Centre? NO! The public’s approval of the proposed 3,000 projected condominium units for the Dufferin St – Lawrence Ave – Playfair Ave? NO! Neither item was mentioned in the survey.
After being told that the purpose was “to understand how they use neighbourhood services around them”, interviewees were asked to respond to a glowing description of a proposed intergenerational hub with all the “goodies in life”, including child-care. They did not get 100% support!
Why not? For one, the surveyed area already has at least ten such hubs/community centres (though minus a school). For another, the survey was conducted exclusively in English - thus disenfranchising the roughly 20,000 + residents who use Italian primarily or exclusively in the conduct of their daily business.
A glance at the adjacent map of the surveyed area suggests that Logit was given a number around which to structure a result. Logit kept polling over an eight-day period until it found 400 people who would spend 10-15 minutes in answering questions which would help “justify” that number. We don’t know how many calls they made to get 400 respondents who would spend that much time with someone they did not know – without an incentive.
Only 18% of respondents had visited the Columbus Centre in the last year; only 16% claimed someone spoke Italian in the household of the interviewee. And only 16% of respondants from the area codes immediately adjacent to the Columbus Centre: M6B, M6C.
Why this latest “feint and jab” by the Partnership/Developer?
It must to overcome a TCDSB governing Motion (November 26, 2017) that the Consultation Report demonstrate OVERWHELMING support for the project, otherwise the Partnership Agreement, as well as the Agreement of Purchase and Sale of the Columbus Centre by the TCDSB will be declared null and void.
Director of Education Rory McGuckin and Trustee Maria Rizzo both protested at that meeting that they have no way of measuring “overwhelming”.