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Fun With Statistics, by Michael Smyth

In his most-recent column, Michael Smyth paints TransLink in a negative light, pointing to “surprises” such as Ian Jarvis’s compensation boost, increased administration costs, and Transit Police going over budget. This plays right into his “holy shit TransLink is wasteful” story that people of his ilk eat up with a spoon (just check the comments for good examples).

But you know what? It’s really easy to cherry-pick statistics to suit your narrative like Mr. Smyth has done. Of course he’s never going to mention anything that makes TransLink look good, because that would be balanced and is contrary to anything he stands for.

So let’s try using the same 2014 report he used, and now we can make TransLink look good.

For example, he’s right in that Transit Police cost more in 2014 than in 2013, with expenses up by $3.7 million, or 12.2 per cent. What he doesn’t mention is that this is because of a collective agreement signing going retroactive to 2011, along with filling vacant positions. The agreement will actually result in annual savings of $800,000 because they’ve eliminated some benefits. Of course, Mr. Smyth completely fails to mention this.

TransLink had budgeted $1.506 billion for expenses in 2014, but actually spent $1.427 billion, which is 3.9% under budget. Of course, Mr. Smyth completely fails to mention this.

Corporate expenses were 10.3 per cent under budget. Bus operating expenses were 1.2 per cent under budget. Roads and bridges were 24.2 per cent under budget. Of course, Mr. Smyth completely fails to mention this.

TransLink’s revenues were up 10.2 per cent over 2013, and TransLink brought in $26.9 million more than it spent in 2014. Of course, Mr. Smyth completely fails to mention this.

See Mr. Smyth? I can cherry-pick numbers too, and pluck statistics to suit my narrative. And as the saying goes, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

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