VANCOUVER — Voters in British Columbia brought a broad wave of political change across the province in Saturday’s local elections, with new mayors elected in Vancouver and Surrey, as well as other key communities.
Vancouver businessman Ken Simm defeated Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart in a crushing victory after losing to him by less than 1,000 votes in 2018.
Shim, 63, paid tribute to his immigrant parents in his acceptance speech, referring to the historic election of Vancouver’s first Chinese-Canadian mayor.
“It’s been an unbelievably long road to get here,” Sim said. “135 years after the first Chinese poll tax was paid, Vancouver elected its first Chinese mayor, just for the right to come here and build a railroad.”
“The history of this moment is not lost to me,” he said. “But there is real honor in the man I stand on my shoulders for.”
Sim said he paid tribute to Vancouver’s Chinese-Canadian pioneers, who helped him and others in the city achieve success.
“Thank you for not giving up on your promise to make Vancouver a better city,” Sim said, to cheers and applause from supporters. “See, if you don’t give up, you won’t lose”
Stewart said the past four years have been difficult for Vancouver, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid overdose crisis and the housing crisis, but “I think we’ve come through some pretty tough times.”
The former federal New Democrat congressman said, “This is not the result we wanted. But we have to respect it.”
In Surrey, Mayor Doug McCallum lost to challenger Brenda Locke. Brenda Locke is a member of the Surrey County Council and a former BC Liberal MP.
Locke’s victory speech included a pledge to keep the RCMP in Surrey, despite McCallum’s attempts to replace the Mounties with citizen police.
“We need to keep the Surrey RCMP here in Surrey,” she said.
Local elections also saw big changes across BC with new mayors elected in Kelowna, Kamloops, Penticton and Victoria.
Voters who voted in Vancouver on Saturday said housing was the campaign’s biggest issue, with public safety and helping vulnerable people also in mind.
Voters across BC said they want to see politicians address the big issues facing nearly every community.
“I definitely think housing is a priority for everyone in Vancouver,” said artist Taz Soleil. “For me, housing is a priority, especially for marginalized people.”
Soleil said he backed candidates who promised more housing options and help for low-income earners.
Margaret Haugen, who accompanied a friend to vote at the Roundhouse Community Center in downtown Vancouver, said affordable housing was the top concern in this election.
“Downtown’s East Side is getting worse and worse,” Haugen said, adding that too many people live on the streets.
From Vancouver and Surrey to the small hinterland communities of Princeton and Clearwater, campaigns focused on issues typically beyond the boundaries of local government, such as affordable housing, health care, violent crime, mental health and addiction. was done.
Stewart promised to triple Vancouver’s housing goal to 220,000 over the next decade, and Sim promised to hire 100 new police officers and 100 mental health nurses.
Stewart and Sim were among 15 candidates for mayor of Vancouver.
Vancouver has released data showing an increase in early voter turnout this year compared to 2018.
In the 2022 election, 65,026 people turned out in Vancouver’s pre-voting, up from 48,986 in 2018.
The preliminary findings in Victoria were different, the city said in a statement.
The 4,613 people who pre-voted in Victoria in 2022 were slightly below the 4,791 pre-votes in 2018.
In Clearwater, incumbent Mayor Merlin Blackwell said health care was the biggest problem in his North Thompson community, where the local hospital’s emergency department is regularly closed.
He said small-town issues were on the backburner of the campaign, with residents wanting local governments to improve health care and fight crime.
McCallum faced successive challenges, first at the ballot box against seven other candidates and then on October 31 when he was tried in court on charges of public indecency.
“We have work to do and we have work to be left behind,” said Locke, adding that that includes improving health care, public safety and easing permitting processes for housing developments. I was.
Dirk Meissner, Nono Shen