Every vote counts. That was a big take away from last Saturday's (October 20) elections for Vancouver mayor, council, parks board, and school trustees.
There were 134,177 ballots cast for the top three contenders for mayor. And, according to unofficial results available on the city's website, independent candidate Kennedy Stewart inched over the finish line ahead of the Non-Partisan Association's Ken Sim by just 984 votes. (Third place was Shauna Sylvester, another independent candidate, who received 13,291 votes less than Sim.)
Stewart and Sylvester lean to the left of the political spectrum while Sim sits on the right. If just a few hundred more people had voted for Sylvester instead of Stewart, Sim might have been planning his redecoration of the mayor's office today.
Competition for Vancouver city council was almost as tight.
There are 10 seats on council, and the two NPA candidates who captured the ninth and tenth seats did so with only slim margins ahead of candidates from the Green party and Vision Vancouver who ranked twelfth and thirteenth, respectively. (Another candidate for the NPA, David Grewal, placed eleventh, and so acts as a bit of a safety net for the NPA, as far as council's balance of power is concerned, but only a thin safety net.)
The NPA's Rebecca Bligh captured the ninth seat on council with 44,117 votes and the NPA's Sarah Kirby-Yung won the tenth seat with 43,646 votes.
Meanwhile, the Green's David Wong received 40,990 votes and Vision Vancouver's Heather Deal received 39,606.
If just a few thousand more people had come out for the left, it's possible the NPA would have only won three seats on council as opposed to the five seats that the right-of-centre party did win. (Acknowledging the Greens don't like being called "left" and do take positions—on infrastructure and labour, for example—that often defy the traditional left-right dichotomy of politics.)
With five NPA councillors elected versus five seats split between a trio of left-leaning parties—the Greens, COPE, and OneCity—the left-wing mayor elect is going to have a harder time enacting his agenda than he was likely hoping to. Especially on housing, the left-ish-wing candidates elected to council have very different ideas about how to address the city's crisis. For example, the Straight's Charlie Smith recently pointed out that Green councillor Adriane Carr has a record of opposing new housing developments in favour of neighbourhood groups that oppose new greater density.
(The last few seats on the Vancouver parks board were won with similarly small margins, but with the opposite party dynamic at play. There, COPE captured the sixth and seventh seats on park board with less than a thousand votes more than NPA contenders who just barely missed park board seats by ranking eighth and ninth.
Detailed voting data won't be available for a little bit. But it's likely that young people played a strong role in the outcomes of these tight races.
In Vancouver and most of North America, older voters lean right and younger voters often tend to sympathize with the left. And older voters actually take the time to cast their ballots on election days while younger voters come out in much smaller numbers.
In an election where it's evident that every vote truly mattered, key outcomes might have been quite different if just a few thousand more young people had bothered to participate.