Numbers & Respect: Why the City of Vancouver Might Not Get the Federal Attention it Wants

Vancouver City Hall is a long way from the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa (4,358 km, actually) and, in terms of federal government decisions, the policy distance often seems much greater than the physical one. With the recent release of the 2011 Census population counts and the 2012 Federal Electoral Boundary proposals, it is appropriate to consider where the City of Vancouver stands, numerically that is, with respect to our federal political representation. [Full Report]

I. Population Matters

The City of Vancouver, with a Census population of 603,502 persons in 2011, accounts for almost two percent of the Canadian population. While this may seem significant to some, the City of Vancouver is only the eighth most populous municipality in Canada. As measured by population rank, there is actually quite a crowd of municipal representatives at the federal cabinet’s door in front of those from the City of Vancouver. Ahead of it in the queue are the heavyweights from Toronto (Toronto’s council represents 2.6 million residents, or almost eight percent of the country’s population), Montreal (1.6 million), Calgary (1.1 million), Ottawa (883,000), Edmonton (812,000), Mississauga (whoa, Mississauga? Yup: 713,000), and Winnipeg (663,000). The Vancouver’s city council is peaking over the shoulders of Winnipeg while Brampton (yes, really, Brampton!) is peaking over our shoulders.

One way for us to move closer, and perhaps be better heard, might be to express the City of Vancouver’s municipal issues as regional issues, as the Vancouver Census Metro Area (CMA) is the third most populous CMA in Canada just behind the Toronto CMA (5.6 million residents) and the Montreal CMA (3.8 million). While easily stated, this may be much more challenging to achieve in reality, as the City of Vancouver only represents 26 percent of its CMA’s population. Hence, bringing municipalities together to express a consensus of regional concerns would require bringing the municipal representatives of the remaining 73 percent of the regional population on board. By comparison, the Toronto’s city council only has to deal with another 53 percent, and the mayor of the City of Montreal the remaining 57 percent. The City of Calgary’s Mayor, Naheed Nenshi, enjoys the luxury of representing fully 90 percent of the Calgary CMA’s population. None of this is meant to be seen as an argument for regional government per se, but rather as an explanation as to why regional partnerships and cooperation would have to be pursued with much more vigor, and require much more energy, here in Vancouver than in most other metropolitan regions in Canada.

To continue reading this report and learn more about riding equality and some proposed redistricting, click here.