"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Green Day

An astute correspondent with an environmental bent recently observed, "isn't it strange how Charlene's department cranks out all the environmental assessment announcements on Friday afternoons?

While a cursory examination proved that this wasn't literally true — not all of the Department of Environment and Conservation's environmental assessment releases go out on Fridays — there was enough prima facie evidence of Taking Out the Trash that the crack labradore statistical bureau got on the case.

And the bureau found something quite interesting. After crunching the numbers on the weekday-of-release of nearly 700 Environmental Assessment Bulletins and releated announcements ("Minister releases trail from further assessment", etc.), some patterns seem to emerge.

Remember, that if there were no patterns at all to the timing of such announcements, then each weekday should have roughly 20% of the total. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. (Well, not literally, many things are further from the truth, but it's such a fun phrase.)

The government of Brian Tobin (including the caretaker administration that followed after his re-departure for re-Ottawa in 2000) made 219 assessment-related press releases. There was a marked preference for Wednesdays. The announcements, on the whole, were biased away from the early part of the week, but not entirely to late in the week. Just speculating here, but it may have had to do with the press deadlines for the Robinson-Blackmore (at the time) weekly papers, which tended (and still tend) to have Wednesday or Thursday cutoffs.

Provincial Environmental Assessment press releases,
by administration and week day of release
(% of releases per week day)

Starting with the Grimes government, there is something of a tendency to stack them up on Fridays, although, on a whole, the Grimes years' 181 environmental assessment announcements are the most evenly distributed throughout the week, and, despite the evident Friday bias, most resembled what a random distribution would have yielded.

Danny Williams-Government inherited the Grimes administration's pro-Friday bias, raised it, and at the same time skewed the distribution quite markedly towards the latter part of the week — too late, in many cases, for the announcements to make the following week's local community papers. Half or more of its nearly 300 releases (to the end of 2008) came out on Thursday, when there is just one each of the popular open-line radio shows left to go for the week, or on Friday, by the end of which day the phone lines go silent until Sunday evening.

The statistics bureau shirks from the job of doing a control sample of all press releases, to see whether the same trends show up across the board. But statistical duty calls. Stay tuned.

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