There are many closely contested races in this year’s local elections. Here are the races I will be watching when B.C. communities go to the polls on Saturday:
Drama in B.C.’s three largest cities
A tough three-way race for mayor with three experienced Surrey politicians. Will septuagenarian Doug McCallum return after a 13-year absence from the mayor’s chair?
It’s a race that no one expected among candidates that few in Vancouver had heard of a year ago. Former Burnaby-South NDP MP Kennedy Stewart thinks it’s his to lose. Will the new mayor, whoever it is, have a council that person can work with?
The Corrigan machine is legendary in Burnaby. Mayor Derek Corrigan has faced scant opposition over the past 16 years … until now. Retired firefighter Mike Hurley is drawing support from the left and the right and is promoting polls showing that he’s in the lead. It’s Corrigan’s toughest race. Will the wily veteran pull out a win?
Hot races around Metro Vancouver
Recently retired city manager George Harvie is being backed by outgoing mayor Lois Jackson. In fact, Jackson is running on Harvie’s slate. He’s up against former police chief Jim Cessford and Coun. Sylvia Bishop, a former NDP candidate, who won the most votes in the 2014 council election. They are all well-known personalities in Delta. My question is: will North Delta crown the winner?
City of North Vancouver
The hottest race of the two in North Vancouver is in the city. Coun. Linda Buchanan is following in the footsteps of outgoing mayor Darrell Mussatto. Challenging her is Coun. Rod Clark and former councillor and school trustee Guy Heywood. Rounding out the contenders is Kerry Morris, who ran for mayor in 2014, garnering a respectable 44 per cent of the vote. In a crowded field, it may be Buchanan’s to lose.
District of West Vancouver
Two councillors, Mary-Ann Booth and Christine Cassidy, jumped in the race to replace outgoing mayor Michael Smith, who was not contested in 2014. Returning from political retirement is Mark Sager, who was a youthful school trustee, councillor, and mayor in the 1980s and 1990s. After a 20+ year absence, does West Vancouver want to go back to Sager?
Another race between three well-known and experienced candidates. Former two-term mayor Ernie Daykin is seeking to return after losing in 2014. His replacement, Nicole Read, decided not to run again. Daykin faces longtime Coun. Craig Speirs and former councillor Mike Morden. Daykin has won before, Speirs draws from the NDP base. Can Morden put a coalition of his own supporters together to win?
Next door, one-term Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker is being challenged by council colleague and former RCMP superintendent Bill Dingwall. They’re not mincing words out there. The race has generated some heat and strong turnout in advance polls. With only eight Metro Vancouver mayors seeking re-election, will Becker be one of the incumbents on the outside looking in on election night?
Nine-year Coun. Grant Meyer is moving up to run for mayor as candidate for the White Rock Coalition. He’s being challenged by rival slate Democracy Direct, led by former BCGEU president Darryl Walker. Rounding out the candidates are longtime Surrey Coun. Judy Higginbotham, who is well-known in the area, and Mike Pearce, who, if elected, will probably be the first person in B.C. history to be the mayor of three communities. He’s already done the job in Quesnel and Penticton. Can Walker pull off a win in a community that hasn’t elected many from organized labour?
On the Island
The race was moving about as fast as a statue, until the statue of John A. Macdonald was moved. Mayor Lisa Helps faced a barrage of criticism and apologized. Stephen Hammond is challenging Helps. He is running with a new civic slate and had earlier started “Mad as Hell,” a group of residents frustrated with the “tent city” at the Victoria courthouse. Will Helps earn a second term after the pre-election controversy?
WATCH BELOW: Top civic election issues in Victoria
Mayor Richard Atwell started his term in a storm of controversy in 2014. He was alienated from his council, but things became less controversial as time went on. Now, he’s a contender for re-election against council colleague Fred Haynes. If Atwell wins, it would demonstrate that the best cure for controversy is time.
Passed over for a cabinet post, it was still a surprise that Nanaimo NDP MLA Leonard Krog decided to leave provincial politics to become mayor of Nanaimo. Nanaimo has been the poster-child of council dysfunction over the past four years and Krog believes he can restore the city’s reputation. The consequence of Krog winning is that it forces a provincial byelection that could jeopardize the B.C. NDP’s hold on government. Former Vancouver Island University and Island Health chair Don Hubbard would like to prevent that scenario by becoming mayor himself.
There is a spirited four-way race for mayor between Coun. Susan Chapelle, Coun. Karen Elliot, who has earned the endorsement of outgoing mayor Patricia Heintzman, Coun. Paul Lalli, who spent almost 20 years on council, and CUPE-backed candidate Jeff Cooke, who has been involved with off-road cycling. It’s been a feisty campaign. Will the winner be able to unite the community?
A controversy over a waterslide has been front and centre in this election with Mayor Andrew Jakubeit in a hotly contested race against 2014 mayoral candidate and former councillor John Vassilaki and Jason Cox, a local businessman and former chair of the Chamber of Commerce.
Mayor Colin Basran is looking for his second term. His main challenger is Tom Dyas, who became a voice for the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce after a controversial wet facility for the homeless opened its doors. One of Dyas’s business interests is … a waterslide proposal in Penticton.
WATCH BELOW: Naloxone lessons offered to Kelowna civic election candidates
What about the Kootenays?
A quick tour of the Kootenays reveals some lively races.
Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano is facing a challenge from an incumbent councillor, and also a longtime civic employee. In nearby Sparwood, former Conservative MP David Wilks is looking to make a political comeback as mayor. Creston Mayor Ron Toyota promoted a referendum on a fire hall, which failed. He faces two challengers, one of whom is a member of the Blackmore family, who are numerous.
Nelson sees a rematch between incumbent Mayor Deb Kozak and former mayor John Dooley. Kozak bested Dooley in 2014. In Castlegar, four-term Mayor Lawrence Chernoff faces a challenge from two incumbent councillors.
And in Trail, where incumbent Mike Martin is not running again, Coun. Lisa Pasin is facing off against two first-time candidates for mayor. Curiously, while there are three candidates for mayor, the candidates for all six council spots will be acclaimed after a seventh candidate dropped out.
Finally, in small-town B.C.
Zeballos and Stewart
In 2014, Zeballos was the voter turnout capital of the province with 88 per cent of its 102 residents turning out to vote. Will Zeballos reclaim its throne in 2018? Sadly, no. All of Zeballos council has been acclaimed. The 2014 silver medalist, the northwest B.C. community of Stewart, has 13 candidates seeking six council positions plus a referendum to reduce the size of council to four from six. Let’s see if Stewart can take the turnout crown in 2018.
Mike McDonald is chief strategy officer with Kirk & Co., senior research associate with Pollara Strategic Insights, and served as chief of staff to former B.C. premier Christy Clark.
Tune into Global News and BC1 coverage of the local elections to see how your candidates are standing out in your community.