By now you know that Vision Vancouver mayoral incumbent Gregor Robertson turned away a softball question to open the mayoral debate at the CBC studios Wednesday morning and instead offered an apology.
I must assume it was a move that was planned and undoubtedly practised given Robertson’s inability to respond spontaneously under any kind of pressure. And, as his main competitor the NPA’s Kirk LaPointe observed, it was a clear act of desperation.
“I’m sorry” he said. Sorry, for not listening enough to voters as he and his council majority plowed ahead with a whole range of projects from homeless shelters to bike lanes to spot zoning for affordable rental housing and top-down community plans.
You may find some merit in a number of those projects. I do.
His efforts to reduce street homelessness mostly with the help of the province have been particularly commendable.
But, as you have read here repeatedly over the past six years and heard with growing frustration and anger from citizens across Vancouver, when it comes to dealing with the public, Robertson and his crew — and in that I include the Vision puppets at the park board — at times have displayed the engagement skills of Attila the Hun.
It began, you may recall, with Robertson’s unguarded moment in front of an open city council mike where he scornfully referred to a group of unhappy West End residents — who as a matter of fact supported him in his first election bid — as “NPA hacks” with the adjective “fucking” thrown in at some point.
It went downhill from there.
So now, as voters flee in every direction from the big political tent that Vision has created over the past two terms and, with that, Robertson’s chances of serving a third, he says he is sorry. “I hear you,” he says.
And knowing his lead has been slipping away most notably in the past two weeks, he made another planned move. As the debate drew to a close, he pleaded with the public to vote strategically.
Ignoring those who moved back to the right and now support the NPA, he focused on his deteriorating left flank. He wanted those supporting COPE to come his way to support his “progressive team.”
He said a vote from COPE and their mayoral candidate Meena Wong was only a vote that more likely assured a win for LaPointe and the NPA. Pollsters observe that is the party and the candidate with the momentum in this “too close to call” race.
But this is not just about Robertson. At this point he has a better chance of winning than does that “progressive team.” As those dissatisfied voters among us chose to support a mixed salad of candidates from Vision to COPE to Green and some independents, they reduce the chances of Robertson holding a majority on council. That’s particularly true as the right of centre seems to be coming together behind LaPointe.
Geoff Meggs is among the most vulnerable of the Vision councillors. For some reason he tends to come near the bottom of the list of those elected. Yet he is among the brightest, hardworking people on the team and the guy most often sent out to do the heavy lifting while Robertson avoids the fray.
But the question remains: Will you be swayed by Robertson’s pleas? Are you in a forgiving mood? Or will you by default or by deliberate action choose to change the administration and the direction the city has been going in these past two terms?
Will you select LaPointe, a capable debater who tends to wipe the floor with Robertson most times out but is a person with no political experience except as an observer?
Will you support Robertson’s record, warts and all, or will you prefer LaPointe who has offered what every politician does these days, a more transparent government. But he also offers the slimmest of policy portfolios, save most notably for three new swimming pools and free parking outside the city core on Sundays?
My colleague Rafe Mair famously has said, in politics you don’t have to be a 10 to win. You can be a six if the other guy is a five.
That is what we are now facing.