Who are the 3,209 people running for local office in B.C.?

·5 min read
In most municipalities, candidates are a lot like Colby Harder of Langford — putting their name out there for the first time, knocking on doors and hoping to secure the trust of enough voters in the next four weeks. (Chris Young/Canadian Press - image credit)
In most municipalities, candidates are a lot like Colby Harder of Langford — putting their name out there for the first time, knocking on doors and hoping to secure the trust of enough voters in the next four weeks. (Chris Young/Canadian Press - image credit)

There are 3,209 people across British Columbia running for local office in next month's municipal elections — and a lot of them have a story much like Colby Harder's.

"For a long time, I felt really powerless. I'd gone to council and said my piece … and I didn't feel heard," said the 26-year-old from Langford, who has only known one mayor (Stew Young) her entire life.

"Now, I could sit around and complain, or I could actually try to do something about it. And that's why I decided to run because I felt like there was no representation for myself."

Harder hopes to be elected to council on Oct. 15, but she's not the only one.

Here's a chart-based look at who is running in B.C.'s municipal elections and how it compares over time.

Total number of candidates running in B.C. local elections

Lowest number in some time … 

All told, the 3,209 people running for mayor, council, school board, park board commissioner, regional director or Islands Trust director is the lowest number in B.C. since at least 2018.

It's a 3.4 per cent drop from that year — not as large as some feared, but a potential effect of what many have described as a toxic political culture dissuading good candidates from stepping forward.

"When I hear of elected representatives who are saying I'm not doing this anymore because of this venom … it makes me very, very sad," said Premier John Horgan at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, where the topic of people not running for office was front and centre.

… but no drop-off in people seeking re-election

At the same time, the number of incumbent local politicians seeking re-election stayed stable in B.C., after several elections in a row of the trendline going down.

Percentage of local politicians seeking re-election in B.C.

And when it came to mayors specifically, 70 per cent across B.C. have chosen to run again, up from 65.2 per cent in 2018.

The reluctance of people to run in a more toxic political environment may have been balanced out by the desire of existing politicians to see through plans that were put on hold.

"Well, mostly because of COVID," said Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart, explaining why he was running again after pledging in 2018 that it would be his last term.

"I had a number of things I wanted to accomplish, and then at the beginning of year two [of my term], everything ground to a halt."

More women running than ever

A record number of women are running in B.C. local elections — though it's still a clear minority of candidates.

Percentage of female candidates running for B.C. local office

Forty-one per cent of candidates are women, up from 38 per cent in 2018. However, that number isn't equally distributed, as 60 per cent of school board candidates are women, compared to just 28 per cent of people running for mayor.

"There's more of a path from community volunteerism, especially around parent advisory councils, to school board. So I think that that's an easier transition for women to see themselves there," said New Westminster Coun. Nadine Nakagawa, co-founder of the Feminist Campaign School.

"But when I look at who's running for the mayor's seat in Metro Vancouver, it does not reflect the community I see around the region. So we have to address structural barriers."

Nakagawa said the increased number of women running was encouraging but wasn't, in itself, a victory.

"It's important to see elected leadership that looks like the communities that we serve, but it's really important that we pair that with what are they actually going to do there," she said.

"It's not enough to ask people to step up if they're not going to do right by those communities."

Big ballots in big cities

As usual, Vancouver will have the largest ballot this election, with the most people running for council (60 candidates) and mayor (15).

Which B.C. municipalities have the most candidates?

Overall, the number of candidates per municipality is heavily correlated to population size —  Port Alberni and Sooke are the only smaller communities with more than 20 people running for council, while Nelson and Sicamous are the only small towns with more than four people running for mayor.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, 37 municipalities will have no election for mayor due to only one candidate running, and the communities of Ucluelet, Port Alice, Anmore, Keremeos, Masset, Hazelton, Telkwa, Chetwynd will see no council election due to having as many candidates as there are positions.

Valemount will have to appoint two councillors after only having two people apply for its four council positions.

But in most municipalities, candidates are a lot like Harder — putting their name out there for the first time, knocking on doors and hoping to secure the trust of enough voters in the next four weeks so they can represent them for the next four years.

 

"I thought that this was going to be a lot more scary than it actually has been," she said.

"A lot of people are ready to see younger voices in these positions because we have a stake in the future … so if there's other younger candidates who have doubts over whether or not they'd be positively received, all I can say is just try."