Government and politics of Vancouver

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Vancouver, unlike other British Columbia municipalities, is incorporated under a unique provincial statute, the Vancouver Charter.[1] The legislation, passed in 1953, supersedes the Vancouver Incorporation Act, 1921 and grants the city more and different powers than other communities possess under BC's Municipalities Act.

The city is governed by the 10-member Vancouver City Council, a nine-member School Board, and a seven-member Park Board, all elected for four-year terms. Unusually for a city of Vancouver's size, all municipal elections are at-large. In addition, residents of Vancouver vote for representatives in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia and the House of Commons of Canada.

Historically, in all levels of government, the more affluent west side of Vancouver has voted along conservative or centre-right lines while the working-class eastern side of the city has voted along left-wing lines. However, in the 2015 federal election and the 2017 provincial election, the west side of Vancouver has shifted more towards left-wing candidates.

Unlike most other municipalities in Canada (aside from Montreal), Vancouver's civic politics operate under a system of locally based political parties, rather than unaligned independents.[2]


Larry Campbell's election as mayor in 2002 was in part due to his willingness to champion alternative interventions for drug issues, such as supervised injection sites. The city has adopted a Four Pillars Drug Strategy, which combines harm reduction (e.g. needle exchanges, supervised injection sites) with treatment, enforcement, and prevention.[3] The strategy is largely a response to the endemic HIV and hepatitis C among injection drug users in the city's Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. The area is characterized by entrenched poverty, and consequently is home to the "low track" street sex trade and a bustling "open air" street drug market, which gave rise to a significant AIDS epidemic in the 1990s. Some community and professional groups—such as From Grief to Action and Keeping the Door Open—are fostering public dialogue in the city about further alternatives to current drug policies.[4][5] The harm reduction strategies appears to have been successful with the deactivation of the St. Paul's Hospital Ward 10C, on May 27, 2014, due to the near-elimination of AIDS cases in British Columbia.[6]

Campbell chose not to run for re-election, and was subsequently appointed to the Senate of Canada. In the 2005 municipal election, the City Council swung back to the right after a term dominated by the leftist Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE). NPA mayoral candidate Sam Sullivan narrowly defeated Jim Green for the position of mayor in 2005 and was joined by five of his party's members on Council. The centre-left Vision Vancouver (VVN) brought four members to Council, with the final seat going to COPE. The NPA also won six of nine School Board seats and five of seven Parks Board seats, while the remaining Board seats were won by COPE.[7]

In the 2008 municipal election campaign, NPA incumbent mayor Sam Sullivan was ousted as mayoral candidate by the party in a close vote, which instated Peter Ladner as the new mayoral candidate for the NPA. Gregor Robertson, a former MLA for Vancouver-Fairview and head of Happy Planet, was the mayoral candidate for Vision Vancouver, the other main contender. Vision Vancouver candidate Gregor Robertson defeated Ladner by a considerable margin, nearing 20,000 votes. The balance of power was significantly shifted to Vision Vancouver, which held seven of the 10 council seats. Of the remaining three, COPE received two and the NPA one. For park commissioner, four spots went to Vision Vancouver, one to the Green Party, one to COPE, and one to the NPA. For school trustee, there were four Vision Vancouver seats, three COPE seats, and two NPA seats.[8]

Municipal representation[edit]


Kennedy Stewart is currently the mayor of Vancouver, as of the 2018 municipal election.[9] He previously served as a federal member of Parliament (MP) for Burnaby South in the House of Commons, as a New Democrat. As mayor, Stewart sits as an independent.

City Council[edit]

Party Name Position
  Independent Kennedy Stewart Mayor
  NPA Rebecca Bligh Councillor
  NPA Melissa De Genova Councillor
  NPA Lisa Dominato Councillor
  NPA Colleen Hardwick Councillor
  NPA Sarah Kirby-Yung Councillor
  Green Adriane Carr Councillor
  Green Pete Fry Councillor
  Green Michael Wiebe Councillor
  COPE Jean Swanson Councillor
  OneCity Christine Boyle Councillor

Park and School boards[edit]

Vancouver Park Board
Commissioners Party
  Stuart MacKinnon Green
  Dave Demers Green
  Camil Dumont Green
  Tricia Barker NPA
  John Coupar NPA
  Gwen Geisbrecht COPE
  John Irwin COPE
Vancouver School Board
Trustees Party
  Lois Chan-Pedley Green
  Janet Fraser Green
  Estrellita Gonzalez Green
  Fraser Ballantyne NPA
  Carmen Cho NPA
  Hanson Oliver NPA
  Jennifer Reddy OneCity
  Barb Parrott COPE
  Allan Wong Vision

2014 election[edit]

2011 election[edit]

2008 election[edit]

2004 plebiscite[edit]

A proposal to change Vancouver's council elections to run on a ward basis (like most major Canadian cities) rather than its at-large system was rejected by the populace in a referendum on October 16, 2004. Only 22% of city residents cast a ballot in this referendum.[10]

2002 election[edit]

Provincial representation[edit]

In the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Vancouver has eleven constituencies. In the 2017 provincial election, the BC Liberal Party won three seats, and the BC New Democratic Party won eight seats.[11]

Riding MLA Party
  Vancouver-Fairview George Heyman NDP
  Vancouver-False Creek Sam Sullivan Liberal
  Vancouver-Fraserview George Chow NDP
  Vancouver-Hastings Shane Simpson NDP
  Vancouver-Kensington Mable Elmore NDP
  Vancouver-Kingsway Adrian Dix NDP
  Vancouver-Langara Michael Lee Liberal
  Vancouver-Mount Pleasant Melanie Mark NDP
  Vancouver-Point Grey David Eby NDP
  Vancouver-Quilchena Andrew Wilkinson Liberal
  Vancouver-West End Spencer Chandra Herbert NDP

Federal representation[edit]

In the House of Commons of Canada, Vancouver has five constituencies. In the 2004 federal elections, the Liberal Party of Canada won four seats, while the New Democratic Party won one. In the 2006 federal elections, all the same MPs were re-elected, although David Emerson of Vancouver Kingsway later defected to the Conservative Party. In the subsequent 2008 federal elections, the Liberals won three seats while the NDP picked up Vancouver Kingsway for a total of two seats. In 2011, the NDP and Liberals both retained two seats each. The Conservatives won one seat, Vancouver South, their first win in the city since 1988.

In the most recent election in 2015, the number of ridings for Vancouver was increased to six, with the Liberals winning four and the NDP winning two.

Riding MP Party
  Vancouver Centre Hedy Fry Liberal
  Vancouver East Jenny Kwan New Democrat
  Vancouver Granville Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal
  Vancouver Kingsway Don Davies New Democrat
  Vancouver Quadra Joyce Murray Liberal
  Vancouver South Harjit Sajjan Liberal


  1. ^ "Vancouver Charter". Queen's Printer (British Columbia). Retrieved 2007-06-07.
  2. ^ Andrew, Caroline; Biles, John; Siemiatycki, Myer; Tolley, Erin, eds. (2008). Electing a Diverse Canada. Vancouver: UBC Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-7748-1485-0.
  3. ^ "Four Pillars Drug Strategy". City of Vancouver. 2001. Retrieved 2007-01-17.
  4. ^ "From Grief to Action". From Grief to Action. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
  5. ^ Maxwell, Gillian. "Keeping the Door Open". AIDS Vancouver. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
  6. ^ "Closing of Vancouver hospital's AIDS ward is symbolic of progress".
  7. ^ "Vancouver Votes November 19, 2005". City of Vancouver. Archived from the original on June 26, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-11.
  8. ^ "Vancouver Votes Municipal Election 2008". City of Vancouver. Retrieved 2009-11-29.
  9. ^ "Election summary - Election 2008". City of Vancouver. Retrieved 2009-10-29.
  10. ^ "Decision 2004: At-large or Wards?". City of Vancouver. Retrieved 2010-12-24.
  11. ^ "2013 Voting Results by Voting Area". Elections BC. Retrieved 2014-02-27.