As we head into the last week of this year’s municipal campaign, we wanted to share with you our report card on the Vancouver candidates’ positions on voting reform. In partnership with our friends at the Fair Vote Canada Vancouver chapter, we invited all candidates for mayor and council to respond to a survey asking whether they (1) support the City of Vancouver switching to a more proportional voting system, (2) support expanding the voting systems that Vancouver and other BC cities are allowed to choose from (which we refer to as “Local Choice”, and (3) oppose a single-member ward system for Vancouver.
We received responses from the mayoral candidates shown in the table below (no responses from Ken Sim (ABC) or Fred Harding (NPA)). We have colour-coded the responses related to support for Proportional Representation or Local Choice, as these are key issues for municipal reform.
Note on the Wards Issue: We asked candidates for their position on switching to the ward system since mayor Kennedy Stewart has promised to do this if re-elected. “Wards” typically refers to single member districts elected using a standard first-past-the-post ballot, so they have all the same representational problems as First Past the Post used for provincial and federal elections. There is debate as to whether or not wards would be an improvement over the current At Large Block Voting system that Vancouver uses (there are pros and cons either way), but they would certainly not be proportional in and of themselves, so most electoral reform advocates consider them at best a “lateral move”, as OneCity puts it. We are concerned that introducing wards could stall future progress towards voting reform, so we are generally opposed to making this change now, and have therefore included candidates’ positions for your consideration.
Overall, only some of the independent candidates earn A-level grades here (A+ to Raunet and Popat, who have actively advocated for voting reform in the past and A- to Shottha), with Kennedy Stewart (Forward Together) and Mark Marissen (Progress Vancouver) having some positive elements (both indicate an openness to change in the future, but this should be balanced against the consideration that Stewart, in particular, has been mayor for four years and did relatively little on this file; he certainly did not invest any political capital in moving the discussion forward). Colleen Hardwick and her TEAM are solidly opposed to more inclusive voting systems, advocating instead for creating a network of neighbourhood councils.
Responses from candidates for city council are shown below. If a party responded on behalf of all its members, we show the party name (plus the party’s mayoral candidate’s last name, if applicable). If a candidate responded on their own behalf and they were the only representative of their party, we show their name along with their party affiliation (including independents).
Our Top Choices
Overall, OneCity, the Green Party, and COPE emerge as our top choices in terms of party commitment. These parties have a history of advocacy for electoral reform, along with clear commitments to a range of positive democratic reforms in their party platforms. As mentioned above, some individuals from COPE offered additional personal comments in favour of reform. Some specific candidates from other parties, including Lesli Boldt (Vision), and Alvin Singh and Tessica Truong (Forward Together) have previously advocated for voting and other democratic reforms. Other parties and candidates, as indicated above, have indicated support for our key requests, but have not had a similar history of advocacy.
Worthy of Consideration
The Affordable Housing Coalition, Forward Together (as a party), and Progress Vancouver are worthy of consideration. AHC generally expresses support for wards with proportional voting, though it’s a bit unclear how they imagine this working. Forward Together wishes to move towards wards now, but expresses openness to considering proportional representation in future, though they didn’t lay out a plan for when or how they would do this. Progress Vancouver is likewise open to considering such a system, but did not lay out a plan or timetable for achieving it.
Based on TEAM‘s opposition to reform, as well as the presence of No campaign activist Bill Tieleman on their slate of candidates, we recommend against supporting any of the TEAM candidates. We have had no response from Ken Sim (A Better City) or Fred Harding (NPA), so cannot recommend them either.
We hope you find this analysis helpful as you consider how to cast your vote in the coming days.
Yours for a stronger democracy,
President, Fair Voting BC