Thursday, November 17, 2011

British Columbia municipal elections: preview

Saturday, voters in BC will get to go to the polls to elect their local councils. Voters in BC's 160 municipalities will get to vote for mayor and council, while rural British Columbians will be able to vote for their "Electoral Area Director", a seat on their local regional district council. There's also referenda, and "down ballot" races, typical of municipal elections. There are school trustee races, and park boards for example.

The most notable race in BC of course will be for mayor of Vancouver. What I like about Vancouver- and a few other municipalities in the province- is that their races are partisan. There are municipal parties in the city. Vancouver has two main parties, the governing left of centre "Vision Vancouver", led by mayor Gregor Robertson. In opposition is the right of centre "Non Partisan Association" (NPA). They are running councillor Suzanne Anton against him. There are also ten other candidates running for the position.

On council, there is a third party, the "Coalition of Progressive Electors" (COPE), which has an electoral alliance with Vision Vancouver. They are to the left of VV, and are running three candidates for council, while VV is running 7. COPE currently holds 2 council seats. The NPA meanwhile is running a full slate of 10 candidates. It should be noted that Vancouver City Council is elected on an at-large basis. There are no municipal wards in the city. In fact, it is the largest city in Canada with no ward system. Voters get a long list of candidates of which they get to vote for up to 10. When you get partisan races with this system, even the closest of elections results in lopsided results. The NPA for example, holds just 1 seat on Vancouver City Council, despite its mayoral candidate getting nearly 40% of the vote in the last election in 2008.

Out here in Ottawa, the biggest news I've heard about the campaign in Vancouver is how the city shut down the Occupy Vancouver protest. The question is, how will this effect the mayoral campaign of a left wing mayor? Will it alienate his base? We will find out on Saturday. Polls so far have suggested that while Robertson has handled the Occupy protests poorly, he still holds on to the lead. The most recent polls that I could find suggests he is leading 49-43 (and it was an NPA internal poll).

Robertson won  54% of support among Vancouver voters. His main opponent, Peter Ladner of the NPA received 39%. On city council, COPE ran 2 candidates while Vision Vancouver ran 8 candidates as part of their pact. Both COPE candidates were elected. The last place candidate for Vision Vancouver was the only candidate to lose. The only NPA candidate to win a seat was Suzanne Anton, who is their candidate for mayor this year. Her personal popularity allowed her to win more votes than 2 Vision candidates and one COPE candidate. The next highest NPA candidate was just 1500 votes shy of eclipsing the 10th place candidate, represented by the COPE. 

2008 mayoral election by poll

2008 council election by poll (leading candidate)

In 2008, as you can see by the maps, if Vancouver was divided by ward, it is likely the split on council would be more like 6-4 for the Vision Vancouver-COPE alliance. After all, the city is represented by 10 MLAs in the provincial legislature, and there is presently an even split in the city between the NDP (5 seats) and the BC Liberals (5 seats). If those 10 ridings were used as municipal wards, there would be a similar close race in the city. Not the 9-1 landslide that happened in actual fact. Of course this archaic system is enjoyed by the voters however, as they voted to keep the system in a referendum in 2004. It was however close (54-46 against introducing municipal wards), and it was in an off year for elections and was therefore marred by low voter turnout.

From the maps, it is evident that support for Vision Vancouver is concentrated in the east end of the city, which tends to be more working class. The party also has support from some of the "champagne socialists" living in the condos of downtown, but some of these downtown dwellers support the NPA. The NPA strongholds are in the more affluent west end of the city. The true battlegrounds are in the central part of the city and in the south end. These are the battlegrounds in provincial elections as well, between the NDP and the BC Liberals. 

Most, if not all municipalities in BC use an at large voting system to elect their councils. Only a few have municipal parties however. In British Columbia's second largest city of Surrey, the right of centre "Surrey First" party, led by mayor Dianne Watts presently holds 7 of 8 council seats. The opposition party, the Surrey Civic Coallition (SCC) holds just one seat. They will not be running a challenger against Watts, but they will run a full slate of candidates for council. The SCC did not run a candidate against Watts in 2008 either.

In BC's third largest city of Burnaby, the left of centre "Burnaby Citizens Association" (BCA) hold all 8 council seats, plus the mayor of the city, Derek Corrigan. They are being opposed by the right of centre TEAM Burnaby, who is running Tom Tao for mayor. They will be running a full slate of candidates to oppose Corrigan's BCA. Corrigan received 67% of the vote in 2008, which helped his party win all 8 seats on council. TEAM Burnaby's top candidate received 2000 less votes than the 8th place BCA candidate, shutting them out.

Most of the other municipalities in BC do not have political parties. The few that do tend to have just one political party, either one representing the governing party, or one representing an opposition party against a band of independents. 

A lack of municipal wards in BC means a lack of maps, unfortunately. From the 2008 election, I was only able to find a poll map of Vancouver, which I used in this post. I will however have a map of all of BC's municipalities showing the mayoral results, much like I used for NWT's non partisan legislative election in October.

1 comment:

  1. If you hadn't found this earlier, this has links to maps of Burnaby polling divisions