An economic development manager for the city questions the accuracy of a recent report by the Conference Board of Canada stating Vernon's economy has been contracting for five consecutive years.
According to Kevin Poole, the statement doesn't reflect the data in his hands. He can only speculate on what sources the report drew on, because he hasn't seen the document.
"It's the oddest thing," Poole says. "They'll release the report to media for free but not to stakeholders. It was over $2000 to purchase the report, so obviously we declined."
In a written reply, the board told Poole the report was based on the Labour Force Survey. They didn't say if any other data was drawn upon.
The Labour Force Survey represents the responses taken from a sample of the local population (60 families) over a period of six months.
"We've challenged it to say it's not statistically valid," Poole says.
He says the survey doesn't take things like people relocating into account, and believes it can generate an incorrect reflection of the economy.
Vernon is one of the smallest municipalities included in the survey, with neighbouring Penticton not big enough to make it into the ranks.
If the Conference Board's report only took figures from the survey, Poole says it's likely not a very accurate depiction of Vernon's economy.
"I look at our building permit activity, and I think we've fared pretty well," Poole says. "I think we've been pretty stable, so to say 'contracting' is a pretty strong statement. If it's contracting, you don't get things like Target coming in."
He says some of the city's biggest projects have arisen in the last five years, including Sparkling Hills, the new library, new head offices for Kal Tire, and construction at the hospital—just to name a few.
While commercial and institutional developments are doing well, Poole admits residential building permits haven't been as high as he'd like.
Poole says residential construction peaked in 2006, representing 75 per cent of all permits that year. He says things have slowed down considerably since then, owing to the economic downturn.
Still, when he looks at his data, he doesn't feel 'contracting' is an appropriate word to describe Vernon's economy.
"It was a record April for us, with $9 million worth of building permits for single family homes," he says. "Year to date we're not doing too badly either. Lower than in its heyday, but for our size, we're doing pretty well."
Poole says he'll be investigating the report further. If they did only used one source, he says he'll be writing them with suggestions.
"It would give a better idea of the conditions to use (more) sources," Poole says. "You've got building permits, average income, lots of other data through Census Canada to look at. There are so many other indicators, so to look at just one... I would never make a statement about the economy based on one source of data."
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