VANCOUVER -- Alderman Mike Harcourt, who ran as an independent but has been identified with the New Democratic Party, upset incumbent Mayor Jack Volrich to become the next mayor of Vancouver in weekend civic elections.
Harcourt, 37, whose fortunes surged at the close of the lacklustre campaign, garnered 44,271 votes Saturday with 125 of 134 polls reporting. Volrich, who had been expected to win handily a third, two-year term, had 42,713 votes.
The 52-year-old Volrich, a lawyer, ran as an independent with backing from the Civic Non-Partisan Association. Harcourt was first elected as an alderman at the age of 27 and has been on City Council for eight years.
Other mayoralty candidates, Martin Zlotnik, David Ingram and Frank Helden, trailed far behind.
Solutions to Vancouver's traffic and housing problems were issues in the campaign. Harcourt wanted resources now allocated to holding a world fair on transportation in 1986 directed at providing more downtown housing.
He also wanted to proceed with a conventional light rail transit system to ease Vancouver's traffic congestion. Volrich, by contrast, indicated he wanted to study other options, such as improved arterial roads.
The two candidates also held opposing views on the method for electing the city's aldermen. Harcourt favored a return to the ward system, unused for 45 years, under which aldermen were elected to represent specific sections of the city. Volrich opposed the ward system.
In a plebiscite two years ago, Vancouver voted 51.7 percent in favor of wards. Despite the majority vote, Volrich and the NPA-dominated council stalled by appointing a commission.
The commission eventually recommended a partial ward system. The council disliked that idea and scrapped it last February.
The other three mayoralty candidates were Martin Zlotnik, backed by The Electors Action Movement, and independents David Ingram and Frank Helden.
There were 292,000 eligible voters, but the last three civic elections in 1974, 1976 and 1978 all had less than 40-percent voter turnouts.
Voters also went to the polls Saturday in 129 of B.C.'s 140 incorporated communities to select mayors, aldermen, school trustees and parks board representatives. Sixteen B.C. mayors have already been returned by acclamation and in 24 communities all aldermanic candidates were acclaimed.