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Why I’m voting Gregor Robertson

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Photo courtesy of "Gregor Robertson" Facebook page

Vancouver municipal election 2011: I do not know and have never met Gregor Robertson, and I have never gotten involved in municipal politics and wasn’t planning to this time, either. But a string of emails changed my mind.

Going back to September, I started getting email messages from a senior member of the Vancouver business establishment who had assumed a volunteer role with the NPA and Susan Anton campaign. The emails almost without exception featured personally derogatory comments about Gregor Robertson, including one that called him, “Mayor Moonbeam”.  

That caught my attention because I saw the makings of a personal smear campaign directed at an individual who had dedicated himself to trying to serve the common good through elected public office.  I had seen these very same tactics used against another good man, Michael Ignatieff.

Robertson was a businessman with a social and community conscience before that idea became fashionable. He served in the provincial legislature and has been a competent manager at City Hall throughout his first term. The mayor has always struck me as a political moderate and consensus-builder. 

In the case of the Occupy movement, he showed understanding and empathy for the protesters and their cause. Leaders must provide an opportunity for the responsible venting of grievances and be sensitive to what those are. Robertson never allowed himself to be baited into making imprudent and precipitous judgments (like storming the site, as Susan Anton suggested) by the inflammatory rhetoric of his political opponents. His actions and statements have been measured and careful, and clearly aimed at taking down the temperature, not pouring gas on the fire.  He has listened to his police and fire officials and initiated incremental action to peacefully contain the situation at the art gallery.  Robertson’s use of the court process is the right way to go. This approach carefully balances the desire to end this “occupation” safely and peacefully and the right of other citizens to enjoy this public space, with the right of citizens to have ample room to express their views on matters they are deeply concerned about. 

At the heart of the Occupy movement in our city is the blight of homelessness, drug addiction, joblessness, and a troubling lack of equality of opportunity in our society. These are not issues any mayor can deal with alone, but Occupy has highlighted them for many of us on a global basis. For that, they deserve our thanks.  Robertson didn’t need Occupy for that, however. He has made these issues the cornerstone of his time in public life.     

Like most of us, I thought he and his administration was AWOL on the Stanley Cup riot.  But then again, we are all geniuses with the benefit of hindsight. No mayor should micro-manage the work of the police. At the same time, a competent leader would insist on knowing that all necessary precautions are being taken to safeguard the public good. If the mayor failed to ask the appropriate questions of police officials, or if he refused to provide them with the resources they needed to protect the public, then he should have been held accountable for that. However, there’s no evidence that Robertson exercised poor judgment or did not heed the advice of police officials.  

 The bike lane issue is another that his opponents attack him for. I cross the Burrard Bridge and drive along Hornby everyday. I have never once found bike lanes to be inconvenient, although I do think they are an eye sore.  But a major litmus test for Robertson’s stewardship? I think not.

There are far more important issues to be discussing than these in Vancouver, and Robertson has made a serious attempt to do that. He has governed responsibly and has refrained from the divisive wedge politics and personal attacks that Mrs. Anton has engaged in. On balance, he has shown himself to be a sensitive leader who has effectively balanced the sometimes-complex task of managing competing interests. To me, that demonstrates a maturity and seriousness that I can respect. And he has tried to bring the community together, not deliberately engaged in a toxic and polarizing form of politics and governance.

 That is why Gregor Robertson has earned my vote.


Mr. Veniez is a Vancouver businessman and former Liberal Party of Canada candidate. His book “What I Hate About Politics is the Politics” will be published next year. 

(19) Comments

CCrider November 18th 2011 | 10:10 AM
Excellent article, very even handed and balanced, the best I have read all week ! I wonder who that "senior member of the Vancouver business establishment who had assumed a volunteer role with the NPA and Susan Anton campaign" hmmmm.
Edward November 18th 2011 | 10:10 AM

I generally agree with much of what you say and will likely cast my vote for Robertson, though I'm not particularly excited about doing so. More accurately, I'll be voting against all of his opponents.

What I do take minor exception to is your remark about the Hornby bike lane being an "eye sore". True, those plastic planters used for division may not be the best option aesthetically, but they're not that bad and to call it an "eye sore" seems a bit over the top. Why is one bike lane expected to be a work of art in a city that has torn down much of its decent old buildings and been laid out with a grid of ugly asphalt expressways and cheap Vancouver Specials?

 

linda's picture
linda November 18th 2011 | 10:10 AM

Interesting to bring that up right now.  Vancouver has beautiful and not so beautiful.  Hopefully, city planners, and public servants can continue to aim towards infrastructure that supports the arts and our evolving multi-cultural landscape.  Like not a casino.  An opera house, maybe.  A cultural centre, full of galleries and artist spaces.  I'm talking B.C. Place now.  Let's aim for the best we can be.

Sane November 18th 2011 | 11:11 AM
Really? Really? Havent the citizens of Vancouver had enough of Robertson crazyness yet? Vancouver City is now not only the laughingstock of the World, but the most pitied. Thanks to the policies of the person you sad folks voted in to be mayor last time....
CD November 18th 2011 | 5:17 PM

Sane wrote:
Really? Really? Havent the citizens of Vancouver had enough of Robertson crazyness yet? Vancouver City is now not only the laughingstock of the World, but the most pitied. Thanks to the policies of the person you sad folks voted in to be mayor last time....

 

You have a fairly limited world view if you think that Vancouver is the "laughingstock of the world". And most pitied? Are you kidding me??? How about some third world countries where people are starving to death or involved in serious wars? Pull your head out of your ass. We are lucky to live in such a beautiful city (and democratic country for that matter!).


I completely agree with the author (eloquent post, btw), Gregor may not have been perfect, but he has fully earned my respect (and my vote).

Kerri November 19th 2011 | 11:11 AM
Is anyone a teensy bit concerned about campaign finance reform in Vancouver? The city has virtually no laws or limits on who or how much can be directed to a candidate. Foreign money evidently is a major finance component of our mayor. Far more than in any city in Canada. A single mother in North Van continues to FOI annual reports and financial statements proving just that. There was a story by her, on Thursday in a Canadian newspaper..... http://www.nationalpost.com/opinion/funding+Mayor+Robertson/5723451/stor... It may not be big oil, but doesn't it make you a bit unsettled?
Susanne November 19th 2011 | 11:11 AM
Oh there's Daniel! During the past federal election Dear Daniel ran for the Liberals and was defeated in our riding. He inferred to us folks on the Sunshine Coast that he was moving here permanently, even if he was not elected. But alas, there he is comfortably esconced back in his west side comfort zone. The spring cottage rental here during the May election was just that. A rental. We hardly ever knew you.
Persia November 19th 2011 | 12:12 PM
Susanne: Mr. Veniez, like other Liberals, took a drubbing. That, despite the fact that he was by far the best candidate in the province and widely recognized as such. If living in the riding for two years and being an outstanding candidate is not good enough for you, well, i"m sure you are happy with your choice of your MP and Conservative government. More power to you. I don't believe Mr. Veniez has any apologies to make to you or anyone else for having been a serious and substantive candidate in a era of talking poinht and cardboard candidates. And finally, Veniez never promised he would move permanently to the riding should he lose. Why should he? For the fun of it? Besdes, where do you get off criticizing a man for renting a home? Thes kind of ridiculous comments are why good people like Veniez don't run for office.
Don Allan November 19th 2011 | 1:13 PM
Susanne: I live in Powell River and have done so for many years. Veniez's loss was our loss. I hope he continues to make a contribution to public life. We need people like him.
Melina November 19th 2011 | 1:13 PM
The idea that living in our riding for two years and being a great candidate is not enough for poor susanne is ludicrous. She is obviously a Conservative one percenter. Who else would suggest that renting isn't good enough?
Rosemary Spears November 19th 2011 | 1:13 PM
I was Mr. Veniez's neighbour in Sechelt for two years and he was indeed a renter like most of us. He and his family are wonderful people who became - and still remain - solid members of our community. My family and I loved their authenticity. No BS from Dan - ever. He never promised that he would stay permanently in Sechelt if he won or lost the election. Never once. All he promised is that he would be an excellent MP. And we have absolutely no doubt that he would have been.
Claudia johnson November 19th 2011 | 1:13 PM
Suzanne: What a goofball comment to make. The guy lost the election like many Liberals did and moved on with his life. Why would he do anything else? Do you think we all have the money and luxury of living like you in the comfort of your little cave on the sunshine coast? Some of us have to feed our families and earn a living. Besides, it is a lie to suggest that Veniez said that he would make a permanent move there. He didn't. He is not the kind of person that lies.
frank bains November 19th 2011 | 2:14 PM
What does where the author lived have to do with anything?
peter November 19th 2011 | 2:14 PM
Suzanne: While you did not get to know Dan, many of us did. We are terribly sorry that he got lost in the wave of the Orange Crush. I'm an NDP supporter, but I voted for Veniez because he was simply so much better than all the others. Your comments are rather silly and juvenile, I must say. Serious voters pay attention to substance. Incidentally, did you know that that paragon of virtue and residency requirements is now living in Ottawa full time?
frank November 19th 2011 | 4:16 PM
Great article. I'm voting Vision for the same reasons. NPA have run a destructive and issueless campaign. Cynical and very tiring.
Kim November 19th 2011 | 4:16 PM
I like this article. As I scrolled down and saw Suzanne's comment, I thought to myself that people like her have way too much time on their hands. How dumb those comments are. And what was the point?
Cassie November 21st 2011 | 8:08 AM
Re: "Robertson was a businessman with a social and community conscience before that idea became fashionable." Perhaps you have never seen the back end of the Happy Planet operation. In my day it was maybe very earth-friendly out front (as long as you can recycle plastic), but lots of compromises out back, including miles of saran packaging for pallets, idling trucks, and enough food mess to attract rats.
Kim November 22nd 2011 | 7:07 AM
Ok Cassie: Make up your mind - either he's a wild, tree hugging, eco-facist socialist, or he's a mean, exploitive, money-hungry capitalist. But surely, he can't be both?
Nouri December 14th 2011 | 5:05 AM

I hate  mr. Gregor robertson, because he does just serve to popular things. He's not in the real world.

You'll see how he messed up Vancouver business envirenment 3-4 years later after government/canada revenue reports tax incomes. All business around Vancouver lost %33 business after his new stupid application.I had to fire 10 people in last 4 months as a manager in food sector. I'm sure all food business same in Vancouver. I guess he's dreaming everywhere mobile fastfood trucks with really good business, everywhere is full of tourists, blah blah blah....    He is just stupid.... even he can not see there is no tourist no student in Vancouver anymore...

wake up Gregor   wake upppppp !...