INNISFAIL – Despite the trials of COVID-19 and the town being portrayed nationally and provincially as a community in crisis, a leading global market researcher has found there’s still overwhelming satisfaction among Innisfailians with the town’s quality of life, and that the community is braving today’s challenges better than many other municipalities.
“Here, we get very strong ratings. Ninety-seven per cent of residents say its either very good or good, and that compares to 95 per cent in the norms we have,” said Erin Roulston, vice-president of Canada Public Affairs for Ipsos, the third-largest market research firm in the world. She added Innisfail’s norms are based on about 25 other large and small municipalities in western Canada.
“People are very happy with their quality of life,” said Roulston, of the results which also showed that 93 per cent of citizens surveyed were proud to be an Innisfailian.
As for the “perceived change” in the town over the past three years, she said 21 per cent of Innisfailians surveyed said it had improved, 54 per cent said it stayed the same, while 22 per cent believed it has worsened.
“We do expect to see that turn around a little bit but it looks like the Town of Innisfail is actually doing better than what we are seeing in other municipalities,” said Roulston of citizens’ satisfaction during the pandemic.
Roulston presented her report to Innisfail council via Zoom on Oct. 12. Ipsos was retained by the town for the first time last summer at a cost of $22,000 to conduct a Citizens Perspectives Survey, which is now being done regularly by many western Canadian communities.
Council was told last July 12 the surveys have proven to be crucial for future strategic planning and budgeting.
“I am very, very pleased,” said mayor Jim Romane. “There were no surprises there, and in consideration of the time and situations we have to deal with there was nothing there that was a surprise, and I was pleasantly surprised by some of the positives. They were better than I thought they would be.”
The Innisfail Ipsos survey was conducted by telephone from Aug. 13 to 29. Council was told 253 separate interviews were conducted with citizens 18 years of age and over, with a margin of error of 6.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
“So, very statistically valid,” said Roulston, who told council that one important objective of the survey was to compare Innisfail’s results to other similar municipalities across western Canada.
Her report showed the top priority for Innisfailians is the economy (19 per cent), including its revitalization, opening more businesses, and creating jobs. This was followed with crime, safety and policing with 15 per cent of citizens surveyed, and then roads and infrastructure at 13 per cent.
The survey revealed that 84 per cent of respondents felt safe in the community but 45 per cent of them believe crime has increased over the past three years, with 43 per cent stating it’s the same and nine per cent saying its decreased.
The survey also showed 83 per cent of the citizens participating in the survey are satisfied with the town’s programs and services, including 24 per cent who are “very” satisfied and 59 per cent who are “somewhat” satisfied.
The most important of the town’s 19 programs and services for citizens were fire services and snow removal, which had a 100 per cent rating, which was followed closely behind at 99 per cent with RCMP, parks, playgrounds, open spaces, roads and infrastructure repairs.
Further down the list was the town’s website at 78 per cent, animal control at 83 per cent and support for community events at 88 per cent.
On the issue of trust, 55 per cent of Innisfail residents said they had that for the Town of Innisfail, including 25 per cent who trust the town “a great deal” and 31 per cent who trust the town “a little”.
Almost three -quarters (73 per cent) of residents said they were satisfied with Innisfail’s municipal government - council and administration, including 24 per cent who were “very” satisfied and 49 per cent who are “somewhat” satisfied. When asked how satisfied they were with just the administration, 82 per cent said they were satisfied. For town council, 68 per cent were satisfied overall.
When asked by Ipsos what was their primary source of information for the town’s programs and services, 38 per cent of Innisfailians surveyed said it was the newspaper, followed by social media with 21 per cent, town newsletter at 18 per cent, website at 13 per cent, and contacting the town directly at three per cent.
“That newspaper is a bit higher than what we see in other municipalities,” said Roulston. She pointed out the content citizens receive by the newspaper and social media is not controlled by the town, unlike the municipality’s own social media, newsletter and website.
Todd Becker, the town’s chief administrative officer, said administration may recommend to the new town council to have Ipsos conduct surveys every two years for the community as it could be used as a “bench marking opportunity.
“To set priorities and strategies and to understand the community’s satisfaction with the services,” said Becker.