White Rock voters have turned out in larger numbers than usual for voting in the first half of the civic election day.
Chief election officer Sandy Bowden – at the Centennial Arena polling station – said that, as of 4:30 p.m., 1018 people had voted there.
“In the last election, in 2014, there were 750 people who voted here.”
“It looks like a higher than usual turnout than last year, but its hard to estimate, because the polls haven’t closed yet. It’s hard to say how significant it will be, but so far it definitely looks higher than the previous election.”
The Kent Street Activity Centre and White Rock Community Centre polling stations have also appeared busier than usual, she said, with voting consistent from 8 a.m. on.
Volunteers at the city’s principal polling station at White Rock Community Centre, interviewed shortly after 3 p.m., also reported that voter response has been steady since 8 a.m.
“It’s usually up and down,” said voting tabulation clerk Amanda Mann. “But it’s been busy all day, with line-ups out the door. This is about the slowest it’s been all day.”
In White Rock, the election campaign has been sharply divided between White Rock Coalition incumbents – including Grant Meyer, a councillor making his first bid for the mayor’s chair – have called for continuing the status quo, and a large field of mayoralty and councillor candidates who have been calling for a change in city direction away from a focus on highrise development.
Other issues, including White Rock’s water quality, have also been of concern to residents, in spite of the Coalition-dominated council’s insistence that water quality is now consistently within safety parameters, particularly with the construction of a new arsenic and manganese treatment facility due to begin operation early next year.
Among voters interviewed leaving the Community Centre polling station – most of them in their senior years – the majority said the main issue that brought them out to vote was highrise development in the city.
“I want to stop the destruction of White Rock as a great seaside town,” said Edward Westphal, a lifetime city resident.
He went on to say that he feels that “people coming in from other places” are putting a drain on services that should be helping Canadian citizens.
“Development is what brought us out,” said Ron Hotchin, who said he had not lived in the city long but had been following the issues through news media.
“That’s the big issue,” agreed his wife Mary. “Water quality is another big one.”
“We want to stop development,” said Sean Russell.
“There’s been too much,” added his wife Marie, who explained that they were not against all development. “But we need to slow it down – 15 highrises (developments currently approved) is too much. And also the White Rock water is bad.”
“We won’t drink it,” Sean Russell added.
“I’m out to vote because of the condos,” Glen Mitchell said. “I hate the way development is going – 15, 20, 30 storeys – it’s too much. I lived here when the tallest building was three storeys.”
But Ted Vanderleest said no particular issue brought him out to vote.
“I’m just excercising my democratic right and responsibility,” he said. “I like the way (council) has been doing it. We need a little progress around here.”