British Columbia

Who are the 3,321 people running for local office in B.C.?

Local politics are sometimes considered the "lowest" level of government in Canada, but there's nothing small about the number of people involved in elections.

A chart-based look at how election season is playing out

Vancouverites will have 158 names on their election ballot on Oct. 20. Most other municipalities will have considerably fewer. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Local politics are sometimes considered the "lowest" level of government in Canada, but there's nothing small about the number of people involved in elections. 

The deadline has now passed for people to remove their name from ballots in British Columbia's local elections, scheduled for Oct. 20. 

Based on data from CivicInfo B.C., a grand total of 3,321 people have put their name forward, all hoping to become a mayor, councillor, regional director, school district trustee, park commissioner, or a councillor with the Islands Trust. 

That sounds like a lot — and it is — but based on the data that candidates must submit with their applications, there are a few other pieces of information we can glean. 

The number involved is stable...

While the duration of the municipal election cycle increased from three years to four this decade — and the number of requirements under new campaign finance laws has increased, it hasn't dissuaded B.C. residents from taking the plunge for local office. 

The 3,321 people running this year includes six more people than the last election in 2014 — and is remarkably close to the 2011 numbers as well.

..but the number of incumbents are dropping

While the number of longtime Metro Vancouver mayors not seeking re-election got the most attention, the issue of incumbents stepping aside was a more common theme than in previous election cycles across B.C.

The number of mayors seeking re-election across B.C. dropped from 75 per cent in 2014 to 65 per cent this year. For councillors, the drop went from 67 to 61 per cent, and for electoral area directors, it went from 82 to 73 per cent.  

The reasons cited by retiring politicians included the longer terms in office, new campaign finance laws, and the negative effects of social media. 

More of them are women...

But not by much. 

This election, 38 per cent of candidates running for local office in B.C. are women, up from 37 per cent in 2014. 

"The increase is obviously positive, we like to see it in an upward direction, but the very small increase is reflective of the slow progress we've seen at other levels at well," said Grace Lore, a University of Victoria political scientist who studies gender issues and is also running for Victoria council.

"It does point to the need to continue to have these conversations to identify barriers and to really move on some of the solutions."

Male mayors

As seen in the above graph, while the majority of school trustee candidates are women, just one quarter of mayoral candidates are female.

Another way of looking at is exploring which first names are most common for people running for mayor. There are 14 candidates named John hoping to lead a B.C. municipality, 11 Davids, 10 Mikes, 7 Bobs ... and on and on we go.

In fact, the 18 most common first names are all men's names, and combined, those names make up 105 people running for mayor in B.C. this election. Meanwhile, there are 108 women running for mayor, total.

Crowded ballots in big cities

Unsurprisingly, the municipalities with the most number of names tend to be in B.C.'s most populated cities. 

But there are some outliers: Peachland has fewer than 6,000 residents, but six people are running for mayor. And Squamish has more council candidates than 14 municipalities in Metro Vancouver. 


Some towns are taking a pass

There are 161 B.C. municipalities with people in it  (thanks, Jumbo Glacier), but five of them have no competition for the mayor or council races. 

"I expected somebody would run against me, and the same for the council members, but we're a pretty tight knit community," said Ron McLaughlin, the only mayoral candidate in Lions Bay.

Communitiies such as Lytton, Radium Hot Springs, Zeballos and the Highlands are the other municipalities where all candidates will win by acclamation. 

Still, McLaughlin says he will continue to campaign. 

"You want to keep people engaged," he said. 

"Literally, in our place, you only get the mail at one spot. So it's impossible for any elected person not to meet ten of your constituents every time you get the mail." 

About the Author

Justin McElroy


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