Reading and Arithmetic for Bruce Strachan

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In his column in today’s Prince George Citizen, entitled Math and Grammar for Teachers, Bruce Strachan complains that the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation has got their math wrong in reporting that 85.2% voted to strike “if the government is not willing to negotiate a fair and respectful collective agreement”. He calculates that the true figure is 67%. He obtains this figure by dividing the number of yes votes, 25,698, by the number of BCTF members, which is 38,000. 100 * 25,698 / 38,000 = 67.626. This actually rounds to 68%, not 67%, but that isn’t the main thing wrong with his calculation.

The results of votes are virtually always reported in terms of the percentages of those voting. As a politician and political commentator with several decades’ experience, Mr. Strachan surely knows this. According to the BCTF press release, the number of votes cast was 30,202. Of these, the 25,698 yes votes comprise 85.08%. The BCTF got it right.

In my riding, Prince George-Peace River, according to Elections Canada, a total of 37,423 valid votes were cast in the last election, in which incumbent Jay Hill was reported to have won with 22,412 votes or 59.9% of the vote. The riding actually has a population of over 100,000 people, so quite a few more people were eligible. The overall turnout for Canada was 67% (significantly less than the 79% the BCTF got), so roughly 18,000 eligible voters didn’t vote. Does Mr. Strachan think that Elections Canada should have reported that Jay Hill won with 100 * 22412 / 55855 = 40% of the vote? Or is he deliberately misleading his readers into thinking that the BCTF is lying or incompetant?

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