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'The history of the moment is not lost on me': Vancouver elects first Chinese Canadian mayor

Ken Sim has been elected Mayor of Vancouver

Cheers of "ABC" were loud and regular at A Better City's election party this evening as Ken Sim topped the polls with a significant lead over Kennedy Stewart in Vancouver's mayoral election.

"Vancouver has elected its first Chinese Canadian mayor," Sim announced to his supporters at the beginning of his victory speech. "The history of the moment is not lost on me."

Not only that, but his A Better City (ABC) party will be filling many of the seats at council, the Vancouver School Board and the Board of Parks and Recreation.

"We're now the largest municipal party in our great province," Sim noted in his speech, adding that the party plans to "do politics differently."

"It was born out of the promise that decisions in government should not be made on the advice of polls, lobbyists, activists or whatever is trending on Twitter," he said. "Instead it should be made on the advice of parents and educators and scientists and health care providers and what's happening in community town halls and coffee shops and the occasional local pub."

In his speech, Sim reiterated several campaign promises.

"On day one we're going to requisition for 100 new police officers and 100 mental health nurses," Sim promised in his speech. "We're going to stop the road tax. We're going to plant the first 100,000 new trees."

He also promised to "expand the responsible consumption of alcohol in our parks" and reduce permit wait times for developments.

At the same time, he tried to temper expectations.

"There will be false starts. We will make mistakes," he said.

It appears Sim won't have to battle other political parties, as it appears many voted for the full slate of ABC candidates. All ABC candidates were winning their races at the time of publication with a significant lead over any candidate from any other party or independent in any race. This would give ABC a majority at council and both the parks and school boards.

Sim beat Kennedy Stewart, the first incumbent Vancouver mayor to lose a reelection bid in more than 40 years. Throughout the campaign, many saw Sim as the biggest rival to Stewart; in 2018 Sim lost to the mayor by 957 votes, while running for the Non-Partisan Association (NPA).

This election Sim ran with a brand new party. ABC launched in 2021 without any candidates, but Sim was quickly put forth as their mayoral choice.

ABC was helped when three sitting councillors, Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung, Coun, Lisa Dominato and Coun. Rebecca Bligh, joined ABC in the spring after leaving the NPA. In his speech, Sim gave the trio credit for helping boost the party when they joined.

In 2021 the party's executive director, Pat Estey, said Sim himself was a big part in launching ABC. 

“Ken is really the impetus around A Better City,” said Estey. He was also Sim’s former director of special projects and logistics during the NPA’s 2018 campaign. “We think it would be great to have Ken and individuals like Ken sign up to run for mayor.”

Sim and council will quickly face the challenge of putting together the city's 2023 budget, which will be drafted this fall.

One of their challenges will be working on his promise of hiring 100 new police officers and 100 new mental health nurses over the next four years to help combat street crimes. Public safety was a major piece of the ABC campaign.

Notably, the VPD is already short 60 officers on the 2017 commitment to increase the number of officers in Vancouver by 120. At the same time, applications to join the police force have been low.

While Sim received a variety of endorsements, one stood out, as the Vancouver Police Union threw their support behind him. Normally the VPU doesn't endorse candidates for political office.

The results of the election will be made official on Oct. 19.

With files from Mike Howell

Editor's note: A previous version of this article included a misquote from our recording of Ken Sim indicating he was the first Chinese Canadian mayor elected in Vancouver. The copy has been corrected. V.I.A. regrets the error.