Metro Vancouver: Full or partial amalgamation supported by half in the region, highest enthusiasm on North Shore

Metro Vancouver: Full or partial amalgamation supported by half in the region, highest enthusiasm on North Shore

New mayors and councils have work to do on housing, homelessness, crime, as region’s top issues


November 2, 2022 – As Metro Vancouver’s new and returning municipal leaders begin their term, data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds many citizens hoping for a future with a more consolidated approach to regional politics.

Overall, half of Metro Vancouverites support amalgamation of some sort. The proposals receiving the highest levels of enthusiasm across the metro region are those that would combine the Tri-Cities (35%), the North Shore (34%) or Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge (31%). In the North Shore itself, half (48%) say they support North Vancouver and West Vancouver coming together as one city.

Eight per cent of respondents say they would combine all Metro Vancouver municipalities into one, while three-in-ten say the current system is fine.

That current system recently saw voters in the region participate in 21 separate mayoral and council elections.

When it comes to more immediate priorities, constituents are hoping that their elected representatives will begin the term with a focus on three core issues: housing, homelessness, and crime. Half (49%) call housing policy a top-two priority for their city, while three-in-ten say so of homelessness and poverty (31%) and crime and safety (29%).

Asked to evaluate how their previous governments had been performing on these matters, responses are overwhelmingly negative. Four-in-five (81%) in Metro Vancouver say their local governments performed poorly on housing. Three-quarters (77%) are critical of mayor and councils’ performance on poverty and two-thirds (64%) give a thumbs-down to the governance on crime and safety. Negativity is more common in Surrey and the city of Vancouver, where incumbent mayors were ousted, than in other communities in the region.

More Key Findings:

  • Asked to choose between two options on police spending, three-in-five (59%) believe more resources should be spent on social welfare services, while two-in-five (41%) disagree and believe it should instead go to more police presence in high crime areas.
  • While Statistics Canada’s Crime Severity Index in Metro Vancouver has fluctuated over the last five years, the majority perception is that crime is increasing in the region. Three-in-five (61%) believe there has been more crime in their community in the last five years.
  • Of those who believe crime is increasing, half (49%) believe the trend is specific to Metro Vancouver. Two-in-five (43%) disagree and believe crime is increasing everywhere in Canada.

 

About ARI

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.

INDEX

Part One: Amalgamation

  • Half support some form of amalgamation in Metro Van

  • Government satisfaction drives opinion on amalgamation

Part Two: Top issues in Metro Vancouver

  • Residents most concerned about, most critical of, housing and affordability policy

  • Crime and safety

  • Division over police funding, enforcement strategy

 

Part One: Amalgamation

As the dust settles from the recent municipal elections in Metro Vancouver, change is in the air for some of the largest jurisdictions. The citizens of Surrey and the city of Vancouver, the two most populous cities in the metro area, voted out incumbent mayors and much of their city council. TransLink’s Mayor’s Council, which overseas the Metro Vancouver transportation network, will have 10 new members among its 21-person council.

Half support some form of amalgamation in Metro Van

Metro Vancouver is comprised of 21 municipalities, all of which hold separate mayor and city council elections. Vancouver has become an outlier in this regard, other major Canadian cities – such as Toronto and Montreal – have centralized disparate civic governments in one way or another. In Ontario, the provincial government forced the merger of six municipalities into the City of Toronto in 1998. With that historical example in mind, some wonder if B.C.’s government would do the same.

Half in Metro Vancouver support some sort of amalgamation. Approaching one-in-ten (8%) say all of the metro region should be served by one mayor and city council. Two-in-five (42%) support at least one partial amalgamation scenario, such as the Tri-Cities, the North Shore or Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge merging. Meanwhile, three-in-ten (31%) oppose amalgamation as they believe the current system is fine as is:

The appetite to merge the Tri-Cities and the North Shore is highest. Two-in-five (41%) in the Tri-Cities believe Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody should merge. Half (48%) in North and West Vancouver believe the North Shore should come together under one municipal government.

Government satisfaction drives opinion on amalgamation

Those who oppose any form of amalgamation in Vancouver are more positive in their appraisal of their municipal government’s recent performance, especially when compared to those who support a merger of the entire metro region.

More than half (56%) of those who oppose amalgamation say their local government has done well on public transit. And while criticism is still high for their government’s performance on crime and safety and providing good value for their tax dollars, those who support the status quo are more likely to offer praise on those issues than those who want amalgamation:

Part Two: Top issues in Metro Vancouver

Residents most concerned about, most critical of, housing and affordability policy

If there is an issue that unifies Metro Vancouverites, it’s housing affordability. Half (49%) say that this is a top issue facing the region, and it ranks as the top priority in every sub-region canvassed. In the city of Vancouver, where prices hit an all-time high in April of this year, 57 per cent say housing is their main concern. Residents tend to prioritize homelessness and crime as other top priorities for the region, though there are differences in opinion based on geography, as seen in the table below:

Asked to appraise the performance of their local leadership, residents have been deeply dissatisfied. Four-in-five say their previous municipal governments had done a poor job of handling housing policy (81%) and the homelessness (77%). Seven-in-ten (70%) are not happy with action (or lack thereof) on the opioid crisis, including 82 per cent in the city of Vancouver.

Crime and safety

Though crime and safety were third on the top selected issues in the metro region, that priority appeared to be a significant factor in recent municipal elections in Vancouver. Indeed, crime and safety played a role in both the defeat of former mayors Kennedy Stewart in Vancouver and Doug McCallum in Surrey. For Stewart, his opponent Ken Sim was endorsed by the city’s police union and promised to increase the number of officers in the city.

In Surrey, the primary concern was cost of policing. The city had begun a transition to its own municipal police force in 2019. Brenda Locke defeated McCallum in the mayoral race after she promised to halt that transition and keep the RCMP. Locke says keeping the RCMP will save the city $520 million over four years.

Notably, Locke was first elected as a councillor under McCallum as part of the Safe Surrey Coalition, which campaigned in 2018 to make the switch from the RCMP to a city-run police force. Locke quit Safe Surrey in 2019 while criticizing McCallum for a lack of transparency. The Surrey Police Board has said it expects the transition away from the RCMP to continue despite Locke’s election, with Surrey Police Service Chief Constable Norm Lipinski likening stopping the transition to “slamming the emergency brake on a car going full-out down the TransCanada Highway.”

The rate of police-reported crime in Vancouver has fluctuated over the past number of years, rising from 2018 to 2020 before dropping in the 2021. Metro Vancouver’s Crime Severity Index score – calculated by Statistics Canada – is higher than the national average at 81.6 in the most recent data, but well below other municipalities like Lethbridge, Kelowna, Moncton and Winnipeg.

The perception, widely held, is that crime has been increasing over the past five years. Three-in-five (61%) say that crime in their community has been increasing, with the largest number recorded in Surrey where seven-in-ten (69%) report this:

Those who believe crime is increasing were then asked if they believe this is a local or a national trend. Metro Vancouverites are divided, with two-in-five (43%) feeling this is a national trend and half (49%) perceiving it as local in nature. Notably, police-reported crime – including property and violent crimes – across the country has dropped precipitously compared to rates noted in the 1990s:

*Smaller sample size, interpret with caution

Division over police funding, enforcement strategy

Funding for the police has been a controversial issue in Vancouver in recent years. In 2020, Vancouver city council voted against a $6.4-million budget increase for the Vancouver Police Department. Earlier that summer, amid much global scrutiny of the police in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protest movement, city council ordered the VPD to “decriminalize poverty” and stop street checks. The latter disproportionately target Indigenous and Black people according to the VPD’s own data.

The VPD appealed the budget freeze to the provincial government, who sided with police. This year, the city added $5.7 million to the VPD budget. New Westminster city council, too, considered freezing the police budget in 2020, but changed course after the police board rejected the idea.

Vancouver’s police union rarely endorses political candidates, but made an exception in the most recent mayoral election, backing eventual winner Sim. Sim campaigned on a platform that included hiring 100 new police officers and bringing back school police liaisons. The latter was ended in 2021 by the Vancouver School Board after school trustees argued the presence of police had a negative effect on visible minority and Indigenous students.

Residents are uncertain about what path to follow when it comes to police funding. One-in-three (35%) would increase the budget for police, while 29 per cent say standing pat would be fine. Fewer than one-in-five (16%) would cut the budget, though this proportion rises to one-quarter (24%) in the city of Vancouver:

In terms of the allocation of resources, most residents would rather see police budget used on social welfare solutions as opposed to potentially more punitive approaches. Three-in-five (59%) say they prefer mental health resources and housing solutions instead of an increased police presence:

Survey Methodology:

The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from Oct. 6-12, 2022 among a representative randomized sample of 1,376 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.

For detailed results by city, click here.

To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodology, click here

To read the questionnaire, click here.

Image – Matt Wang/Unsplash

MEDIA CONTACT:

Shachi Kurl, President: 604.908.1693 shachi.kurl@angusreid.org @shachikurl

Dave Korzinski, Research Director: 250.899.0821 dave.korzinski@angusreid.org


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