Search for B.C.'s best small town: Vancouver Island region, Round 1
From 128 communities across the province we'll crown one champion in this (mostly) friendly competition
Picture a small town in British Columbia.
There might be a quaint main street off the side of a highway, in a place where a body of water and mountain meet.
There could be a past involving resource extraction, a future involving debates around climate adaptation and reconciliation, maybe a mayor who left town for the big city after high school but came back to raise a family and dream big for their community.
A block beyond the gas stations there are small businesses that go back generations, but also fitness centres and cannabis outlets. People cheer for the Canucks, but have mixed feelings about Vancouver.
It might look, in other words, a little like Ladysmith.
"If I want to be in nature, it's three minutes away; if I want an urban experience, it's right in front of me," said Mayor Aaron Stone, who leads the Vancouver Island community of 9,000 people.
"You can have it all, where you feel like you're in a place where somebody knows you."
Ladysmith is one of dozens of small towns across British Columbia, part of a backbone of communities that link this province, from Atlin to Zeballos.
But is it the best?
It's bracket time!
After a 2019 competition to find Metro Vancouver's best neighbourhood, we're doing a sequel — but this one is beyond Hope.
The Search for B.C.'s Best Small Town begins today, and over the next seven weeks a friendly competition will determine (unofficially) which community reigns supreme.
We included every community in the province that was either:
- a municipality with under 12,000 people, based on the 2021 Census;
- an unincorporated community, small island or Indigenous community with at least 500 people, based on estimates from the 2021 Census.
A series of play-in votes were conducted last month to narrow the field down to 128 entries, leaving us with 32 towns that roughly fit into each of the following four areas of the province:
- Vancouver Island (voting on Tuesday)
- Southwest B.C. (voting on Wednesday)
- Interior (voting on Thursday)
- The North (voting on Friday)
Each day from Tuesday to Friday, there will be a new series of one-on-one votes in a different region. Each week, we'll narrow the field down — from 128 to 64, 64 to 32, and so on, until we have a champion.
We hope the competition will spur some pride and friendly debate.
But we'll also use the Search for B.C.'s Best Small Town to explore the opportunities and challenges the majority of communities in this province face.
Voting will take place until 10 p.m. PT each day, starting with the first 16 matchups for the Vancouver Island region that you'll find at the end of this article.
Enjoy the competition — and remember to explore the small towns in your region.
"We are not a series of gas stations between Duncan and Nanaimo," said Stone.
"You're doing yourself an injustice if you don't take the exit and the five-minute detour to see what else is out there."