Election 14: Poll finds voters favour change

Cities are not dealing well with homeless populations.

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows residents are the most dissatisfied with their local governments in the region, according to a new poll by Insights West.

Residents were asked to rate their municipal government on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being excellent and one the worst score.

Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows respondents gave their governments the lowest score in the region, at 5.5 out of 10. The average rating was 6.3, and the highest were Tri-Cities and Burnaby, both at 6.8.

Most Lower Mainland voters want the Nov. 15 civic elections to result in at least some change at their city hall. Thirty one per cent of those surveyed in the region said it’s time for a significant change on council, and the appetite for change was strongest in Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows at 53 per cent. Vancouver was a distant second at 36 per cent, followed by Surrey and Richmond, both at 34 per cent.

The No. 1 issue for people in Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows was listed as economic development, with 31 per cent of people ranking it the top priority. That was followed by transportation (21 per cent), crime (11), poverty (10), education (seven), health care (five) and housing (four).  Not sure got 16 per cent.

“Transportation is a key area of concern in 11 municipalities, but not in Vancouver and Surrey, where housing and crime definitely dominate the agenda,” Insights West vice-president Mario Canseco said.

The poll also asked people whether their municipal government had done a good job of dealing with issues. Respondents chose between very good job, good job, bad job, very bad job, or not sure.

Respondents in Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows gave low marks on several issues. Combining both “bad job” and “very bad job,” local people expressed dissatisfaction with:

• dealing with homelessness and poverty, 72 per cent;

• dealing with transportation, 61 per cent;

• managing development and growth, 61 per cent;

• dealing with crime, 57 per cent.

One the homelessness and poverty issue, Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows had 32 per cent of respondents say “very bad job.” That tied with Abbotsford, which last year dumped manure on a homeless campsite.

The areas for highest marks in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, combining both “good job” and “very good job,” were:

• managing parks and recreation facilities, 78 per cent;

• fostering artistic and cultural activities, 77 per cent;

• protecting the environment, 64 per cent;

• providing good sanitation services, 62 per cent.

For the Metro region, the survey found 50 per cent of respondents believe their municipality does a bad job of handling transportation, as well as homelessness and poverty, while most gave their municipality good marks on protecting the environment and providing good sanitation services.

Faced with the statement, “I wish better people chose to seek public office in my municipality,” 30 per cent of respondents in Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows said they “strongly agree” and another 49 per cent said “moderately agree.”

The average for Metro Vancouver was 25 per cent and 39 per cent, respectively.

There was also stronger local agreement with the statement, “I am disappointed with the people who currently run my municipalities government.”

Combined, 71 per cent in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows agreed that developers and lobbyists have too much influence in their municipalities. The response across Metro was 68 per cent.

Although the statistics are reliable when both communities are taken together, the poll cannot accurately separate Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge results, according to Canseco.

However, he added that the statistics were “fairly similar” for both communities.

Most mayors running for re-election can take solace in generally strong approval ratings from the online survey of 2,138 residents.

Outgoing Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts scored best, with a 74 per cent approval rating, while 69 per cent of Tri-Cities residents generally approve of their mayors, followed by 67 per cent for Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan. New Westminster, Delta and White Rock mayors also had 67 per cent approval and Abbotsford for Mayor Bruce Banman had 65 per cent.

The worst mayoral ratings were in Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows, with 39 per cent approval to 46 per cent disapproval, and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson at 52 per cent approval to 41 per cent disapproval.