What our readers had to say about the 2022 municipal election

We asked our readers their thoughts on the upcoming 2022 municipal election in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Langley, Mission, and the rest of the Fraser Valley.

By Grace Kennedy | September 14, 2022 |5:00 am

Chilliwack residents care more about their school board election than the mayoral vote. Development is moving too fast for some Fraser Valley residents, and too slow for others. And leadership skills are important as a candidate’s plan to protect communities from future disasters.

Municipal elections might not get the months-long fanfare that provincial and federal campaigns do, but that doesn’t mean locals aren’t paying attention.

We asked Fraser Valley Current readers what they thought about the upcoming local elections, and what kinds of issues were most important to them at the ballot box. In total, more than 300 readers participated. Most of them were from Abbotsford and Chilliwack, but we also heard from voters in Langley, Mission, and the eastern Fraser Valley about their concerns too.

We break down what you had to say about the upcoming elections in the Fraser Valley, and take a closer look at what issues candidates will need to address.

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Which races do you care about?

When it comes to municipal elections, there are two main types of campaigns: the race for council and the race for school board. Council elections are divided into mayoral and council candidates, while school board candidates battle it out for a seat as a trustee.

(The Fraser Valley Regional District election works a little differently, with electoral area directors taking the place of councillors and a chair being voted in by their peers after the election.)

Across the Fraser Valley, readers said they would be paying the most attention to their local mayoral race. Langley Township residents were most invested in the mayoral election out of all the communities. Current mayor Jack Froese will not be running again in October, leaving a four-way race between pro-change incumbent councillor Eric Woodward, stay-the-course incumbent councillor Blair Whitmarsh, former MLA Rich Coleman, and former councillor Michelle Sparrow.

On the whole, readers were less invested in the school board elections—except in Chilliwack. There, Current readers said they would be paying more attention to the school board elections than to either the councillor or mayoral races.

The Chilliwack School Board has been the centre of controversy for years thanks to trustee Barry Neufeld’s anti-SOGI antics. (Neufeld has said he is running again in the upcoming election.) A by-election last February resulted in a hot contest between Richard Procee, a social conservative, and the Carin Bondar, a progressive. The winner would decide which faction controlled the board; Bondar ultimately won that election by less than 700 votes, allowing Chilliwack’s progressive bloc to retain control.

Which issues do you care about?

There are many issues that impact residents in Fraser Valley communities. Some, like health care funding or the public school curriculum, are best (or only) addressed at a provincial or federal level. But some topics are perfect for municipal involvement, and Current readers know exactly which ones they care about.

More than half of people who participated in The Current survey said that community development and growth was one of the most important things going into the election. The survey didn’t specify what, exactly, about development or growth people found most important, but it did find that more people felt their communities were growing too fast, rather than too slow. (The largest group of people selected the middle-of-the-road option, but they weren’t a majority either.)

This fear of quick growth was especially true in Mission, although it was true across the Fraser Valley. Harrison Hot Springs residents were the most concerned about growth, although the extremely small sample size means that it’s unclear if that represents the community as a whole. (You can read about Harrison’s past development plans—or lack thereof—here.)

Other important election topics included in the Current survey were leadership (45% of respondents said this was valued), and flood and wildfire protections (30% of respondents). Readers in rural areas were most likely to be concerned about flood and wildfire protection, although one-third of Abbotsford and Chilliwack residents said the same. (You can read our stories on how the FVRD fell behind on disaster planning before last November’s storms here.)

A number of readers also wrote that homelessness was a significant election issue, and housing affordability was also on the minds of one-quarter of survey participants. Both homelessness and housing affordability are important local topics that require co-operation from different levels of government to solve.

What do you think of the candidates?

The Current’s municipal election survey came out long before most candidates in the Fraser Valley began their campaigns for seats at the region’s council tables. But readers already knew what they were looking for in a candidate.

On the whole, readers felt that a candidate’s past community involvement and experience was a key factor in deciding whether to vote for them. It was most important in areas with small elections like the Fraser Valley Regional District and Hope, although still relevant in larger communities like Abbotsford and Chilliwack. A candidate’s personal connections and community reputation were marginally less important, although still vital in small communities like the FVRD and Hope.

The Fraser Valley Current will be covering local elections in-depth over the weeks leading up Oct. 15. Sign up for our newsletter to keep track of all the latest information, or visit our election hub pages for each community.

We’re bringing independent, local-first, in-depth reporting to serve you and our community.

Subscribe for free and plug in to the news that matters in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, and the rest of the Fraser Valley.

By filling out the form above, you consent to receive emails from Fraser Valley Current. You can unsubscribe at any time. View our privacy policy here.

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Grace Kennedy

Reporter at Fraser Valley Current

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