I hate to rehash elements of an old column . . . OK, scratch that, I love recycling. But I wrote a column about statistics back in August of 2006, which I think is apt given some recent tittering (and Twittering) about child poverty rates in British Columbia.
I started that column with a Stephen Leacock quote and ended with a Homer Simpson, both of which I think go perfectly well with the poverty rate topic.
Leacock is attributed with saying: "In earlier times they had no statistics, and so they had to fall back on lies."
And Simpson: "You can use statistics to prove anything, 40 per cent of all people know that."
Karen Steegstra spoke to city council about National Child Day on Tuesday. Steegstra is the new child and youth community co-ordinator at Chilliwack Community Services.
She spoke about the great things the Chilliwack Child and Youth Committee have been working on to reduce the problem of child poverty in Chilliwack.
"While our community of Chilliwack is doing its best with the resources available to provide appropriate services for children and youth, the policy makers in our province and country need to be pressed to make children and families a priority," she said.
Steegstra relied on statistics from the 2011 Child Poverty Report Card prepared by First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, which found that 20 per cent of children under the age of six are living in poverty in our province.
That same report, using 2009 Statistics Canada numbers, said only Manitoba had a higher rate of child poverty. After tax, B.C. was the highest.
First Call just issued its 2012 report (using 2010 stats) and things have improved. Now B.C. is tied with Quebec for the second worst child poverty rate.
The after tax rate? B.C. has jumped to second worst.
Not exactly something one might think the provincial government would brag about. But if you think that, you don't know how statistics and reports are used by interested agencies.
To steal a stolen line, again, from my 2006 column, a paraphrased expression attributed to Andrew Lang puts it well: some people use statistics like a drunken man uses lampposts-for sup-port rather than for illumination.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Ministry of Children and Family Development responded to the First Call report with a factsheet: "The B.C. child poverty rate is at its second-lowest level since 1980."
The fact sheet even outlined the fact that the child poverty rate in B.C. was 10.5 per cent in 2010, "down from 11.8 per cent the year previous-and a 45 per cent drop since 2003."
And: "This is a higher rate of decline than the national average."
Wow, amazing! But-using statistics like a bikini by concealing the good stuff-they neglect to point out that this 10.5 per cent compares to 11.1 in Manitoba, 9.3 in Newfoundland, 8.9 in Nova Scotia, 8.2 in Quebec (and nationally), 8 in Ontario, 7.9 in Saskatchewan, 6.1 in Alberta, 3 in New Brunswick and 2.3 in P.E.I.
The BC Liberals were quick to lash out on Twitter and claim things were even worse than under the NDP. (I even had a little Twitter exchange with a prominent local Liberal on the topic.)
As any parent will tell you, it's fine if you are not doing something well as long as you are improving.
But any pychologist will say you're delusional if you think you are doing a good job when you are worse than everyone else.