Government

Vancouver, unlike other British Columbia municipalities, is incorporated under the Vancouver Charter. The legislation, passed in 1953, supersedes the Vancouver Incorporation Act, 1921 and grants the city more and different powers than other communities possess under BC's Municipalities Act.

The civic government has been dominated by the centre-right Non-Partisan Association (NPA) since the Second World War, albeit with some significant centre-left interludes until 2008. The NPA fractured over the issue of drug policy in 2002, facilitating a landslide victory for the Coalition of Progressive Electors on a harm reduction platform. Subsequently, North America's first safe injection site was opened for the significant number of intravenous heroin users in the city.

Vancouver is governed by the ten-member Vancouver City Council, a nine-member School Board, and a seven-member Parks Board, all elected for three-year terms through an at-large system. Historically, in all levels of government, the more affluent west side of Vancouver has voted along conservative or liberal lines while the eastern side of the city has voted along left-wing lines. This was reaffirmed with the results of the 2005 provincial election and the 2006 federal election.

Though polarized, a political consensus has emerged in Vancouver around a number of issues. Protection of urban parks, a focus on the development of rapid transit as opposed to a freeway system, a harm reduction approach to illegal drug use, and a general concern about community-based development are examples of policies that have come to have broad support across the political spectrum in Vancouver.

Larry Campbell's election as mayor in 2002 was in part due to his willingness to champion alternative interventions for drug issues, such as supervised injection sites. The city has adopted a Four Pillars Drug Strategy, which combines harm reduction (e.g. needle exchanges, supervised injection sites) with treatment, enforcement, and prevention. The strategy is largely a response to the endemic HIV and hepatitis C among injection drug users in the city's Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. The area is characterized by entrenched poverty, and consequently is home to the "low track" street sex trade and a bustling "open air" street drug market, which gave rise to a significant AIDS epidemic in the 1990s. Some community and professional groups — such as From Grief to Action and Keeping the Door Open — are fostering public dialogue in the city about further alternatives to current drug policies.

Campbell chose not to run for re-election, and was subsequently appointed to the Senate of Canada. In the 2005 Municipal Election, the City Council swung back to the right after a term dominated by the leftist Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE). NPA mayoral candidate Sam Sullivan narrowly defeated Jim Green for the position of mayor in 2005 and was joined by five of his party's members on Council. The centrist Vision Vancouver (VVN) brought four members to Council, with the final seat going to COPE. The NPA also won six of nine School Board seats and five of seven Parks Board seats, while the remaining Board seats were won by COPE.

In 2008 municipal election campaign, NPA incumbent mayor Sam Sullivan was ousted as mayoral candidate by the party in a close vote, which instated Peter Ladner as the new mayoral candidate for the NPA. Gregor Robertson, a former MLA for Vancouver-Fairview and head of Happy Planet, was the mayoral candidate for Vision Vancouver, the other main contender. Vision Vancouver candidate Gregor Robertson defeated Ladner by a considerable margin, nearing 20,000 votes. The balance of power was significantly shifted to Vision Vancouver, which held 7 of the 10 spots for councillor. Of the remaining three, COPE received 2 and the NPA 1. For park commissioner, 4 spots went to Vision Vancouver, 1 to the Green Party, 1 to COPE, and 1 to NPA. For school trustee, there were 4 Vision Vancouver seats, 3 COPE seats, and 2 NPA seats.


Policing

While most of the Lower Mainland is policed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's "E" Division, Vancouver has its own city police force (as do New Westminster, West Vancouver, Delta, and Port Moody), with a strength of 1,174 sworn members and an operating budget of almost $150 million (in 2005 figures). Over 16% of the city's budget was spent on police protection in 2005.

The Vancouver Police has numerous operational divisions, including a bicycle squad, a marine squad, and a dog squad. It also has a mounted squad, used primarily to patrol Stanley Park and occasionally the Downtown Eastside and West End, as well as for crowd control. The police work in conjunction with civilian and volunteer run Community Police Centres. In 2006, the police department established its own Counter Terrorism Unit. In 2005, a new transit police force, the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Police Service (now South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police Service), was established with full police powers.

Although it is illegal, Vancouver police generally do not arrest people for possessing small amounts of marijuana. In 2000 the Vancouver Police Department established a specialized drug squad, "Growbusters," to carry out an aggressive campaign against the city's estimated 4,000 hydroponic marijuana growing operations (or grow-ops) in residential areas. As with other law enforcement campaigns targeting marijuana this initiative has been sharply criticized.

As of 2005, Vancouver had the fourth highest crime rate among Canada's 27 census metropolitan areas. However, as with other Canadian cities, the over-all crime rate has been falling "dramatically." Vancouver's property crime rate is particularly high, ranking among the highest for major North American cities. But even property crime dropped 10.5% between 2004 and 2005, according to the Vancouver Police. Metro Vancouver has the highest rate of gun-related violent crime of any major metropolitan region in Canada, according to a new Statistics Canada study. There were 45.3 violent offences involving guns for every 100,000 people in Metro Vancouver, slightly higher than Toronto at 40.4 but far above the national average of 27.5, says the report, which is based on police-reported data from 2006. A series of gang-related incidents in early 2009 escalated into what police have dubbed a gang war. Vancouver plays host to special events such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, the Clinton-Yeltsin Summit or the Symphony of Fire fireworks show that require significant policing. The 1994 Stanley Cup riot overwhelmed police and injured up to 200 people.

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