From a battle over water in Abbotsford to the election that never was, runs down some of the polls to watch on civic election Saturday.

Pollster Mario Canseco of Angus Reid Public Opinion says that Vancouver's race is "the big one," but not necessarily because of the showdown between mayoral hopefuls Gregor Robertson and Suzanne Anton.

"I think it's more about the council, because it really defines how things are going to go for whoever becomes mayor," he said.

Canseco says that the Non-Partisan Association seems to be promoting its council candidates just as hard as its mayoral contender, perhaps hoping to improve upon its current status of one lowly councillor in 10.

"Maybe that will sway some voters who may not love Suzanne Anton, but don't want Gregor Robertson to have the last say on everything that happens in Vancouver," Canseco said.

And it's not just the NPA who could make gains on council this time around. Canseco points to the candidacy of the Green Party's Adriane Carr, who has already made unsuccessful bids for premier of B.C. and MP in Vancouver Centre.

"Here you have a person who's done practically every job in order to get into some position of governance," Canseco said.

"This might be the chance that she's been looking for to finally get her green agenda out there."

Information is key in Abbotsford water referendum

For Canseco, another intriguing race is in Abbotsford, where voters will get to choose whether to support plans for a $300-million water system that would be financed as part of a public-private partnership.

Officials are warning that without the new infrastructure, the city will outgrow its supply by 2016.

Canseco says his company's polls have revealed that this referendum is really a battle of information.

"When people figure out how much this is going to cost, they say no," he said.

"When they find out that part of the cost is going to be covered by the federal government, they move closer to saying yes."

He's says there's also a contingent of voters who are opposed to the project because they don't want private companies getting involved in the supply of a public good like water, but many of those people are younger and traditionally less likely to make it to their polling stations.

"Are you actually going to walk out in the rain, with a lot of slush on the ground, to cast a ballot?" he asked.

Weather permitting, here are some other races -- and one non-race -- to keep an eye on:


Disgraced former MLA Paul Reitsma has returned to the hustings after 13 years away from public life. He resigned from the legislature in 1998 after he was caught writing flattering letters about himself to a local newspaper under false names, but says he's learned from his mistakes and wants the mayor's seat. He faces acting Mayor Chris Burger, who took the top seat in city hall when Ed Mayne resigned to make a long-shot bid for leader of the BC Liberals.


The race in the Okanagan city features another return to politics -- this time, for former mayor Walter Gray. Gray says he's frustrated over the failure of plans for a dramatic overhaul to the city's downtown, including highrises reaching up to 27 storeys. He's challenging incumbent Sharon Shepherd.

White Rock

Mayor Catherine Ferguson is retiring, and three contenders have stepped up to take her spot: city councillor Lynne Sinclair, former city manager Wayne Baldwin and local businessman Larry Anschell. Residents of the scenic city by the sea say they are concerned about taxes and keeping development under control, but there may be other pressing concerns at stake. In recent years, White Rock has faced problems with uncertain water supply after E. coli was found during routine testing of the city's water supply, and this summer, the local beach was closed for two days after sewage was found oozing into the water.

Burnaby School Board

A battle over the school district's new policy against homophobia and bullying sparked the creation of a new party -- Burnaby Parents' Voice -- formed by parents who believe that the policy is a result of "left-wing social engineering led by gay activists." The party is fielding five candidates, including Charter Lau, a member of a Christian group that espouses anti-Muslim sentiments and produced a supposedly anti-child-pornography video that includes censored but still revealing images of nearly naked children.

The District of the Highlands -- One not to watch

The mayor and six councillors in this suburban Victoria community aren't facing a single challenger this year. The seven politicians were all re-elected by acclamation last month and will be able to spend a relaxing weekend without worrying about whether voters place a checkmark by their names.