Gregor Robertson (politician)
- Not to be confused with Gregor Robertson (footballer).
Gregor Angus Bethune Robertson (born September 18, 1964) is a Canadian entrepreneur and politician serving as the 39th and current Mayor of Vancouver, British Columbia since 2008. He was elected as part of the Vision Vancouver party slate. He served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly for Vancouver-Fairview, as a member of the New Democratic Party of British Columbia, from 2005 until his resignation in 2008 to run for the mayoral position. On January 10, 2018, Robertson announced in a Facebook post that he would not seek reelection later that year.
Robertson in 2008
|39th Mayor of Vancouver|
Assumed office |
December 8, 2008
|Preceded by||Sam Sullivan|
|Succeeded by||Kennedy Stewart (elect)|
|Member of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly|
May 17, 2005 – July 15, 2008
|Preceded by||Gary Collins|
|Succeeded by||Jenn McGinn|
September 18, 1964|
North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
|Political party||Vision Vancouver|
|Spouse(s)||Amy Robertson (separated)|
|Domestic partner||Wanting Qu (2015–2017)|
|Alma mater||Colorado College|
Gregor Robertson was born in North Vancouver in 1964. His father was an attorney with Russell Dumoulin, a prominent Vancouver law firm, and his mother was a teacher. After his parents divorced, Gregor grew up partly in Portola Valley, near San Francisco with his mother, and later with his father in North Vancouver. In 1982 he graduated from Carson Graham Secondary School in North Vancouver and enrolled at the University of British Columbia, but later transferred to Colorado College, where he earned a BA in English and Biology. After graduating, he intended to become a physician, but the University of British Columbia School of Medicine rejected his application. Robertson has said he didn't like medicine because he would have to work in end-of-life situations.
His relations include grandfather Dr. Emile Therrien, a pioneering doctor, and Dr. Norman Bethune, his grandmother’s cousin, a noted anti-fascist and Communist famous for battlefield medicine in the Spanish Civil War and the Second Sino-Japanese War. He is not related to Gordon Bethune.
He cowboyed in the Cariboo and sailed the Pacific for 18 months, accompanied by his wife, Amy, whom he had met in Colorado. They settled in New Zealand, where he was attracted to, and began, farming as a trade. After turning 25, he returned to Canada, where he purchased land in Glen Valley near Fort Langley, and made his living as a farmer there.
Robertson went on to co-found Happy Planet, a Vancouver-based company that produces and markets organic fruit beverages. He was named one of Canada's "Top 40 under 40" by The Globe and Mail. He was also a Tides Canada director from 2002 until 2004, when he entered politics with the provincial New Democratic Party.
He was elected to the Legislative Assembly in the 2005 election as a member of the British Columbia New Democratic Party having defeated the trade union leader Judy Darcy in a high-profile battle for the party's nomination. He then beat British Columbia Liberal Party's Virginia Greene in the general election. During his time as the MLA for Vancouver-Fairview, Robertson served as the Opposition Critic for Small Business and as the Co-Chair of the Caucus Climate Change Taskforce.
The Vancouver Sun listed his mentors as Joel Solomon, Mike Magee, Bob Penner, and Bob Rennie, the condo mega-salesman. Solomon is a millionaire expat Tennessean who, with Rubbermaid heiress Carol Newell, built Renewal Partners, a foundation and charity-backed company that invests in socially responsible businesses. He put at least $250,000 into Robertson’s Happy Planet Foods, but his political influence and mentorship extends far beyond that." According to the Vancouver Sun "Penner and Magee met in Toronto as activists in the 1980s and Magee introduced him to Solomon, who invested in his fledgling polling firm, Strategic Communications."
2008 mayoral campaignEdit
In February 2008, Robertson announced that he would run for Mayor of Vancouver. In June 2008, Robertson secured the Vision Vancouver party's nomination as its mayoral candidate, defeating Raymond Louie and Allan De Genova. Robertson soon announced his resignation from the Legislative Assembly effective July 15, 2008. His main rival was Peter Ladner of the Non-Partisan Association.
In November 2008, Robertson came under scrutiny after reporters discovered that he had an unpaid transit infraction fine from the SkyTrain system. While the public generally appeared willing to accept his explanation that the original infraction was a mistake, he was criticized by some for attempting to spin his failure to pay into a politically positive statement. Robertson ultimately paid the $173 fine.
He was elected by a solid margin in the 2008 municipal election. Seven of the ten seats on Vancouver City Council also went to Robertson's Vision Vancouver party. "It was a hard-fought campaign," he told supporters gathered at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, "but there is far more that unites us than divides us."
Robertson's campaign received donations from at least two American supporters. Councilor Ellen Woodsworth, who ran as part of the coalition led by Robertson in the 2008 election, later called for a ban on foreign campaign donations such as those received by Robertson.
Lack of transparencyEdit
The Vancouver Sun claims that Robertson’s critics "suggest city hall has become less participatory and more willing to carry out pro forma consultations where the outcomes are already largely determined by his ideologically driven government. They complain about money, a developer-friendly strategy and an organization with a burning desire to change the status quo, no apologies necessary. The suggestions rankle Robertson. "I don’t like the suggestion I am ideologically driven," he said". The Vancouver Sun reports "His elected opposition complain that even they must file freedom of information requests to get once-routine budget information."
Issues of marginalised peopleEdit
Mental health advocate positionEdit
During the 2008 campaign Robertson promised he would establish a mental health advocate position, as previously recommended by Vision Vancouver councilor Heather Deal. In September 2009, it was announced that there were no plans to do so, and that instead the task would be added to the responsibilities of city staff.
Homeless Emergency Action Team (HEAT)Edit
Two of the shelters in a residential neighbourhood near a daycare centre and senior housing facility at the North end of the Granville Street Bridge were controversial. Community residents cited concerns with lack of public consultation, fights, public urination, defecation, public sex, and open drug use. British Columbia Housing Minister Rich Coleman cited the need for laying out rules of operation and the need for better community consultation. He called Gregor Robertson's bargaining on housing homeless people "amateurish" and later apologized for the remark. Robertson reached an agreement with Housing Minister Rich Coleman and came to a mutual decision to close one shelter and reassess another. The second controversial shelter shut down on August 5, 2009, as alternate housing was found. Later that year, Penny Ballem, the unelected city manager, notified council about a federal proposal from the Mental Health Commission of Canada to address the homeless crisis by turning the 102-room low-budget Bosman's Hotel on Howe Street near Helmcken Street into an experiment designed to see if aggressive health treatment along with housing could help the same target population. Council will decide on the proposal in the Fall of 2009. Council member Kerry Jang was said to be behind the Vancouver portion of the project. On September 15, 2009, Vancouver city staff issued a report warning Mayor Robertson and the City Council that they should no longer expect the HEAT shelters to be funded after the 2009–2010 fiscal year.
On January 5, 2010, Mayor Robertson announced that the controversial shelter at 1435 Granville Street, in a predominantly residential neighbourhood, would re-open the following day without robust neighbourhood consultations. It is scheduled to close by April 30, 2010. The city is planning an open house approximately two weeks after re-opening the shelter.
Greenest City Action TeamEdit
On February 25, 2009, Mayor Gregor Robertson announced the members of the Greenest City Action Team in support of his campaign promise to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world. In April 2009, Robertson and the Greenest City Action Team released a report outlining quick-start recommendations to move aggressively on its green plan. The report focused on three key areas: jobs and the economy, greener communities, and protecting human health.
China democracy controversyEdit
In September 2010 on a trip to China, Robertson was questioned about working with an authoritarian regime by the CBC to which he responded, "You can question how worthwhile democracy is in a lot of countries right now." Upon returning to Canada he later admitted he was guilty of a "poor choice of words".
Park board independenceEdit
In June 2009, Robertson and city councilor Raymond Louie were accused by Vancouver city councilor Suzanne Anton, a member of the opposition party, of attempting to destroy the independence of the park board by centralizing budget oversight. Aaron Jasper, a Vision Vancouver member of the park board, called on the city council to restore the decentralized budget control.
In September 2009 Susan Mundick, the general manager of the board, announced her retirement. Penny Ballem, the city manager of Vancouver hired by Mayor Robertson, stripped Mundick of all routine transitional duties. Ballem then stated she would help the park board choose Mundick's replacement, a selection process city hall traditionally had not been involved in. In response, Suzanne Anton urged Mayor Robertson and the city council to limit Ballem's control of the park board.
Robertson was a strong supporter of Cambie Street merchants and spoke regularly about hardships from the Canada Line construction. He called the handling of the rail line construction an "injustice". On March 23, 2009, Robertson testified in a lawsuit brought by a Cambie Street plebiscite merchant in the B.C. Supreme Court regarding damage to her business from the construction, a lawsuit for which the merchant was awarded $600,000 by the B.C. Supreme Court because in part there was insufficient action to mitigate the effects of Canada Line construction on Cambie Street merchants. This decision was later appealed and overturned at the B.C. Court of Appeal on February 18, 2012. On the Canada Line opening day of August 17, 2009, Robertson said Greater Vancouver needed more rapid transit but the Canada Line was a "great start" and that he was a "Johnny-come-lately" to the project.
Arbutus Rail CorridorEdit
The City of Vancouver has been trying to acquire the disused railway line running adjacent to Arbutus Street from Marpole to Granville Island. The line is private property owned by CP who have been trying to sell it to the City of Vancouver after many citizens objected to their plans to develop it for housing.
On September 17, 2009, Mayor Robertson called for adding a toll to the Sea-to-Sky Highway, the primary driving route between Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia, and to all major crossings of the Fraser River to help fund Translink. British Columbia Minister of Transportation Shirley Bond dismissed the proposal by stating that the Province has no plans to add a toll to the Sea-to-Sky Highway, and that the Province was not contemplating a change in tolling strategy.
Gregor Robertson came to mayorship at a time in history when cities worldwide had been installing advanced cycling infrastructure. This caused him to be associated with cycling in media and the public eye. The same effect happened to mayors in other cities around the same time. In an April 2008 speech to a Critical Mass rally, Robertson requested the assistance of Critical Mass riders to help get him elected. He took part in the April 2008 ride by illegally riding without a helmet to show his support for the protesters. However, in July 2009, after he was elected, he expressed that he was "pissed off" at Critical Mass because organizers had not announced the route for the next ride and would not participate. Vancouver's Critical Mass does not plan its routes.
Cycling had been growing in popularity in Vancouver as it has all over the world and the desire of its citizens to cycle for at least some of their trips had been growing for decades however little was done before July 2009 when the Burrard Bridge bicycle lane trial was initiated to determine whether creating a new protected bike lane was a viable solution to increase the safety and comfort of people cycling and walking while still maintaining an effective flow of traffic. During his mayorship, the City's flagship project was the Seaside Greenway, running from downtown Vancouver to the Jericho Beach. This active transportation corridor was created by repurposing one lane of automobile traffic from the Burrard Bridge as well as blocking through vehicular traffic from the prestigious Point Grey Road.
Open microphone controversyEdit
In July 2010, Robertson was caught on an open microphone referring to speakers from the public at a council session as, "Who are all these fucking...who are these hacks, man? Are they...they NPA hacks?" Robertson and Councilors Tim Stevenson and Heather Deal went on to mock and laugh at the speakers who had called for greater transparency in the selection of a 12-person committee that will advise council on rezoning. Robertson's tirade became a YouTube sensation, which led to him making a public apology. Representatives of the speakers felt that the profanity was not the issue, but the disrespect of citizens who were attempting to voice their concerns.
City logo outburstEdit
In 2017, the city announced its proposal of a new logo. After spending $8,000 on the concept, the public was quick to jump on the opposition. The idea was described by graphic designers as "Uninspiring and a huge missed opportunity at rebranding the west coast metropolis." According to the CBC, Robertson lost his temper when asked about the logo. The change was suspended.
Gordon Campbell comments controversyEdit
On March 30, 2009 Robertson gave a glowing introduction for Premier Gordon Campbell, the leader of the British Columbia Liberal Party. On April 9, 2009 a member of Robertson's Vision Vancouver caucus, Geoff Meggs, stated that Robertson regretted the language he used as being "unguarded" and that it was intended to build a relationship with the governing provincial party. However Robertson lost support from a former Vision Vancouver executive board member, who resigned from Vision Vancouver on May 7, 2009 and stated he was encouraging other members to do the same, based on his claim that Robertson had not responded to a message the member had sent regarding his concerns about the Campbell remarks. The member was concerned that Robertson had not publicly addressed concerns or explained the issue to Vision Vancouver members. The member accused Robertson of "tremendous disrespect" and "an incredible lack of leadership and a respect for your colleagues." Robertson stated, "I was over-exuberant in introducing the premier to an international audience...There were almost no voters there. I wasn’t thinking politically...But given that we’re so close to an election, some of my comments were misconstrued by people." On May 19, 2009 Robertson sent a congratulatory letter to Campbell with a handwritten note that started with "Congrats" and continued, "looking forward to a very productive run-up to the Games and a strong partnership for Vancouver’s future!"
In July 2009 Robertson led the Vancouver City Council to pass several bylaw changes—including security checkpoints, closed-circuit cameras, prohibition of "disturbance or nuisance interfering with the enjoyment of entertainment on city land by other persons", and prohibition of commercial flyers at celebration sites—which were controversial for some civil liberties advocates who argued that they "make it more difficult to exercise [the] fundamental constitutional rights to free speech, peaceful assembly and free expression." As part of the changes city manager Penny Ballem, an unelected official, was given special powers that were referred to by Coalition of Progressive Electors councilor Ellen Woodsworth as "wide open carte blanche." Robertson defended council's position, explaining the bylaw changes were necessary given what Vancouver is expected to achieve in February 2010. According to Robertson, "It is our ultimate obligation to ensure the safety and security of people who are in our city and this, I think, addresses a lot of the concerns proactively on that level while respecting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is a temporary set of changes we're putting it in place for a special event."
Robertson also implemented a bylaw in April 2014 that prevents homeowners from cutting trees down on their own private property. The bylaw was proposed due to the rapid reduction in tree cover in the City of Vancouver. Many of the trees had been removed by property developers, with the blessing of the City Council, yet it is homeowners who are suffering from the restrictions. Legal experts believe that the bylaw is unconstitutional and a Supreme Court case will be imminent.
Vancouver charter amendmentEdit
On January 12, 2009 Robertson requested an amendment to the Vancouver Charter to allow the city to borrow $458 million to fund the completion of the 2010 Olympic Village in False Creek without seeking approval from taxpayers in an election-day plebiscite. Robertson said this was due to extraordinary circumstances. The amendment was passed on January 18, 2009 in an emergency session of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.
Vancouver Stanley Cup riotEdit
On June 15, 2011 the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup riot occurred after a Vancouver Canucks loss in game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. Robertson attributed the situation to "a small group of troublemakers". Bob Whitelaw, author of a report into the 1994 Vancouver Stanley Cup riot, indicated that authorities had made several mistakes in the planning for the crowd—among them allowing parked cars near the screens and leaving newspaper boxes nearby which could be used as projectiles. It was later claimed by Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu that Bob Whitelaw was not a contributor to the final report, and that all recommendations of the final report had been followed. Robertson admitted to not having read the 1994 report. Suzanne Anton dubbed the riot as "Robertson's Riot", a moniker which was picked up by some media outlets. Robertson later accepted some of the responsibility for allowing the riot to occur.
2014 Vancouver civic electionEdit
Robertson was married to Amy, whom he met at Colorado College, and they have three children: Hanna, Satchel and Terra. In 2012, Robertson's foster son Jinagh was arrested on cocaine and firearms charges. On July 5, 2014, the Robertsons announced their separation in a joint statement. Robertson dated pop singer Wanting Qu from January 2015 to May 2017.
In 2013, Robertson moved from the South Cambie neighbourhood of Vancouver to Kitsilano. The move was highly controversial as it coincided with the implementation of a bike lane on Point Grey Road immediately adjacent to his new house. Robertson is also a tuba player; he and his former MLA colleague Nicholas Simons performed on country-punk musician Slim Milkie's 2010 album Silverado.
|British Columbia general election, 2005: Vancouver-Fairview|
|New Democratic||Gregor Robertson||13,009||46.59||$138,500|
|Sex||Patrick Gallagher Clark||121||0.43||$100|
|Central Party||Scott Yee||102||0.37||$110|
|Work Less||Malcolm Janet Mary van Delst||95||0.34||$100|
|Total Valid Votes||27,920||100|
|Total Rejected Ballots||206||0.74|
2008 election for mayorEdit
|Candidate Name||Party affiliation||Votes||% of votes||Elected|
|Gregor Robertson||Vision Vancouver||67,598||54.39%||X|
|Peter Ladner||Non-Partisan Association||48,794||39.26%|
|Betty Krawczyk||Work Less Party of British Columbia||1,346||1.08%|
|Patrick Britten||Nude Garden Party||695||0.76%|
|Angel L. Jimenez||Independent||320||0.26%|
|Gölök Z. Buday||Independent||172||0.14%|
|Menard D. Caissey||Independent||137||0.11%|
|N. Bur Maxwell||Independent||125||0.10%|
2011 election for mayorEdit
|Candidate Name||Party affiliation||Votes||% of votes||Elected|
|(I) Gregor Robertson||Vision Vancouver||77,005||53.17%||X|
|Suzanne Anton||Non-Partisan Association||58,152||40.15%|
|Randy Helten||Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver||4,007||2.77%|
|Gerry McGuire||Vancouver Citizen's Voice||1,195||0.83%|
|Victor B. Paquette||Independent||333||0.23%|
|Lloyd Alan Cooke||Independent||310||0.21%|
|Gölök Zoltán Buday||Independent||268||0.19%|
2014 election for mayorEdit
|Candidate Name||Party affiliation||Votes||% of votes||Elected|
|(I) Gregor Robertson||Vision Vancouver||83,529||45.97%||X|
|Kirk LaPointe||Non-Partisan Association||73,443||40.42%|
|Meena Wong||Coalition of Progressive Electors||16,791||9.24%|
|Meynard Aubichon||Stop Party||508||0.28%|
|Cherryse Kaur Kaiser||Independent||492||0.27%|
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- Michael McGinn
- Boris Johnson
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- Critical Mass (cycling)
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