Questionable rankings are starting to smell

Rankings are all the rage these days: world’s most liveable cities; B.C.’s best elementary schools; Canada’s best places to live; the nation’s worst ranking surveys

Rankings are all the rage these days: world’s most liveable cities; B.C.’s best elementary schools; Canada’s best places to live; the nation’s worst ranking surveys.

Okay, the last one I made up. But it seems you can’t escape these rankings. They make good copy, as they say.

I just read an article about the top 20 hardest working nations in the Organization for Economic Development (OECD). Canada placed fourth. That surprises me.

But, like all these rankings, they’re highly interpretive not only by the people compiling the rankings but also by the media presenting them (and they’re not necessarily one and the same). The “hardest working” nations are actually the ones with the most amount of average time workers spend on the job in a day. So, you may not be necessarily the most productive, you just may be in the office longer than the average in other countries.

And that opens up a whole can of interpretations.

I once had a reporter here who spent long hours at the office. Because he worked hard? Yes, he worked hard but, as he readily admits, he was slow. A great guy, he was perfectly happy to come back after supper to get his work done. He got it all done and on time. He just took a long time to do it. He probably pushed Canada’s ranking in the OECD study to fourth place by himself.

So, what is this OECD ranking telling us? Whatever you want it to. And that’s my point. Is Campbell River the fifth worst city in Canada? No, it placed fifth worst in a ranking of 180 municipalities, according to a limited set of criteria skewed towards economic indicators. We have a high unemployment rate (11 per cent). That was weighted heavily in MoneySense’s rankings. Is 11 per cent so bad? We lost two major industrial employers – of course we’re going to deal with a number of people out of work.

But as many have pointed out, there’s a lot of of criteria that make up a good place to live. Many of those weren’t even considered by MoneySense. The criteria were selective and the interpretations are subjective. But you can’t beat a headline saying “Canada’s 10 worst municipalities.”

So, that’s why we’re going to do a ranking. H’mm, what will it be?

How about: the 10 biggest lies about fish farming (could be pro or con)? The 10 most wasteful city projects. The top five most studied issues by council.

What about Campbell River’s five most sacred cows? Unimpeded oceanfront view? The right to speed down Dogwood? A parking spot right in front of the store you want to go into at that moment? The right to pile as much garbage as you want on the curb and have it carted off to the dump at no extra cost? And, of course, the inalienable right to not have anything about your life changed in a way that inconveniences you in any way whatsoever – which is to say, never.

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