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Headlines 05/08/10

Here are my thoughts on today’s headlines. Everything but the titles is written by yours truly.

Federal government’s selective belief in statistics is criminal by Peter McKnight:

According to the General Social Survey, the amount of crimes being reported to the police is declining, down three per cent in 2004 from 1999.

Numbers don’t lie: if 37 per cent of criminal incidents were brought to the attention of the police in 1999, and only 34 per cent were in 2004 (according to the GSS), then the conclusion to be drawn from the statistics is that less crimes are being reported to the police.

These statistics do not necessarily mean that crime rates are down.

As McKnight pointed out in the article, the reliability of the GSS needs to be taken into account, as do the differences between the GSS and the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey, both of which are used to collect data on crime.

Statistics merely show the results of research; how they are interpreted is another story.

If the Conservatives are justifying a $9.5 billion decision to build new prisons on a couple of numbers that can be interpreted to show that crime rates are declining, maybe it’s time to begin monitoring the reasoning process leading up to such expensive decisions.

Forest fire budget at a 10-year low, and B.C. is already over by Todd Coyne:

This year, the B.C. government set aside $51.7 million to fight forest fires.

Last year, the Liberals allotted $61.7 million, but spent $382.1 million fighting fires, according to the Vancouver Sun.

The cost of fighting fires for 2010 has already exceeded the allotted budget; Finance Minister Colin Hansen confirmed the expenses had reached $56.5 million.

If it cost the provincial government over $380 million to fight forest fires last year, why is this year’s budget less than one seventh of that cost?

There is no way the Liberals could have expected that $50 million would be enough funds, which raises yet another question:

Let’s pretend for a moment that the overall provincial budget is $1 billion. (Again, we are merely pretending.)

And let’s say that last year, the government spent one tenth of that, $100 million, on fighting forest fires.

This year, they decided to allocate $50 million, knowing the costs would be exceeded.

However, to balance their budget, the government would have to take the $50 million no longer going towards fighting fires, and put it somewhere else.

By the end of the day, the total expected expenditures would equal $1 billion: by the end of the year, the actual expenditures would look quite different.

On paper, the government balanced their total budget, but they essentially allocated $50 million needed to cover the cost of fighting forest fires to another expense.

So to conclude my complicated thought process: $50 million (forest fires) + $50 million (taken from last year’s budget) + $50 million (the additional money eventually spent on fighting fires, not accounted for in the budget) = $150 million.

That is some magic trick, making money out of thin air…

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