Opinion: Should Metro Vancouver Municipalities Merge?

In just four months, British Columbia voters will participate in municipal elections.

In just four months, British Columbia voters will participate in municipal elections. We have already learned that some incumbent mayors in Metro Vancouver, such as Jonathan Cote in New Westminster and Jack Froese in Township of Langley, will not run again.

We also know that some experienced challengers have emerged in places like Vancouver and Surrey.

For the past three and a half years, Research Co. and Glacier Media have studied issues related to governance in the City of Vancouver. This month, we again asked some of these questions to residents who are likely to vote in this year’s municipal elections. These responsible citizens, and not the anxious complainers who ache for confirmation of social media bias, will define what our next government will look like.

In the first of two articles, we focus on four topics: merger, zoning, public transportation, and the Vancouver Parks and Recreation Board.

At this point, none of the major political parties convening to nominate mayoral and council candidates in Vancouver have openly advocated merging the Lower Mainland municipalities. This is often a surprise to newcomers to Vancouver, who have seen Toronto and Montreal grow with the addition of adjacent areas and assume the same scenario applies here.

Despite the absence of a true platform in favor of the merger, Vancouver voters’ perceptions have changed about creating a megacity that would house millions of residents. In 2018, only 34 percent thought the idea of ​​merging all municipalities into Metro Vancouver would be worth exploring. In 2020, support grew to 46 percent. This month, it stands at 51 percent.

On this issue, we see a significant difference between Vancouverites who voted for the top two mayoral candidates in 2018. The merger concept is more appealing to those who supported Kennedy Stewart (67 percent) than those who supported Ken Yes (49 percent). penny). Of course, it remains to be seen what the residents of other cities say about the abandonment of their own mayoralties and councils.

British Columbians continue to rank housing, homelessness, and poverty as the top issues facing the province, and zoning has been a major source of frustration for some residents. Nearly three in five voters in Vancouver (58 percent) favor changing zoning laws to allow homeowners to build up to six strata-title units on a standard lot, as long as the new building is not taller than an average house.

This represents a five point increase from the last time we asked this question in 2020.

Unsurprisingly, there are some age differences when Vancouver voters consider rezoning. Just under half of those 55 and older (48 percent) welcome the idea of ​​six strata title units in a standard lot. The proportion is higher among those 35 to 54 years old (57 percent) and 18 to 34 years old (63 percent). Additionally, a majority of voters who currently rent (65 percent) or own (54 percent) their primary residence favor this blanket regulation.

On the transportation front, we see that more than seven in 10 voters in Vancouver (71 percent, down 10 points from 2020) continue to support the proposed extension of the Millennium SkyTrain line (currently under construction to Arbutus) to Columbia University. British. (UBC) campus in Point Grey.

While a large majority of Vancouverites continue to support this project, there are some regional nuances. Agreement with the SkyTrain extension is highest among voters who live downtown (75 percent) and falls slightly among those who live on the East Side (72 percent) and West Side (67 percent). This may be related to the construction complexities that have hit Broadway businesses and residents recently.

Finally, we come to the thorny issue of the Vancouver Parks and Recreation Board. This organization has become a lightning rod for complaints, whether related to bike lanes, camping or, more recently, when and how to mow the lawn.

Trust in the Parks and Recreation Board has eroded significantly. In 2020, only 44 percent of Vancouver voters favored removing it and placing the public parks and public recreation system under the jurisdiction of the city council. This month, the proportion has risen eight points to 52 percent.

On the future of the Parks and Recreation Board, the difference is not political. Nearly equal proportions of Stewart and Sim voters in 2018 (61 percent and 60 percent, respectively) think removal is the right course of action. The crucial change is regional. Voters living in the inner city are much more likely to support a city without this body (63 percent) than their counterparts on the West Side (52 percent) and East Side (45 percent).

Our poll shows that merger is worth exploring for most Vancouver voters.
The proposed SkyTrain at UBC remains popular, and support for a revision of the zoning guidelines has grown. However, openly advocating the demise of the Parks and Recreation Board has the potential to make mayoral candidates less popular on the East Side.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted June 7-9, 2020 among 400 municipal likely voters in the City of Vancouver. Data was statistically weighted according to Canadian Census figures for age, sex, and region in the City of Vancouver. The margin of error, which measures the variability of the sample, is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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