The City of Vancouver is holding its municipal election on Saturday, October 15, where Mayor Kennedy Stewart and the 10 sitting city councillors are all seeking re-election.

We're now around the time in the election cycle where people are aware of the candidates and everyone starts honing in on the key issues, and a new survey conducted by Mustel Group last month -- the Metro Elects survey -- gives us a good indication of what those pain points really are, in the eyes of the general public, businesses, and politicians.

The survey was conducted among 180 Greater Vancouver Board of Trade members, 65 candidates running in the upcoming election, and a random sample of 500 Metro Vancouver residents.

What Businesses Think

In the survey report published this week, respondents from the business group identified the top five issues as:

  1. Permitting, licensing, and red tape reduction;
  2. Housing;
  3. Crime and public safety;
  4. Economic or business-friendly policies; and
  5. Taxes.

Permitting was identified by 50% of the 180 respondents as a key issue, with the rest of the top four being identified by between 48% and 44%, before a drop-off to 35% for taxes to round out the top five. The five least important issues -- not including the "none in particular" and "miscellaneous" options -- were: active transportation (9%), reconciliation (13%), road network (19%), downtown revitalization (19%), and the overdose crisis (22%).

READ: Vancouver Office Market Steady Despite AAA Vacancies and Hybrid Work

What Politicians Think

Perhaps most important is the key issues in the eyes of politicians -- since it's likely a reflection of what they believe people about. For those running for mayor, city council, or the park board, the top issues in their eyes are:

  1. Affordable housing;
  2. Planning and infrastructure;
  3. Environment and climate change;
  4. Transportation and public transit;
  5. Crime and public safety; transparency and fiscal responsibility (tie).

Affordable housing was far and away the top issue, being identified by 65% of the 65 respondents as a key issue, nearly double the next-highest issue. At the bottom of their list was: preserving neighbourhood character (3%), core services like trash collection (5%), healthcare (6%), taxes (6%), and overdevelopment/densification (6%).

What's interesting is the disconnect between the top issues identified by businesses and politicians. Economic or business-friendly policies was a top-five issue for businesses, identified by 44% of respondents, but only 11% of politicians. Additionally, taxation was identified by 35% of business respondents, but only 6% of politicians.

READ: Mark Marissen, Vancouver Mayor Candidate, Talks “Urgency and Scale” of Housing Challenges

What The General Public Thinks

There may be some disconnect between politicians and businesses, but politicians and the general public are in clear agreement, at least on the top issue. In the eyes of the general public, the top issues were:

  1. Affordable housing;
  2. Transportation and public transit;
  3. Crime and public safety;
  4. Homelessness;
  5. Transparency and fiscal responsibility.

Approximately 34% of the 500 people from the general public surveyed identified affordable housing as the top issue. The number is quite lower than politicians, but was still the issue that was identified by the most people, and was noticeably more than the second-most, Transportation, which was identified by 20%.

While the numbers differed, most of the top issues that ranked high for the general public also ranked high for politicians, indicating that politicians at least know what people care about and are perhaps doubling-down on the affordable housing issue because they know it's the top issue for the public.

One significant exception was the issue of homelessness, however, which was a top-five issue for the general public, identified by 16% of the public, but identified by only 8% of the politicians, which was closer to the bottom.

READ: Here’s How BC Residents Feel About Various Ways To Reduce Homelessness

Other recent surveys have found that most people do not think the government -- municipal, provincial, or federal -- has done a good job of addressing homelessness. Many were particularly critical of the municipal government following a summer that saw a large amount of conflict between the City and residents of the Downtown Eastside.

However, there is good reason to believe that the gap in this survey between politicians and the public on homelessness is not a cause for concern. Affordability was the top issue identified by politicians, more so than any other issue for any of the three groups, and it's plausible that politicians view homelessness as more of an affordable housing issue, skewing the numbers.

But now that we know what the politicians are thinking, it's time to see whether or not their words leading up the October 15 election match accordingly, and whether or not their actions do too if they're elected.