New mayors elected as political dynasties fall in elections across B.C.

This is the first municipal vote in B.C. since new campaign finance rules were implemented that limit corporate and union donations. It also saw big change in some Metro Vancouver cities.

More than a dozen long-term mayors in Metro Vancouver did not seek re-election

Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart is the first independent candidate to win as mayor of the city in more than three decades. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Some political dynasties have toppled in Metro Vancouver as most results for municipal elections are confirmed across British Columbia — the country's first municipal elections of the year.

An incredibly tight race in Vancouver saw independent centre-left candidate Kennedy Stewart win with less than 1,000 votes, while the city's leading party, Vision, was completely knocked out of the game. 

In the rest of Metro Vancouver, incumbents lost in Surrey, the region's second-largest city, and in Burnaby, the epicentre of Canada's battle for and against the Trans Mountain pipeline.

This is the first province-wide municipal vote since new campaign finance rules that limit corporate and union donations were implemented last fall. 

The election has prompted big change in more than a dozen Metro Vancouver cities, where long-term mayors did not seek re-election.

Election issues have been dominated by themes related to rapid growth, a housing crisis, ongoing gang conflict and transportation woes. 

Voters went to the polls from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. PT on Saturday. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Change for Vancouver

It was a tight race in Vancouver between centre-left independent mayoral candidate Kennedy Stewart and right-leaning Non-Partisan Association candidate Ken Sim.

Stewart won by only 984 votes. Council candidates are split between the NPA, Green and newly formed OneCity parties.

Current Mayor Gregor Robertson was one of the first to announce he would no longer be in the seat he has held for a decade.

Robertson says he has no regrets as he leaves behind a prosperous city with an extensive cycling network. He also passes along a housing crisis, which affects municipalities across the province, that has been a big issue in the election.  

Robertson's municipal party, Vision Vancouver, chose not to run a mayoral candidate after the one they had chosen, Ian Campbell, stepped down four days before nominations closed.

None of the party's council candidates were elected. 

Unlike most large cities in Canada, Vancouver doesn't have a ward system. Instead, politicians form parties that run candidates on council, the school board and park board. Montreal also has municipal political parties.

From left to right: Wai Young, Shauna Sylvester, Kennedy Stewart, Ken Sim and Hector Bremner were some of the mayoral candidates running in Vancouver.

The vacuum left behind after Robertson's decision not to run ushered in a flood of candidates aligned with nine civic political parties, some of them splinter groups from more established parties, and several candidates who ran as independents. 

There were 158 candidates on the city's long ballot — 21 of them vying for top spot. 

Former mayor returns to lead Surrey

In Surrey, the region's second most populated city, former mayor Doug McCallum has ​taken over from Mayor Linda Hepner, who is stepping down. 

Her party, Surrey First, has been in power for a decade with a stronghold that currently includes all seats on council.

There were eight people running to replace Hepner. Tom Gill ran as Surrey First's mayoral candidate. Bruce Hayne was with the party but formed his own, Integrity Now.

McCallum is stepping back into the limelight 13 years after he was last in office. His party, the Safe Surrey Coalition, has also taken most of the seats on council. 

Some of the main issues in Surrey include concerns about an ongoing gang war and whether the city should form its own police force (it's currently serviced by the RCMP). 

Candidates and voters are also divided over a planned $1.65-billion light rail transit system, with some keen to replace it with the faster SkyTrain system already implemented in parts of Metro Vancouver.

A dynasty toppled in Burnaby

Mike Hurley ousted incumbent Derek Corrigan to become Mayor of Burnaby. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

In Burnaby, the epicentre of the country's battle for and against the Trans Mountain Pipeline, former firefighter Mike Hurley won over incumbent mayor Derek Corrigan and his party, the Burnaby Citizens Association.

Corrigan has served council for 31 years. He is a staunch opponent to the pipeline. But many have criticized him for "demovictions" that have razed affordable rental homes in favour of new, higher-priced condominiums. 

Hurley, a political novice, painted his opponent as out-of-touch and tone-deaf on the issues facing Burnaby residents concerned about development and housing.

While Corrigan was pushed out of office, seven of the city's eight council seats were taken by members of his party.

The eighth seat was won by Green Party candidate Joe Keithley, the colourful former frontman of legendary Vancouver punk band D.O.A.

Victoria and Vancouver Island

In the provincial capital, Victoria, incumbent mayor Lisa Helps has kept her title. 

It was shaping up to be a three-way contest for the mayor's chair between Helps and two challengers without previous electoral experience: business consultant Stephen Hammond and political consultant Mike Geoghegan.

In 2014, Helps unseated the last mayor, Dean Fortin, by only 89 votes

Victoria has shed its sleepy reputation as home to "newlyweds and nearly deads" and ushered in a more urban, modern vibe.

But the rising popularity of the city has seen skyrocketing rents, pushing housing and affordability to the top of the agenda. How people get around a busier city also shaped up as a ballot box issue.

Affordability is a major issue across Vancouver Island, with tent cities popping up throughout the region. 

In neighbouring Saanich, incumbent Mayor Richard Atwell was defeated by Fred Haynes, a city councillor. 

Haynes's platform focused on various measures to improve access to a mix of different types of housing. Atwell faced a tumultuous term as mayor with police hacking allegations. 

And NDP MLA Leonard Krog is Nanaimo's new mayor. Krog has promised to step down from his provincial seat and force a byelection, which could have implications for the balance of power in B.C.'s legislature.

Okanagan and the Southern Interior

The Okanagan is B.C.'s traditional and reliable conservative heartland.

It is changing, however. This election, the municipal campaign in Kelowna was a battle over the city's identity. And the two men leading the race personified the possibilities.

Incumbent Colin Basran kept his seat. His tenure as mayor has been marked by growth and development, but urban problems like homelessness and crime have followed that success.

Homelessness, development, housing and inclusiveness were all election issues for the largest city in B.C.'s southern Interior, which boasts four-season recreation and a high quality of life for residents.

Kelowna mayoral candidates, from left, Bobby Kennedy, Colin Basran, Bob Schewe and Tom Dyas debated leadership, inclusiveness and the issue of homelessness in an election forum hosted by CBC Kelowna and UBC Okanagan. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Opponent Tom Dyas promised a return to the Okanagan's more conservative roots — he's a no-nonsense, tax-cutting, small businessman reminiscent of the valley's Socred past.

Meanwhile in Penticton and Vernon, the growing homeless population and each city's response dominated the discussion.

In smaller communities, where there are few condos and little foreign investment, the election has been fought on the traditional questions of transparency, taxes and accountability.  

Incumbent mayor Andrew Jakubeit was ousted in Penticton by former councillor John Vassilaki, and Vernon elected new Victor Cumming. 

Prince George and the North

There were a few changes in mayors in northern B.C.'s major cities.

In Prince George, Mayor Lyn Hall scored a decisive re-election victory over Willy Ens, a political newcomer who largely abandoned campaigning for the position.

The arrival of Ens did require Hall to campaign rather than rest on his laurels in an election that had tough questions about homeless camps, needles in front yards, city hall wages, and the perennial issue of aging infrastructure.

All six incumbent councillors were re-elected alongside two new faces, both under 35, making the city's council 25 per cent millennial.

Elsewhere, incumbent mayors were re-elected in Fort St. John, Williams Lake, Smithers, Kitimat and Dawson Creek — while incumbent Bill Streeper was ousted in Fort Nelson in favour of former councillor Gary Foster.

For B.C.'s northeast and northwest, ensuring local communities are able to benefit from the resources in the region was a central issue in campaigns.

About the Author

Maryse Zeidler

@MaryseZeidler

Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca.