British Columbia·Metro Matters

West Vancouver voters may face a third straight election with no competition for mayor

Councillor Mary-Ann Booth is the only person in the running for mayor so far.

'We’re losing our police, our fire, our nurses, our teachers,' says the only candidate running so far

A view from Dundrave Park in the District of West Vancouver. (District of West Vancouver)

In most Metro Vancouver municipalities, there are multiple candidates already running for mayor. 

And in most of those municipalities, one of those candidates is criticizing the path taken on development and housing issues. 

But in West Vancouver?

There's only one person running — two-term councillor Mary-Ann Booth — and she is happy to take on the mantle of the status quo. 

"Mayor Smith and I, of all the councillors, voted the most alike," said Booth, referring to current mayor Michael Smith, who was the only candidate to run in 2011 and 2014. 

West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith has not said whether he will run again.

"So on the policy side, we think very similarly, and his vision, I think for the community is very similar."

Smith hasn't officially said whether he'll run again, saying it's tradition to wait until the nomination period in September before declaring.

But he hasn't shown any indication he would challenge Booth, and during a debate this month over regulating cannabis, he poked fun at the political culture of the municipality he's led for seven years.  

"Things move slowly in West Vancouver," he said.

So too, it appears, do election seasons.  

More (and smaller) supply

But while Booth says she would follow Smith's vision, she would move quicker on what is in vogue in many of Metro Vancouver's suburban communities: densifying town centres to provide more housing diversity at lower prices — both for families that can't afford the multi-million-dollar, single-family homes that dominate the city, and older couples looking to downsize from those same houses. 

"There are things that we definitely have to roll up our sleeves and get down to business and move things along," she said. 

"Now that [speculation issues] have been addressed to a certain extent, we can turn up the supply from a diversity standpoint: smaller units, rental units, workforce housing."

Booth said she understands not everyone in the municipality is on board with that, noting the intense division to two recently approved towers at Park Royal. 

"The rubber is going to hit the road when it's people's backyards. I'm a realist," she said. 

"People are in favour of [density] in a general way, but once they do see where it goes, I'm not fooling myself, there's going to be objections."

Population dropping

But the municipality may be more accepting of increasing density than others in the region.

According to census data, the population of West Vancouver decreased between 2011 and 2016, making it the only municipality in B.C. over 15,000 people to do so. 

Mary-Ann Booth is a two-term West Vancouver councillor.

Add in the fact the average price of a single-detached home is now $3 million (a number that is down six per cent from a year ago), and Booth believes there's a general willingness to accept changes that would have been unfathomable a few short years ago. 

"We're losing our police, our fire, our nurses, our teachers from this community. We had 13 teachers leave one school in the fall … for professionals making six figures, right now they can't afford to buy here, forget it," she said. 

Still, this is West Vancouver. The changes Booth is thinking of include a new track field at a secondary school, a new cultural centre, and a thousand extra people living in the Ambleside neighbourhood. 

"Are we going to be able to support a barista? Likely not. We've got to be realistic about how affordable West Van is going to be," she said.  

"People love it here, they love the natural environment … a small-town feel, the village feel. I think the challenge will be to balance that with making changes. We do need to change as a community in order to thrive."

Some may oppose that change. But with less than two months until nominations have to be filed, time is ticking for that opposition to produce a candidate. 

CBC Vancouver is exploring the mayoral campaigns in each of Metro Vancouver's 21 municipalities leading up to civic elections on Oct. 20.

Read more from CBC British Columbia

About the Author

Justin McElroy

@j_mcelroy

Justin is the Municipal Affairs Reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering local political stories throughout British Columbia.