While people have long discussed Vancouver’s east-west divide, data from last month’s civic election show the city’s political geography is largely split into north and south.
The image of a Vancouver politically divided, almost in half, emerges in a series of map images created by local geographer Aaron Licker using data released Friday by the City of Vancouver.
The data show election results for each of the 133 voting places throughout the city. For the most part, the northern half of the city, which includes the downtown peninsula, voted for former NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, the eventual victor, with a few neighbourhoods supporting Shauna Sylvester. Meanwhile, most of the city’s southern half, with a few exceptions, voted for Non-Partisan Association mayoral candidate Ken Sim. Sim also did well in the very northwest corner of the city, around West Point Grey.
Many of the northern areas where Stewart and Sylvester enjoyed strong support, such as downtown, Fairview and Mount Pleasant, have been dramatically densifying, Licker pointed out, while the NPA fared better in lower-density “predominantly single-family neighbourhoods.”
“We’re adding people in these areas that vote for parties that want more density,” said Licker, whose company Licker Geospatial Consulting does work for clients including municipal governments and real estate companies. “The NPA can play to the single-family homeowners forever, but they’re declining in terms of population. Forty years ago, most of Vancouver lived in single-family areas, but now most of Vancouver lives in multi-family zones.”
In the council race Licker looked at the total number of candidates for each party and divided by the total number of votes the slate received. Again, he found a north-south divide. The NPA, which saw five councillors elected, picked up most of its support in the southern half of the city with the exception, again, of the area around West Point Grey, in the northwest corner. But for almost every neighbourhood north of King Edward Avenue, the Green party, which saw three councillors elected, had the most council support. COPE, which saw one councillor elected, was the top choice in the area around two neighbourhoods: Strathcona and Grandview-Woodland.
Vision Vancouver, which had five council candidates on the ballot and had enjoyed a majority on council for the past decade, was essentially “wiped off the map,” Licker said. There was no neighbourhood in the city where Vision candidates performed particularly well, and none of their council candidates were elected.
Newly elected Green Coun. Pete Fry described the electoral picture as “an interesting and not entirely surprising split.”
“The big take-away is this shift away from the traditional east-west divide that we would have seen 10 years ago more prominently,” Fry said. “Now we’re seeing a north-south divide, which kind of reflects the difference in urban populations.”
The Greens, Fry said, “have always seen it as a north-south divide, typically, because we do better in the denser, urban areas.”
The results come with a caveat. This year marked the second consecutive election where Vancouver voters were allowed to vote at any polling station in the city, meaning it’s impossible to definitely know if people voted near their homes. However, Licker believes most people voted relatively close to their own neighbourhoods, in part because Election Day was a Saturday.
In 2014, Vancouver Sun reporter Chad Skelton compiled a similar map of election results, which showed a roughly similar trend for the mayoral candidates. Vision’s Gregor Robertson won in most neighbourhoods in the north half of the city, while the NPA’s Kirk LaPointe won most neighbourhoods in the south. By contrast, the NPA’s last victorious mayoral candidate, Sam Sullivan in 2005, won several neighbourhoods north of 16th Avenue, including some downtown districts.
And in 2002, COPE mayoral candidate Larry Campbell beat the NPA’s Jennifer Clarke in most neighbourhoods in the southeast quarter of the city on his way to victory. But this year, most of those areas supported the NPA’s Sim.
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