Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Wag the Dog

The news media is a funny animal. In its claims of journalistic integrity it is non-the-less influenced by agenda and bias. The weeds of opinion propagate from it and are nurtured at the womb of public opinion where it grows. In the public eye truth is elusive. Media broadcasts to its audience blindly, not knowing who is listening or how they will respond. Like coins thrown on a sidewalk we cannot tell who will pick it up or how it will be used.

This is why it has become increasingly important to view with a critical eye. To take pause and look at the stuff under a microscope. A great deal of it is fast-food for the mind, quick and immediately gratifying but in the long run not altogether healthy.

Consider a relatively benign article that has just cropped up on the CBC website. It lists housing prices changes from May 2005 to May 2006.

Here is a sampling of average MLS home prices in May (with year-over-year changes in brackets):
* Calgary: $358,214 (+43.6%)
* Edmonton: $242,936 (+22.9%)
* Halifax-Dartmouth: $210,225 (+7.6%)
* Montreal: $219,433 (+8.2%)
* Ottawa: $260,219 (+4.7%)
* Quebec City: $150,324 (+6.9%)
* Regina: $142,147 (+10.3%)
* Saint John, N.B.: $129,844 (+12.3%)
* Saskatoon: $162,279 (+11.5%)
* Nfld. & Lab.: $133,541 (-1.2%)
* Thunder Bay, Ont.: $118,804 (-9.0%)
* Toronto: $365,537 (+5.5%)
* Vancouver: $518,176 (+23.7%)
* Winnipeg: $159,801 (+12.5%)
* Canada: $303,836 (+12.9%)

A quick look at these numbers will tell you one thing. Newfoundland and Labrador was
only one of two places with a decline in housing prices. The overall story tells how the average house in major markets has topped $300K. In this context Newfoundland and Labrador may be implied to have poor economic growth when we this as an economic indicator. But let's put it under the microscope of scrutiny. The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is compared against urban centres in the rest of Canada. Newfoundland and Labrador is the only listing that has provincial stats against urban areas. The unfiltered picture of this economic indicator would have included the City's of St. John's in this comparison and the provincial stats with other provincial stats. Of course this unbiased table would have to throw the -9% from Thunder Bay back into the mix and give us a lower figure for Ontario.

So what's on the go? Is the CBC guilty of a conspiracy against this province to put some sort of negative spin on things that relate back to us, or are they simply very poor analysts; comparing apples to bakeapples? And does it really matter? This is little more than a whining complaint of this beleaguered province unless you are inclined to take the media and public opinion seriously.

Does it matter that organizations have used the face of a whitecoat seal in contrast to the furrowed brow of a fisherman with a club?

Does it matter that The Globe and Mail is sprinkled liberally with stories of down-east handouts in contrast with stories of success for money to fund Bombardier in Quebec?

Is it important that touching stories of textile factories closing are not written with the same pen as the story about handouts for fishermen?

I guess it mostly depends on whose hand is on the tail that is wagging the dog. Perhaps equally as important, what the dog had to eat before all the wagging was started to begin with. Sooner or latter someone’s bound to be dumped on. My hopes are that on occasion it will happen to the hand that wags the tail.

15 comments:

MrChills said...

Didn't you know that we are just one big village, no towns or cities, just a group of us clinging to the rocks in the town, city, province and former country of Newfoundland

WJM said...

Newfoundland is a province?

When did it secede from Newfoundland and Labrador?

BNB said...

I suppose. Hard to get any decent stats in a place without municipal borders.

WJM said...

What place lacks municipal borders?

BNB said...

I was referring to the fact that the stats of housing prices did not recognize an urban area like it did with other provinces.

WJM said...

I was referring to the fact that the stats of housing prices did not recognize an urban area like it did with other provinces.

Probably because MLS isn't used as widely in NL as in other provinces. There are few listings outside MLS's "Eastern" region in NL, and none in Labrador.

So what's on the go? Is the CBC guilty of a conspiracy against this province to put some sort of negative spin on things that relate back to us, or are they simply very poor analysts; comparing apples to bakeapples?

If MLS isn't giving them an urban breakdown for St. John's, then CBC are being very GOOD and responsible analysts. They can only analyse the data they are given.

But don't let that get in the way of a good conspiracy.

BNB said...

Urban statistics of housing prices cannot be compared to a provincial statistic as an accurate comparison. The stats could have excluded N&L altogether like they did with PEI. I would like to know your source of information that MLS couldn't give a good breakdown of St. John's. I can get that myself, why not the CBC.

But if you insist that this is being a good analyst then we have different ideas of what good analysis is.

WJM said...

Urban statistics of housing prices cannot be compared to a provincial statistic as an accurate comparison.

Why not? You are comparing estate-agent-listed housing prices in a given piece of geography, that is all the comparison is, and it doesn't claim to be more than that.

The stats could have excluded N&L altogether like they did with PEI.

Then you would have bitched that they left NL out altogether!

And CREA's stats actually don't exclude PEI, either.

I would like to know your source of information that MLS couldn't give a good breakdown of St. John's.

When did I say they couldn't?

I can get that myself, why not the CBC.

The CBC was very obviously working off whatever stats MLS gave them.

But if you insist that this is being a good analyst then we have different ideas of what good analysis is.

Probably because your math and media literacy skills could use some improvement.

Your question as to why St. John's isn't broken down within NL is properly directed to CREA, NOT the CBC:

http://www.crea.ca/public/news_stats/statistics.htm#

BNB said...

OK Bud let me make one more stab at this for you:

"Why not? You are comparing estate-agent-listed housing prices in a given piece of geography, that is all the comparison is, and it doesn't claim to be more than that."

Simply because Urban centres have rising real estate prices while rural centres typically do not. N&L is largely rural. Any dispute with that??

"Then you would have bitched that they left NL out altogether!"

Absolutely

"And CREA's stats actually don't exclude PEI, either."

But CBC does...

"The CBC was very obviously working off whatever stats MLS gave them."

Using your link below they could have easily included All Provincial Stats instead of Urban stats mixed with one provincial stat. You cannot compare apples to oranges. It is akin to saying that Africians are in poverty. But looking at some places in South Africa or Egypt we know this blanket statement is false. I'm not questioning conclusions here just the methods of analysis - come on you're sharp enough to get that?!

"Probably because your math and media literacy skills could use some improvement."

Are you twelve - come on man!

Your question as to why St. John's isn't broken down within NL is properly directed to CREA, NOT the CBC:
http://www.crea.ca/public/news_stats/statistics.htm#

Excellent link. What is shows me though validates my point. You can look at the provincial stats from the little boxes, or the urban stats from the links to the cities. These are not meant to be directly comparable.

Let me give you an example of how incomplete stats do not necessarily paint an accurate picture. If Thunder Bay in Ontario was the only stat given for Ontario it would not be an accurate accessment of housing prices in the province. I know for a fact that housing prices in St. John's and communities on the Northern Avalon have risen in price over the past year. That picture is not given in the CBC story.

Honestly if you were asked to submit a report based on these stats your boss should chew you out if you threw a provincial stat in with Urban ones. Although knowing where you work you don't have a lot of validity in defending good accurate data.

WJM said...

Simply because Urban centres have rising real estate prices while rural centres typically do not. N&L is largely rural. Any dispute with that??

That's not necessarily true of all rural regions. But even to the extent that it is true, you have pointed out how housing stats DIFFER, not why the stats themselves would be NOT COMPARABLE.

After all, the census shows that the populations of Alberta and British Columbia are rising; that does not mean that the statistic cannot be compared to the decline in population in NL or SK.

Using your link below they could have easily included All Provincial Stats instead of Urban stats mixed with one provincial stat. You cannot compare apples to oranges.

Of course you can't.

But these are all apples.

It is akin to saying that Africians are in poverty. But looking at some places in South Africa or Egypt we know this blanket statement is false.

Same thing within given cities; there are neighbourhoods in which house prices have gone through the roof, and others in which they have declined. What's your point?

"Probably because your math and media literacy skills could use some improvement."

Are you twelve - come on man!


I am not twelve.

Excellent link. What is shows me though validates my point. You can look at the provincial stats from the little boxes, or the urban stats from the links to the cities. These are not meant to be directly comparable.

Sure they are. It allows you to compare, say, Halifax, with NS as a whole. That's a perfectly valid comparison, and a useful one, too.

If Thunder Bay in Ontario was the only stat given for Ontario it would not be an accurate accessment of housing prices in the province.

Yip.

And?

I know for a fact that housing prices in St. John's and communities on the Northern Avalon have risen in price over the past year.

Yip.

And?

That picture is not given in the CBC story.

Nor in the CREA stats.

BITCH AT CREA.

Honestly if you were asked to submit a report based on these stats your boss should chew you out if you threw a provincial stat in with Urban ones.

Why?

If I were doing a report comparing provinces, and used a city figure instead of a provincial one, yes.

If I were doing a report comparing cities, and used a provincial figure instead of a city one, yes.

But if I were doing a report comparing house prices in selected geographies, there is nothing stopping me from comparing a mixture of provinces, sub-provincial regions, or individual cities. In fact, it can make for a very useful comparison.

Although knowing where you work you don't have a lot of validity in defending good accurate data.

What's your data background? Do tell.

ISDABY said...

"are you here for a five minute argument? or a ten minute argument?"

name that quote!!

BNB said...

hahaha good quote. You got me, who was it?

NL-ExPatriate said...

Great investigative work.

Just highlights how CBC is a tool of propaganda for Ontario and Quebec.

If someone is looking to protect their investment they wouold think twice about buying a house in NL because of spin like this. More outmigration due to misinformation by the Canadian Bolshovik Corporation.

Of late I'm getting sick and tired of watching the CBC being used as a recruiting platform for Alberta.
When they closed the PSC in NL.
http://www.releases.gov.nl.ca/releases/2005/exec/0729n03.htm

NL-ExPatriate said...

http://www.ccnmatthews.com/news/releases/show.jsp?action=showRelease&searchText=false&showText=all&actionFor=602368

Just found this tid bit. It would seem the outlook for NL isn't so bad after all if your concerned about property values. Just need to get in on the ground floor.

Newfoundland and Labrador is expected to have the highest growth rate in the country in 2006, as the Voisey's Bay nickel mine and the White Rose offshore oil project have their first full year of production.

BNB said...

Thanks NL-ExPatriate. There is positive news out there for N&L that isn't always reflected in the media. That was my point in this post.