Gregor Robertson pleads with COPE voters

COPE’s Meena Wong tells Vision supporters ‘to come home’

With only four days to go before the civic election, Mayor Gregor Robertson made a plea Wednesday to COPE supporters to cast a ballot for him to fend off what polls are suggesting is a serious challenge from NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe.

Robertson, who is seeking a third term at city hall, also apologized to voters and promised to do better when answering the opening question at a CBC debate to rate the shape of the city on a scale of one to 10.

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“I want to start with a message to voters directly and that’s that I have heard you,” Robertson said. “While we have done a lot of good things very well in the past six years, there’s also some things we haven’t done particularly well. And for those, in particular, when I haven’t met your expectations, I am sorry and I know that if I’m re-elected again … that I can do better.”

Robertson didn’t specify which issue or issues he was referring to in the apology. But the pushback he’s largely received from residents and competing parties is that his ruling Vision Vancouver party has moved too fast on development, new community plans and projects such as the Point Grey bike lane without genuine public input.

The mayor addressed this issue at Vision’s annual general meeting in May, where he said the city’s plans to build towers at Commercial and Broadway was a mistake. A so-called citizens’ assembly is now in place in the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood to work on a revised plan.

His plea to COPE supporters came as he stood at a lectern next to COPE mayoral candidate Meena Wong, who attempted to interrupt Robertson as he argued for COPE voters to vote Vision.

“We share all the same values and ideals and it’s really important when it’s between Vision and the NPA that progressive voters ensure they vote for the progressive team that can win,” he said. “And in this case, that is Vision.”

In Wong’s closing statement, she turned Robertson’s plea around and requested that Vision voters vote COPE, the very party that was home to some of the current Vision councillors before they fled to form Vision in 2005. Vision has been in power since 2008.

“It’s time to come home — come home and support COPE,” Wong said. “Vote [with] your conscience.”

LaPointe argued that if Robertson were re-elected, he would be back after his next term and have to apologize again to voters. LaPointe told the Courier after the debate that Robertson’s plea to COPE was “an act of desperation” and not genuine.

“COPE voters really believe in their principles and they’ve watched Vision betray them over six years,” he said. “So they have quite correctly congregated around Meena Wong and her team and they offer a distinct choice from him.”

He likened Robertson’s apology to a “Hail Mary pass.” He added that he wasn’t clear what specifically the mayor apologized for, saying “I guess he’s leaving it to our own imaginations on what it is that we want to have him feel sorry for.”

Last week, Vision Vancouver’s campaign team released an internal poll to Global News that claimed the mayoral race had tightened, with Robertson only four points ahead of LaPointe.

An Insights West survey published in the Vancouver Sun Monday confirmed the four-point spread. The polls coincide with Vision getting an endorsement from former COPE councillor David Cadman, who helped coordinate campaigns between COPE and Vision in the 2005, 2008 and 2011 elections.

This campaign, however, COPE did not seek an alliance with Vision. Also, for the first time since 2002, COPE decided to run a mayoral candidate in Wong, whose support was recorded at nine per cent, according to the Insights West survey.

“I don’t want to draw votes from Gregor for somebody who cannot win,” Cadman told the Courier Nov. 5 at Vision’s campaign headquarters. “It’s real to me and it should be real to all voters that Meena is, at best, a spoiler and might elect [NPA mayoral candidate] Kirk LaPointe, who doesn’t live in the city, can’t vote in the city. And that’s not the way I think we need to go.”

Advanced voting ends Wednesday with the polls to open election day at 8 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. The new council, school board and park board will serve a four-year term.

mhowell@vancourier.com

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