(Victoria municipal pin/Photo by Justin McElroy)

It wasn’t looking too hot for Greater Victoria as several municipal pins from the area were out of the running for top spot very early on—but that all changed in the final hours of the countdown.

One of the most well attended activities on BC Day this year happened online on Twitter, as CBC reporter Justin McElroy shared the results of his year-long effort to collect and rank every single municipal pin in British Columbia, over the course of nine riveting hours.

McElroy’s mission was born after he shared a friend’s photo of a quirky Grand Forks municipal pin with his Twitter following of 32,000+ about a year ago. This prompted a follower from Vancouver Island to mail him her collection of 30 municipal pins.

“I was completely amused and blown away at how different each of these pins were. They had different shapes, and some of them focused on different aspects of B.C.’s economy or history,” said McElroy in a phone interview with Victoria Buzz.

When a colleague decided to film him unboxing the collection and shared it on Twitter, it started a movement of other generous British Columbians volunteering up their pin collections and letting McElroy select what he needed to complete his own.

McElroy, who says he had not been interested in municipal pins to start with, was now hooked.

“There’s 162 municipalities, and I ended up getting about half of those pins for free from people giving them to me … My mind went to its ‘completionist’ version [and I thought], ‘this seems like an impossible task of getting a pin for every municipality. What if I did it?’ That’s how it happened.” he added.

To complete his collection, McElroy meticulously hunted down pins from every municipality he could find, whether on eBay or by personally driving over to different cities to purchase them from gift shops.

In two cases where the municipalities didn’t have any pins whatsoever—Jumbo Glacier and Canal Flats—he went to the lengths of having a friend design and print buttons representing them, in order to be able to have a complete ranking.

The entire endeavour ended up costing him $1,000, but all in all, McElroy says it was money well spent.

“When I started this, if you had told me that this will cost $1,000, I probably wouldn’t have done it. But this is part of the fun and the pain of collecting. At the end of the day you think ‘this is now fun and I really want to do it’.”

Along with a few friends, McElroy ranked the pins by assigning each a rating out of 10—four points for design (is it interesting and unique?), four points for locality (does it showcase something unique about the municipality’s culture, history, or economy?), and two points for clarity (could you tell that the the pin represented its municipality immediately?).

Possibly the most delightful and entertaining aspect of McElroy sharing his rankings on Twitter was the commentary that accompanied each one, revealing a combination of his intricate knowledge of the province and his quirky personality.

“It was really fun to see what different municipalities highlighted about themselves. A part of the reason why I do these projects is an excuse to dive in and learn a little more about these places that are so unique,” said McElroy.

In the past, the Municipal Affairs reporter has ranked municipality flags, local breweries, and roadside attractions in B.C.

Over the past three months, McElroy and his friends have also undertaken the task of ranking every local park in Vancouver as a fun, COVID-safe summer project.

“[These] fun competitions [are meant] to celebrate different parts of this province. It’s something I get a kick out of and it’s something people online seem to enjoy,” he adds.

Although it’s difficult to gauge the exact number of people who followed along on his nine-hour-long pin ranking odyssey on BC Day, over 1,000 people liked McElroy’s initial tweet announcing his endeavour and at least a few dozen commented to show their appreciation.

Now that the ranking is done, McElroy’s pins rest as laurels on a jean jacket waiting to be worn as a sure-shot conversation starter once the weather gets cooler.

Without further ado, here’s how Greater Victoria and Vancouver Island municipality pins fared on his list:

  • Langford – #160
  • Saanich – #153
  • Esquimalt – #151
  • Metchosin – #145
  • Campbell River – #144
  • Sidney – #136
  • Sayward – #133
  • Ucluelet – #118
  • Lake Cowichan – #116
  • Highlands – #106
  • Comox – #104
  • Ladysmith – #95
  • Qualicum Beach – #86
  • Sooke – #85
  • Oak Bay – #84
  • Duncan – #83
  • Parksvile – #82
  • Tofino – #78
  • North Saanich – #76
  • Zeballos – #63
  • Alert Bay – #60
  • Central Saanich – #58
  • Tahsis – #56
  • Port Hardy – #54
  • North Cowichan – #53
  • View Royal – #50
  • Courtenay – #40
  • Colwood – #36
  • Victoria – #23
  • Nanaimo – #7
  • Port Alberni – #3

Check out the full ranking, along with McElroy’s insights, on Twitter.

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