Voters in downtown Vancouver casting ballots Saturday to elect a new mayor and council said housing was the top campaign issue, with public safety and support for vulnerable people also on their minds.
Across British Columbia voters in villages, towns and cities headed to the polls to vote for local candidates who made promises this fall to tackle the big issues confronting almost every community.
“I think that definitely housing is a priority for everyone in Vancouver,” said artist Taz Soleil. “For me, housing, especially for marginalized people, is a priority.”
Soleil said she backed candidates who promised more housing options and supports for low income people.
Margaret Haugen, who accompanied a friend to vote at downtown Vancouver’s Roundhouse Community Center, said affordable housing was the issue she was most concerned about this election.
“The Downtown Eastside has just gotten progressively worse,” said Haugen, adding too many people there are living on the streets.
From Vancouver and Surrey to the smaller Interior communities of Princeton and Clearwater, campaigns focused on issues that typically fall beyond the municipal realm, such as affordable housing, health care, violent crime and mental health and addiction.
Incumbent Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, facing a strong challenge from businessman Ken Sim, promised to triple the city’s housing goal over the next decade to 220,000 homes, while providing Canada’s strongest renter protections.
Stewart and Sim are among 15 mayoral candidates in Vancouver.
Vancouver released data showing increased numbers of advance voters this year compared to 2018.
In the 2022 election 65,026 people voted in advance polls in Vancouver, up from 48,986 in 2018.
The advance polling results were different in Victoria, the city said in a statement.
In 2022 4,613 people voted in advance polls in Victoria, slightly less than the 4,791 people who cast advance ballots in 2018.
In Clearwater, incumbent Mayor Merlin Blackwell said health care was the top issue in his North Thompson community, where the local hospital’s emergency department experiences regular closures.
He said small-town issues of dog parks and potholes were on the back burner in this campaign with residents wanting local government to improve health care and fight crime.
In Surrey, incumbent Mayor Doug McCallum faced consecutive challenges, first at the ballot box against seven other candidates, then in court on Oct. 31 as he faces trial on a charge of public mischief.