The Vancouver election is running to too close , with Kennedy Stewart and Ken Sim neck-and-neck as many city polling stations had yet to report late Saturday night.
The Non-Partisan Association’s Sim with 28.53 per cent of the votes and independent candidate Stewart with 28.3 per cent of the vote were locked into a tight race with 65 of 133 voting places reporting. Fewer than 140 votes separated the two front-runners.
Shauna Sylvester, another independent, followed in third with 21.65 per cent of the vote.
Polls closed at 8 p.m. Saturday, but anyone waiting in line at that time was allowed to vote. Some polling stations had long lines, which delayed the vote counting.
The top three were followed, at deadline, by Coalition Vancouver’s Wai Young with 6.3 per cent, YES Vancouver’s Hector Bremner with 5.74 per cent, Vancouver 1st’s Fred Harding with 3.15 per cent and ProVancouver’s David Chen with 1.91 per cent.
The most recent Research Co. poll of the mayoral race had showed Stewart out ahead with 36 per cent of decided voters indicating their support for him. That poll, released Tuesday, showed Sim in second with 23 per cent, with Sylvester following close behind, within the margin of error, at 19 per cent.
This week’s poll showed support increasing for all three of those three front-runners, while each of the next four mayoral candidates dropped further behind: Bremner and Young both fell to six per cent, while Harding and Chen both dropped back to two per cent.
The Research Co. poll found the parties with the highest level of consideration for city council were the Greens with 47 per cent, the NPA with 35 per cent, COPE with 34 per cent, Vision Vancouver with 29 per cent and OneCity with 27 per cent.
Non-Partisan Association supporters packed into the ballroom at the Coast Coal Harbour Hotel from the early evening, nibbling canapés and sipping cocktails as they awaited the results.
Members of the crowd packed around a projector screen excitedly when the first numbers of the evening put Kennedy Stewart and Ken Sim within 60 votes of one another, and some clapped briskly when five of their councillors graced the initial cut on council.
But as more voting stations reported their results, and Sim fell behind by the narrowest of gaps, the tone of the room started to shift.
“This is so tight. Oh my God,” one supporter said to nobody in particular.
“Crazy. Crazy,” remarked another.
By deadline, Sim had yet to appear at his own party.
Meanwhile across town at Stewart’s event at the Waldorf Hotel on East Hastings, supporters cheered the early results showing their candidate in the lead, and then gasped as later results showed Sim edging into the lead.
Saturday also marked the end, at least for now, of the Vision era in Vancouver. After enjoying a majority on council for a decade, Vision Vancouver saw its electoral fortunes fade this year. After Robertson announced, in January, that he would not seek a fourth term as mayor, Vision publicly floated the idea of not running a mayoral candidate and instead supporting an independent or another party’s candidate.
But, to the frustration of some of the city’s left-leaning voters and candidates, the party eventually announced they planned to run a mayoral candidate, and then in June, acclaimed Ian Campbell as their nominee. But after months of campaigning, Campbell withdrew from the race suddenly in September.
Vision entered the week with no mayoral candidate and five council candidates, but that changed on Friday, as the party announced they were revoking their endorsement for council candidate Wei Qiao Zhang for undisclosed reasons. That left four Vision council candidates on the ballot, and, at deadline, not one of them, including incumbent Coun. Heather Deal, appeared likely to win one of the 10 council seats.
As of print deadline, the 10 council seats appeared perfectly divided between candidates on the centre-left and centre-right.
Five NPA councillors were sitting in the top 10, with three of the remaining seats going to the Greens, and one apiece to COPE and OneCity candidates.
An even split on council would leave the mayor with a deciding vote, and were that mayor to be Sim, he would potentially preside over an NPA majority.
It was, in many ways, a Vancouver election unlike those that came before it.
This year’s municipal elections were the first to take place after the B.C. NDP enacted new campaign finance rules, banning corporate and union donations and setting strict donation limits of $1,200 per donor.
The rules applied to the entire province, but nowhere was the change as significant as in Vancouver, the province’s largest city, where the two biggest parties, Vision and the NPA, raised and spent millions in recent elections, largely funded by wealthy individuals, real estate companies and unions. In the 2014 election alone, Vision raised $2.9 million and spent $3.4 million, setting the city’s record for both the most expensive campaign and biggest deficit.