Saturday's Vancouver BC election
Starting in the late 1950s, the city began encouraging high rise multiunit apartments, while also focusing resources on creating and maintaining parks, access to the waterfront, and recreational and civic facilities ("The Vancouver Model," Places Magazine; "High density living in Vancouver, British Columbia").
In transportation planning circles, the city is "famous" for not allowing freeways to be constructed within the city. The Translink transit system operates at the metropolitan scale, and is highly respected.
The city began gaining population with the handover in 1997 of Hong Kong to the Chinese. Residents were able to move to other British Commonwealth countries and many chose Vancouver. The city continues to add population and to build more housing towers.
- Gordon Price, a former City Councillor and now professor, writes a great deal about cities and urbanism through his Price Tags website
- Patrick Condon, a new urbanist, is a professor at the University of British Columbia and a prolific author on urbanism (Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities, Planning a Post-Carbon World
- The Tyee is a particularly interesting alternative weekly, often running series on urban topics such as transit and mobility (e.g., "Vancouver in 2050: Transit City")
On the other hand, Vancouver interestingly shows the difference between being a city-state, like DC, and being a typical municipality with "ordinary" financial capacity. Last year, Vancouver's government budget surplus was $5 million while DC's was in the hundreds of millions--because DC collects income taxes as well as property taxes, and has a stronger commercial real estate market, not because it's better managed or a better place to live.
Vancouver elections. Canada doesn't allow the national political parties to organize and run affiliates at the municipal level. Ontario doesn't allow the creation of local parties, while British Columbia and Quebec do. Yesterday was election day for provincial and local offices in British Columbia.
Unique characteristics for voting and governance. Saturday elections make British Columbia unique across North America. Provincial elections are held on a schedule different from local elections.
But Vancouver has other unique electoral qualities. The city has four active political parties, three of which won offices yesterday. All of the Council positions are elected at-large, which makes it easier for the Council to act for the city as a whole. The City also has an elected park board, unique in Canada, which has been in place since the late 1890s.
Saturday's election had three strong mayoral candidates from 3 of the 4 major parties (10 parties ran candidates for City Council), the incumbent, Gregor Robertson, of Vision Vancouver, the center-left party, Kirk LaPointe, former editor of the Vancouver Sun, for the Non-Partisan Association, the conservative party, and Miriam Wong of COPE (Coalition of Progressive Electors), the left party. (One of Wong's platform positions was a suggestion that transit be practically free "Universal transit in Vancouver for $1 a day, pitches mayoral candidate," Vancouver Sun).
The continued densification in Vancouver, along with the hollowing out of the middle class, put the majority party at risk, and Kirk LaPointe ran a better campaign.
Results. Despite that Gregor Robertson was re-elected and Vision maintained a Council majority, but NPA has 4 of the 11 seats, one of which went to the Green Party--candidate Adriane Carr got more votes than any of the candidates, and Vision lost control of both the Parks and School Boards--the Green Party picked up seats on both.
Note that Vancouver's population is a little smaller than DC's (603,000+ to 630,000+) but they had a slightly larger turnout, 44% and 181,000 voters, compared to DC's recent results of about 164,000 and 35.5%).
So in Vancouver, while two parties (Vision, NPA) dominate local politics, a third, the Greens, is a viable third party, with seats on the City Council, Parks Board, and School Board, while the fourth (COPE) is still viable (COPE was the majority party on Council before Robertson's first victory). Vision controls the City Council, NPA controls the Parks Board, and the School Board is split between Vision and NPA, with the Greens having the deciding vote.
It results in a much more vibrant polity than is typical of US cities.
-- "Gregor Robertson re-elected mayor of Vancouver," CBC-TV
-- "Re-elected Mayor Robertson Vows 'We Can Do Better'," The Tyee
-- "Vancouver Election: The Tyee's Four Big Questions," The Tyee (the questions are affordable housing, balancing density with neighborhood character, campaign finance reform, and the city's role in oil pipeline issues)
-- "Vision's Angry Voter Double Whammy," The Tyee (the prime funder of the NPA is a railroad executive)
-- "Why Vision Deserves Vote of Progressives in Vancouver," The Tyee
-- "Kirk LaPointe and Gregor Robertson — the politician and the ideologue," Vancouver Sun