Crawl Across the Ocean

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Vancouver Municipal Election, Nov. 19

So the Vancouver municipal election is fast approaching. This post is intended to be my personal repository of links and thoughts on the election but if, like me, you live in Vancouver and want to know more about the upcoming election, it might prove useful.

General Information

The main city website with voting information is here, with the page on information for voters here. In addition, the Wikipedia article on the 2005 election can be found here.

The flyer which has a summary of the relevant information is here (pdf).

Vancouver doesn't use any ridings (or wards as they're generally known at the municipal level), instead every voter votes for every position available in city government.

The positions available are:

1 mayor (list of candidates with brief profiles of each here).

10 Councillors (list and descriptions here).

7 Park Commissioners (!) - (list and descriptions here).

9 School Trustees (list and descriptions here).

In addition to voting on these positions, voters are asked to vote yes or no on borrowing money to fund various spending items in the proposed three year capital plan. The spending questions can be found here.

A sample ballot can be found here.

It occurs to me that people who thought that using a Single Transferrable Vote electoral system in B.C. would be too complicated for voters have obviously never encountered a Vancouver municipal election ballot! I'd say I'm relatively involved in politics, as these things go, but I really think it's asking a bit much for me to know who would make a good park commissioner.


To help simplify things for voters there are a number of parties running candidates.

The left leaning Council of Progressive Electors (COPE) won 9 seats on council in the last election in 2002 (results here) and it's leader Larry Campbell was elected Mayor. COPE is most known for supporting the 'four pillars1' strategy on drugs and is running lots of candidates for the available positions on council and the school and park boards, although with Larry Campbell having moved on to the Federal Senate, there is no COPE candidate for Mayor.

Vision Vancouver is basically a group of more centrist councillors who were elected under the COPE banner in 2002 but have split off to form their own group for 2005. Jim Green is running for Mayor under the Vision Vancouver banner. Vision is going for a minimalist electoral strategy, with 5 people running for council and nobody running for school trustee or park commissioner (if all 5 Vision candidates were elected along with their mayor candidate, this would give them a one-vote majority on council, with 6 of 11 positions).

The Non-Partisan Alliance (NPA) held the balance of power prior to the 2002 election in which they were reduced to holding just 2 seats on council. This party describes itself as an collection of independent citizens but is generally seen as being right wing and places a heavy emphasis on fiscal cautiousness. Sam Sullivan is running for mayor under the NPA banner and the NPA also has a number of candidates for council, school board and the park board.

The Green Party is running one candidate for council, two for parks board and one for school board. Presumably the plan with the small number of candidates is to avoid splitting the Green vote in the hopes of getting some representation. Currently, the only elected Green Party member is school board trustee Andrea Reimer (who was a vocal opponent of STV in the Provincial referendum on electoral reform).

The remaining parties, the Interest Party (serious, but tiny), the Work Less Party (single issue publicity stunt party) and Nude Garden Party (name speaks for itself) are profiled by a solid article in the Vancouver Courier here.


The best place to go for a roundup of media coverage of the election is this 'media map' being constructed/maintained by a group of graduate journalism students at UBC. Basically, they monitor a whole bunch of different local news sources and then collect all the election coverage in one place. Handy.

One other thing worth highlighting is this very helpful summary of the last term from the Vancouver Courier. It lists the issues which arose, how each councillor voted on them and notes a few of the comments councillors made for or against each item (link found via blinkit).

Candidate Blogs

A number of people running have blogs including Jim Green, Andrea Reimer, Sam Sullivan and Austin Spencer. Most of these are pretty lame. Of note, Council candidate Jamie Lee Hamilton has a long running, well written blog called Downtown Eastside. Negative points to the NPA for referring to Sam Sullivan's 'online campaign diary'. I'm guessing it's this kind of snobby unwillingness to use a relatively new word like 'blog' which led to Vancouver being known as 'No Fun City' last time the NPA was in charge.

Personal Opinions

The truth is, I place a lot of importance of the city being well run and the impact that has on quality of life here, but at the same time, none of what seem to be issues in the campaign (bike lanes on the Burrard bridge, the redevelopment of Woodwards Department Store, safe injection sites for drug users etc., really grab my interest very much.

In general, I find myself just looking for sensible, intelligent, pragmatic people rather than identifying with any particular party or ideology.

This could change, especially since my knowledge base right now is so small, but right now I'm leaning towards Sam Sullivan as Mayor. I can't really articulate a good reason why other than that he seems like a reasonable, experienced person, who could somewhat balance out what I expect to be fairly left leaning council.

For council, I'm leaning towards:
Greg Aulin, Suzanne Anton, Kim Capri, George Chow, Heather Deal, Jamie Lee Hamilton, Valerie Jenkinson, Tim Louie, Kevin Potvin and Tim Stevenson. I was pretty impressed with independent candidate Kevin Potvin's spiel on the city website and also by his own personal website. In the spiel, he realized that the main barrier (besides awareness) faced by an independent candidate is credibility, so he included personal endorsements from well known locals like Rafe Mair to overcome that barrier. On the website he talks a lot about policy, managing to successfully walk the line between saying nothing and making unrealistic promises.

School Board:
Allan Degenova, Mel Lohan, Shirley Wong, Reimer Andrea, Angela Kenyon, Ken Denike, Sharon Gregson.

Park Commissioner: I still haven't decided whether to vote on this one or not. Perhaps I'll just pick the people with strong sounding bio's or take a mix of people from different parties. Not sure.

In general, I'm open to suggestion so if you have comments on the people I've named or think others are deserving of a vote instead, let me know.

Capital Plan: For the most part, I am opposed to government borrowing on principle, except in extraordinary circumstances (e.g. war, depression). But on the other hand, I recognize that cities are facing gaps in infrastructure and don't currently have the tax base (relying solely on property taxes) to deal with everything that needs to be done. Plus, most of the planned borrowing seems to be for pretty sensible things. On the other hand, in three years of COPE government Vancouver's credit rating did go down one notch (although it is still very high), so maybe more borrowing isn't such a good idea.

I'll definitely vote in favour of Question 4 (legacy projects) because it just makes sense to take advantage of opportunities to piggyback on some of the work being done for the Olympics where possible. In my mind, this is kind of like an RRSP loan at a personal level, where the benefits of spending now outweigh the cost in interest payments. As for the rest, question 1 (public works), question 2 (public safety & civic facilities) and question 3 (parks and recreation facilities), I'm not really sure what is best. Could be an election day decision.

The End

If anyone has any insight or links to more sources of information, let me know. Municipal politics doesn't really inspire me much, but it probably matters more than you would think it does based on the relatively trivial topics which make up the issues. At any rate, it would be nice to make an informed decision.

1The Four pillars are: Harm Reduction, Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement. More information here.


  • andrea is one of those people who was still against stv (even though shes from a small party) because she is more into mmp.

    i just couldnt help being all 'stv is better than this crap, lets go' ... then again, im a ubc poli sci kid, and havent we all been drinking the ken carty koolaid?

    By Blogger ainge lotusland, at 10:19 AM  

  • Yeah, I know. I went to one of the 'town hall' meetings on STV and she was one of the anti-STV speakers.

    Her main concern seemed to be that, under MMP, the election of women could be guaranteed by placing them high on party lists but under STV it would be left up to the voters to elect women.

    Which is certainly true, but not an argument I find persuasive, since it seems like treating symptoms instead of problems, sort of like mandatory voting as a solution to low turnout.

    By Blogger Declan, at 10:39 AM  

  • "then again, im a ubc poli sci kid, and havent we all been drinking the ken carty koolaid?"

    ha ha ha - me too, and I've drank deeply.

    By Blogger PR, at 1:14 PM  

  • Oh, thank you so much. I have absolutely nothing of insight to offer regarding this election at the moment, because I've been busy and lazy and haven't had time to look into the issues - this post is really helpful.

    -MS, who should find out which of the three places in Vancouver she's lived in since 2000 she's registered to vote in

    By Blogger Moebius Stripper, at 7:37 AM  

  • Wow, vote for 10 councillors. That's mad! I didn't know anyone in the developed democracies still used multi-seat plurality in such a large district. Here in California, it is common for cities to elect three seats at a time in this manner, but not ten.

    And Park Commissioner? I thought only we south-of-the-border types were asked to vote on city administrative positions like that.

    I like your comment on this ballot in comparison to how "complicated" BC-STV would be!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:16 PM  

  • MS - glad I could help.

    Matthew - Yeah, we had a recent referendum but the no side won. I wasn't living here at the time so I don't know to many details, I think turout was 22% or so.

    As for parks board I think Vancouver is the only city in Canada with an elected one.

    By Blogger Declan, at 4:55 PM  

  • Regarding the 4 pillars you may also want to read "A Public Health Approch to Drug Control in Canada" by the Health Officers Council of BC. It is available at and also Vancouver's prevention plan: Preventing Harm from Psychoactive Substance Use

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:00 AM  

  • Thanks for the link Steve, indeed there are a lot of documents linked at keeping the door open, here.

    By Blogger Declan, at 6:04 PM  

  • Thanks, Declan. This post, and the links, were helpful to me too. Now when I'm in the city over the next couple of days I'll feel a little less guilty looking at all the signs for not knowing anything about the election.

    By Blogger Laura, at 9:30 PM  

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