Five Things to Know about BC’s 2018 Local Elections

Written by Patrick Smith

    1. All BC municipal elections are held every four years on the third Saturday in October – thus on October 20, 2018
    2. Local elections in BC are “at large” contests, unlike the rest of Canada, meaning that municipal councillors in BC are not elected in wards. Every municipal councillor in BC is elected by voters across the entire municipality.
    3. The City of Vancouver has the most developed local political party system in Canada; one of Vancouver’s political parties, the Non-Partisan Association, dates back to the 1930s. For the 2018 City elections, there will be at least nine – and possibly up to a dozen – local parties vying for mayor and council seats (COPE, Coalition Vancouver, Green, One City, NPA, Pro Vancouver, Yes Vancouver, Vision with several others still pending just three months from the vote). There are also multiple Independent contestants such as NDP MP and anti-pipeline activist Kennedy Stewart and ex-Tory MP Wai Young.
    4. The 2018 municipal elections will be the first local elections fought under BC’s new local election finance rules, which limit contributions and spending and ban corporate and union donations. The new local election finance rules were designed to confront BC’s “Wild West” democratic image and are administrated by BC’s Chief Electoral Officer and Elections BC. Aside from the campaign finance administration, the elections themselves are locally administered.
    5. Unlike “megacities” like Toronto or Calgary, which incorporate diverse urban and suburban communities within a single municipality, municipalities in BC’s metropolitan areas are largely unamalgamated. In Metro Vancouver, this means that there are 21 individual elections this fall, ranging from municipalities of about 700 population (the Village of Belcarra) up to about 650,000 population (the City of Vancouver).

All of these features of BC’s municipal elections – at-large elections, local political parties, fragmented metropolitan areas – make cross-Canadian local election comparisons more complicated when BC municipalities are in the mix. A great deal of work remains to be done to understand how these features of municipal elections in BC affect municipal accountability, responsiveness, and policymaking in Canada’s third-largest province.

Patrick Smith is a Professor and Director of the Institute of Governance Studies at Simon Fraser University. 

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