British Columbia·Metro Matters

If John Horgan wanted to cut the number of Metro Vancouver politicians in half, could he?

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Yes. He could. He could also require they all wear red socks. He won’t. But he could

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The Big Issue

There's this thing we do in the media where if something bad/tragic/weird happens somewhere else, the local TV anchor will reference it and then gravely intone: "Could it happen here?"

So, in light of Doug Ford's decision to reduce the number of Toronto councillors from 44 to 25, let us ask: Could it happen here?

And the answer is, sure! Municipalities are essentially creations of the provincial government, governed in B.C. by the "Community Charter" everywhere but Vancouver, which is governed by the "Vancouver Charter."

Which means that if the provincial government wanted to amend legislation so Vancouver had six councillors instead of 10, that could happen. If the government wanted Pitt Meadows to have three councillors that were elected every 82 days, that could happen  too. If the government wanted every council meeting with a town crier wearing an old-timey hat and shouting "LET THE GAMES BEGIN!" that … you get the picture.

Toronto council's reduction is a reminder that Metro Vancouver has an incredible amount of representation on a per capita basis.  Toronto currently has approximately one councillor for every 62,081 people (based on 2016 census figures). Ford's reduction would make it one councillor for every 109,263. In Metro Vancouver, we have one councillor for every 18,383 people.

(But it's not even across the region. Scroll down to the Chart Of The Week for more details!)

It's also a reminder of how little B.C.'s provincial government fiddles with municipal laws. In one recent case, people asked the government to step in when a council is dysfunctional, and it did nothing.

In another case, people asked the government to prevent convicted criminals from becoming mayor, and it did nothing.   

Sometimes, the historical reluctance by B.C. governments to interfere with municipal governance (unless asked through a UBCM resolution) can seem frustrating. But the events in Toronto last week show it's important to be careful what you wish for. 

The headlines

Vancouver's election of city councillors is mostly firmed up now, with all of the major parties having announced their candidates. It looks as though around 40 or 50 people will be on the ballot, and if that seems higher than usual, it really isn't: there were 49 in 2014 and 41 in 2011.   

— You know how we said in the last newsletter that there's likely going to be no competition for the mayor of West Vancouver again, like, for the third time. Well! It's happening — for the first time in a decade! Coun. Christine Cassidy is running against fellow Coun. Mary-Ann Booth on the ballot.

As we've mentioned in other newsletters, virtually every mayor's race in Metro Vancouver is coming down to an establishment candidate in favour of densifying town centres (generally the mayor or a long-term councillor who supports the retiring mayor) and a candidate against that growth. It's the same in West Vancouver. Here are some of Cassidy's points:

— Peter Fassbender is returning to municipal politics. He served as Langley's mayor for three terms before being elected as a B.C. Liberal in 2013. Then, he was defeated in the 2017 election and after a year's break, he is running for the mayoral position in his hometown.

— Let's turn to the issue that Vancourites love to gripe about: bike lanes! Normally, this is sure to be an election issue, but maybe not anymore. But we still asked several candidates where they stand on the issue, because some of you (Tamara included) bike a fair bit. And here's how the camps divided:

  • Reduce them: Wai Young.
  • Keep them (with caveats): Hector Bremner, David Chen and Kem Sim.
  • Continue expanding: Ian Campbell, Kennedy Stewart and Shauna Sylvester.
(Jacy Schindel/CBC)


(Got questions about the municipal elections? Tamara will answer them here and thanks in advance!)

Do the municipal election candidates get any public financing for their campaigns? Do the incumbents have any advantage? If you're a super rich candidate, do you get to personally bankroll your own campaign and outspend everyone else? And does money even really matter at this level? - John Ng

If you're super rich, that's great for you, but it's not going to make your campaign any glitzier. There are MANY rules, all laid out on the Elections B.C. website, but here's a summary:

Candidates can only accept campaign contributions from someone who is a resident of B.C., and a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

For the 2018 elections, contributions to each independent candidate are limited to $1,200 annually. For candidates endorsed by a civic political party, the $1,200 limit applies to the whole party and all of its endorsed candidates in a jurisdiction.

Endorsed candidates can also collectively contribute an additional $1,200 to their party.

The exception is independents who can make a cheque out to themselves, but that's capped at $2,400 in the year of the election.

How much you can spend during the campaign period differs from each electoral area and the office you're seeking (mayor, councillor, park board commissioner and trustee). For example, a mayoral candidate in Vancouver can drop a whopping $210,174.60 vs. $27,859.64 in Maple Ridge.

Unlike provincial elections, where there are annual allowances for public financing, there is no such thing in municipal elections. The financing rules are also the same for incumbents and new candidates, so there's no advantage there beyond the obvious one — name recognition.

Lastly, does money matter? Yes, always, but not as much as door knocking and getting people out to vote. These elections aren't glam, so voter turnout, while usually low, can make all the difference.

Side note: this is the first election that will be held in B.C. after the campaign financing rules changed last year.

Got more questions? We really, really want to hear from you so drop us a line at

Better know a mayor's race

(Every week, Justin is profiling a different mayoral race in Metro Vancouver.)

With Peter Fassbender trying to become mayor of Langley for a second time, what does that mean for the candidates who have already declared?

Well, one of them (Paul Albrecht) said he was considering dropping out of the race, while the other (Val van den Broek) didn't want to draw any contrast with Fassbender, instead emphasizing the work the current council had done to expand and rebuild the city's park and trail infrastructure. Neither of them had any big promises of what they would do differently from current Mayor Ted Schaffer.


We finally have a candidate in Port Coquitlam! As reported by the Tri-City News, three-term councillor Brad West has announced his candidacy to replace the retiring Greg Moore. He topped the polls in 2011 and 2014, so expect him to be the presumptive favourite

Can tax reform solve Vancouver's affordability crisis? OneCity is proposing a land value capture tax to put a damper on speculation. Jen St. Denis goes into the nitty gritty of how it would work, but with the party running nobody for mayor and just two people for council, we wonder how likely it would come to pass.

The never-ending debate of how much politicians should be paid continues. Like any political issue too thorny for politicians to want to touch, how much Metro Vancouver's board makes has been sent to an independent panel. Jennifer Saltman has the details.

Chart of the week!

We've gone two weeks without a chart, and Justin loves charts, so let's give you some bar-based statistical goodness.

Three thoughts:

1. Belcarra being its own municipality within Metro Vancouver will always be amusing for statistical quirks like this. For example, its population went down by 0.2% from 2011 to 2016 … which means it went from 644 to 643.

2. Do Richmond and Burnaby have too many councillors or do Vancouver and Surrey have too few councillors? Discuss. (Or don't. It's your life.)

3. It's almost shocking how close the ratio was between Toronto, Vancouver and Surrey, prior to the Ontario government's announcement.

That's it for us this week! Check out the latest headlines at and follow our municipal affairs reporter, Justin McElroy or social media editor Tamara Baluja on Twitter. If you have any questions about the municipal election, drop Justin and Tamara a line at


  • An earlier version of this article said Brad West was running for mayor of Port Moody. In fact, he is running for mayor of Port Coquitlam.
    Aug 02, 2018 11:29 AM PT