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Vancouver loves to be different.

Vancouver refused to build a freeway through the centre of the city at a time when other cities were splitting their neighbourhoods with eight-lane expressways.

The city opened a safe-injection site for drug addicts, who would be arrested in other cities for openly using heroin.

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The city revitalized its downtown with a flood of high-rises as people in other cities were rushing to the suburbs.

"I love the fact that Vancouver is different than all other cities in Canada," Councillor Sam Sullivan said yesterday as he analyzed the results of a municipal vote on changing the system of representation.

"Vancouver has a different character than the rest of the country because of the way it does things.

"It does not just mimic other cities. We chart a different path."

The city asserted its difference once again this weekend, voting to retain its system of electing councillors in citywide elections.

The Yes side advocated change. Supporters urged Vancouver to adopt a ward system, with councillors standing for election in their neighbourhoods.

Toronto, Montreal and every other major city in Canada has the ward system -- considered to offer the most direct form of representation -- with councillors responsible to voters in their neighbourhoods.

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However, Vancouver voted No to wards, reaffirming support for citywide elections. The system, supporters say, encourages councillors to take broader perspectives on issues.

The No side received 54 per cent of the 66,317 ballots cast in the plebiscite on Saturday, the chief election officer, Syd Baxter, reported.

The city has repeatedly voted to retain the citywide system in plebiscites over the past 68 years.

"The debate is now finished," said Darlene Marzari, chairwoman of the Yes committee and a provincial NDP minister in the 1990s.

"No council would want to touch this with a 10-foot pole for 20 years," she said in an interview yesterday.

Support for the citywide system traditionally has been concentrated in the west side of the city, which includes Vancouver's wealthier communities. But results show that several east-side neighbourhoods back the system, too, Ms. Marzari said.

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The city is increasingly racially diverse, she added.

A well-financed "scare campaign" based on projected costs of a ward system was effective in the multi-ethnic communities.

She estimated that the Yes side spent about $70,000 on its campaign.

Mr. Sullivan said he did not yet know how much had been spent by the No side, but campaign money was a problem. In the final days of the campaign, he paid bills of about $20,000 out of his own pocket, he said.

Mr. Sullivan added that the decision caught him by surprise.

Four days before the vote, he was convinced the No side would lose, and he stopped campaigning.

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He did not detect the strong support for the No side in the Chinese communities on the east side, he said.

The decision was greeted with silence. "Everyone was thinking, 'What happened?' " Mr. Sullivan said.

It took several seconds for the No-side supporters to realize they had won, he said.

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