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Mike Howell: So you want to become a candidate in the Vancouver municipal election?

‘Candidate 101’ sessions begin April 5 for people interested in council, school board, park board
The City of Vancouver is hosting a series of sessions beginning April 5 for prospective candidates who want to run in the Oct. 15 municipal election.

So you want to become a candidate in the October municipal election?

My first thought: Did you lose a bet?

Kidding, of course.

What I meant to say was good luck and I hope you win.

Which is probably what you’ll hear from a panel of municipal government enthusiasts and staffers with knowledge of the sport you’re about to join when you attend a series of “candidate 101 sessions” hosted by the city.

The first one goes April 5.

The all-star cast from whom you will better understand what you’re getting into includes Rosemary Hagiwara, a longtime city staffer and chief election officer for the 2022 election.

“The journey to becoming an elected official requires significant preparation, and we appreciate those who decide to take their commitment to Vancouver to a higher level,” Hagiwara said in a news release Monday.

“We hope that candidates have positive experiences as we head into the fall election, and these sessions will contribute to that.”

Hagiwara will be joined by David Green, the chief financial officer for the school board, Cheryl Chan, the board relations manager for the park board, and Gerald Baier, a professor and acting director of the UBC Centre for Study of Democratic Institutions.

Dr. Joy Masuhara and Trudi Goels of Women Transforming Cities are also on the roster.

Sadly, no veteran city hall reporters worn down by late night meetings, endless points of order and the horror of amendments to amendments were invited to impart some insight gained from decades spent in the cheap seats.

Which is perfectly fine because I can do that right here.

But be warned that my take is selfish and focused on city council.

At the same time, I hope my written TED talk will be perceived as instructive for those not already media trained, figuring out their brand or brushing up on their fancy words that mean nothing to the average person.

Here we go…


If you genuinely care about Vancouver, then you should have an informed and evidence-based take on affordable housing, the overdose crisis, climate change, transportation, public safety, and all things planning (City-wide plan, Broadway plan, for example).

First Nations

Name the leaders of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations. No Google. You should know something about the unceded territories that Vancouver is on, its history and how pockets of it are being transformed via First Nations development. And what do you know about the city’s commitment to reconciliation? Is it genuine?

City budget

Educate yourself about the city’s budget, which is worth $1.7 billion this year. Every December, council spends several days deciding how to balance the competing interests of core services and new initiatives. If you’re elected in October, this will be one of the first major pieces of business on your plate.

Council chamber

If elected, do engage in lively debate. Stand for something. Be passionate. Surprise us veteran scribes by not voting with your political party. Don’t bring forward motions that have nothing to do with the city. Don’t use words most people don’t understand; jargon sucks, folks. Don’t interrupt the person running the meeting. Don’t say you’ll be brief in your comments and then blather on for five minutes.


If elected, don’t complain about your workload. The job description and its long hours shouldn’t come as a surprise. Don’t complain about your $91,878 base salary. At one time, the city website indicated a councillor’s salary reflected that of an average Vancouverite’s earnings. That statement has since been removed.


Listen to people outside your circle during the campaign and continue to do so if you get elected. That includes all communities. Talk to people who use drugs. People who don’t have homes. Police officers. Business people. Don’t base opinions on opinions. Understand the limitations of city government.

City staff

Don’t think you know more than city staff.

Sense of humour

A laugh or two is encouraged to offset the current heaviness in the world.


Best not to avoid media during or after a successful campaign. Best to provide reporters with various contact info options for immediate response to a breaking news story. Best to call reporters back on the day they contact you. Scoops are always welcomed.


Vancouver council spent 153 days, 474.3 hours in meetings in 2021.

Still want in?

If my list hasn’t scared you off, and you're keen to attend one of the city sessions, go to the website and register at If you can’t attend, the city plans to record the sessions and post them on its website.

Official nomination packages will be available in June.

The candidate nomination period will run from Aug. 30 to Sept. 9.

All of Vancouver’s 10 incumbent councillors and Mayor Kennedy Stewart are seeking re-election; Coun. Hardwick is actually challenging Stewart for the mayor's chair. The term is four years. Election day in Saturday, Oct. 15.

Good luck and I hope you win.