The municipal election is fast approaching, and Vancouver voters will face an interesting choice: elect an established politician as mayor, or hand the reins to a newcomer. 

There will be no fewer than 21 mayoral candidates on the ballot when Vancouverites head to the polls on Oct. 20, and while a lot can happen between now and then, a small handful of hopefuls have emerged as likely contenders for the city's top job.

Among them is Kennedy Stewart, the former Burnaby MP who made headlines earlier this year when he was arrested protesting Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline.

The demonstration was held in violation of a court injunction, but Stewart told CTV News he felt compelled to take part.

"My constituents were dead-set against the pipeline," the independent said. "I felt I had to stand up for them."

Though his seven years in parliament were spent serving Burnaby, the candidate has called Vancouver home for almost 30 years since moving away from Nova Scotia with, as he puts it, "100 bucks that my grandmother gave me."

During that time he worked for the city and park board, whetting an appetite for public service that led him to study politics and policy at Simon Fraser University and eventually earn a PhD on world cities at the London School of Economics.

Like many candidates and voters, Stewart sees housing affordability as the top issue facing Vancouver. His platform includes promises to build 25,000 new non-profit rental homes and bring in 35,000 new condos, coach houses and townhomes over the next decade.

"It really is a crisis," Stewart said. "It's affecting of course our neighbours, but it's also affecting business, so that is the number one issue here."

A recent poll put Stewart at the front of the race, despite only receiving 23 per cent support. In second, at 16 per cent, was the Non-Partisan Association's Ken Sim, a candidate on the other side of the spectrum both in political leanings and experience.

But while Sim may be a novice politician, his business background is unmatched in this year's campaign. Sim co-founded both the Rosemary Rocksalt bagel franchise and homecare company Nurse Next Door, giving him experience that is, in his opinion, more valuable than his opponents' years of public service.

"I believe I'd be the best person for mayor because I'm the only person who's run a large, complex organization with thousands of employees and moving parts," Sim told CTV News.

He, too, sees housing as the top issue facing Vancouver, and promises to quickly update regulations to allow owners of detached homes to add up to two secondary suites in their properties, a move he calculates would bring up to 40,000 new rental units into the market.

"Housing affordability, that's the primary concern of most residents of Vancouver," he said.

Sim also pledges to fast-track low-income housing, though the candidate's platform doesn't make any specific promises when it comes to numbers.

Close behind Sim in the latest polling is Shauna Sylvester, another candidate who, despite her background as a Vision Vancouver board member, is running as an independent.

As a policy wonk who has spent decades advising governments, serving on various boards and non-profits, and supporting women and journalists through the Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society – an international organization she co-founded – Sylvester also believes her background makes her the most suitable candidate for the mayor's chair.

In these fraught political times, she sees her experience as crucial to uniting what will likely be a divided city council.

"I have 30 years of working with cities, in conflict zones, bringing people together (and) bridging their differences," said Sylvester, who is currently executive director of the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue.

Unsurprisingly, Sylvester also sees the top issues facing Vancouver as "housing, housing and housing." Her platform includes promises to develop community housing on city-owned land and transform Vancouver into the North American capital of co-ops and co-housing through zoning changes and a streamlined application process.

But getting any of that done will require an open and unifying brand of leadership that Sylvester feels she’s uniquely suited to deliver.

“We’re at a really important historical moment, not just because we haven’t had a woman (as mayor) in 132 years,” she said. “People are tired of the polarization, they’re tired of the politicization of municipal politics.”

If that's true, don't tell Wai Young of the new Coalition Vancouver party. Young has spent much of her campaign lobbing bombs at the current Vision Vancouver administration and painting a bleak picture of the state of the city.

"We are a city that has been broken. We are a city that is in decline," Young told CTV News. "Why is the city so dirty and gritty? All over the city people have noticed it. There's garbage everywhere, grittiness everywhere, there's needles in parks."

Like Stewart, Young has experience in federal politics, having served as a Conservative MP for Vancouver South. She's also called Vancouver home for decades, ever since moving from Hong Kong when she was just four years old.

But that's about where their similarities end. Young has promised to rip out many of outgoing mayor Gregor Robertson's bike lanes, which she sees as the product of an ideological "war on transportation."

"We are going to get Vancouver moving again. We're going to get Vancouver successful again," she said.

She boasts of more than three decades' of civic and policy leadership, including at various community agencies in the Downtown Eastside, and, like her main rivals, has a plan to address Vancouver's housing crisis. Her platform includes promises to focus on rental housing over luxury condos, arguing that the problem isn't about supply, but the types of housing being constructed.

She also opposes the current Making Room Housing Program, which includes allowing for duplexes in most residential areas of the city and which Young has blasted as a "sell-out policy."

Young has a hard fight ahead of her if she's going to take the city's top job, however, having polled at just two per cent support last month. Hector Bremner of Yes Vancouver came in a bit head of Young, but did not respond to an interview request from CTV News.

For a full list of candidates and their platforms, visit the City of Vancouver website

With files from CTV Vancouver's Shannon Paterson