In some Metro Vancouver municipalities, the candidates who will participate in this year’s municipal elections are practically finalized. There are still rumours about who could jump in, as well as an unexpected late resignation in a well-established political party in Vancouver.
When Research Co. and Glacier Media talked to likely voters in Metro Vancouver last week, almost two in five (38 per cent) identified housing as the most important issue facing their municipality. Property taxes made it to double digits (11 per cent), followed by crime (nine per cent), climate change (also nine per cent) and COVID-19 (eight per cent).
Housing is the top issue across seven different regions, but in varying degrees. It reaches 55 per cent among likely voters in Burnaby, Richmond and New Westminster, 38 per cent in the Tri-Cities, 37 per cent in the North Shore and 36 per cent in Vancouver.
There are other unique regional nuances. Concerns over property taxes reach 19 per cent in the Tri-Cities, while crime stands at 18 per cent in Surrey and 13 per cent in Delta, White Rock, the City of Langley and the Township of Langley. Congestion, at six per cent across Metro Vancouver, surges to 19 per cent on the North Shore.
The performance of mayors can also serve as a way to measure animosity in an election year. While 54 per cent of Vancouver likely voters are satisfied with the performance of Kennedy Stewart, only 23 per cent of their counterparts in Surrey feel the same way about Doug McCallum.
Satisfaction with mayors is high in the Tri-Cities (64 per cent), the North Shore (61 per cent) and in Burnaby, Richmond and New Westminster (53 per cent). The numbers are decidedly lower in Delta, White Rock, the City of Langley and the Township of Langley (40 per cent) and in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge (also 40 per cent).
When it comes to the assessment of councils as a whole, the rating is particularly good in the Tri-Cities (62 per cent) and the North Shore (61 per cent). In the other regions, fewer than half of likely voters are satisfied with their council: 47 per cent in Burnaby, Richmond and New Westminster, 37 per cent in Vancouver, 36 per cent in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, 34 per cent in Delta, White Rock, the City of Langley and the Township of Langley and a Metro Vancouver-low of 28 per cent in Surrey.
Almost half of likely voters in Metro Vancouver (47 per cent) are satisfied with the state of affairs in their municipality. The highest number is seen in the Tri-Cities (68 per cent) and the lowest in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge (20 per cent). The political dynamic is different in each one of these two municipalities, as Mayor Bill Dingwall will not run again in Pitt Meadows, while Mike Morden will seek a new term in Maple Ridge.
Public safety is satisfactory for 55 per cent of Metro Vancouverites – a proportion that reaches 81 per cent on the North Shore. In Surrey, currently governed by the Safe Surrey Coalition, only 39 per cent of likely voters are content with how crime has been dealt with.
We find large majorities of likely voters in Metro Vancouver expressing satisfaction with cleanliness in their municipality (67 per cent) and with the quality of services they enjoy (64 per cent). Once again, the Tri-Cities dominate, with 82 per cent of likely voters saying they are happy with services. The rating is also high in Burnaby, Richmond and New Westminster (76 per cent), Delta, White Rock, the City of Langley and the Township of Langley (69 per cent) and the North Shore (also 69 per cent).
A couple of months ago, we learned that majorities of likely voters in Vancouver favoured both moving to a “ward system” for council (58 per cent) and exploring the idea of amalgamation in the Metro area (51 per cent).
The two concepts are not particularly popular in smaller municipalities. While 45 per cent of likely voters in Metro Vancouver would favour abandoning the “at-large system” (where voters select individual councillors), the only cities with majority support for this change are the largest ones: Vancouver (60 per cent) and Surrey (53 per cent).
A similar scenario ensues when likely voters in Metro Vancouver are asked if amalgamation should be contemplated. We see more than two in five (44 per cent) supporting this notion, with high numbers once again in Surrey (53 per cent) and Vancouver (52 per cent). Everywhere else, amalgamation is not enthusiastically backed. It has a particularly dismal showing in Delta, White Rock, the City of Langley and the Township of Langley (23 per cent) and Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge (13 per cent).
With just over two months to go in the municipal election campaigns, Metro Vancouverites are primarily concerned about housing. With the exception of the Tri-Cities, fewer than half of likely voters in the region are satisfied with the work of their councils. This makes the concept of slates incredibly valuable for contenders, even in municipalities that have usually not embraced them. If voters are upset about what they perceive as a gridlocked city hall, they will be seeking teams – not just names – to steer policy through.
Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.
Results are based on an online study conducted from August 3 to August 6, 2022, among 800 likely voters in Metro Vancouver. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error – which measures sample variability – is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.