VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson has announced he will not seek re-election in October’s vote, after sitting in the mayor’s chair for a decade.
He announced his decision on social media, saying he’s “proud of how Vancouver has become one of the most liveable, green, innovative and prosperous cities in the world.”
Robertson admits this was the hardest decision of his life.
“Part of me loves to compete and would love to go into the next election, but that’s not the reason to carry on. I think it’s important when there’s new leadership, it’s time for that to step up and for me, personally, it’s the right time for me.”
He says he made the bittersweet decision after taking time to think about his future over the holidays.
“I am really looking forward to that election and welcoming new leadership here at the city,” he says. “I think 10 years is a long time in politics and an important part of leadership is to know when it’s time to make space for new leaders and new voices, so I’m looking forward to seeing that happen, and to staying very involved. Really excited for this year ahead.”
.@MayorGregor speaking about his decision to not seek re-election. Says October's by-election(where @VisionVancouver lost a seat), & Coun. @andreareimer's decision to leave as well did NOT play a role in his "personal decision" pic.twitter.com/QrvblhxMkE
— Lasia Kretzel (@lkretzel1130) January 10, 2018
The second-longest serving Vancouver mayor reflected on what he considered his achievements.
Robertson was first elected in 2008 and re-election two more times, but it’s been a tough year for him. He was ousted as chair of the Mayor’s Council and his party, Vision Vancouver, lost a seat on council in the October by-election.
But, he claims none of that had anything to do with his ultimate decision.
“I made a personal decision about my future, and I think regardless of what had happened over those months prior, this decision was really one that came from my heart.”
The 53-year-old has also been criticized for not doing enough to address affordability and retreat from a promise to end homelessness by 2015.
He says in the months leading up to this October’s general election, he’ll focus on getting funding for the Broadway Subway and other transit projects, affordable housing, green spaces.
Robertson adds as of right now his future does not include a jump to provincial or federal politics.
“I don’t have any plans to continue on in politics. I enjoyed being in business before I was in politics, that’s been way in the back of my mind over the years but I’m not making any plans for what’s next.”
.@MayorGregor speaks to media about his decision to step down from the mayor's chair in October and what he plans to focus on until then (Broadway SkyTrain, Housing affordability) #vanpoli #bcpoli pic.twitter.com/kSsqsG1aek
— Lasia Kretzel (@lkretzel1130) January 11, 2018
Premier John Horgan issued a statement after Robertson announced his decision, calling Vancouver’s mayor a trusted colleague when the pair worked together in Victoria, and praised his work as the city’s leader.
“From transit and transportation, to housing and homelessness, Gregor has been a passionate advocate for people,” reads the statement. “He can be proud of the work he and council have done to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world.”
Read Mayor Gregor Robertson’s full statement on Facebook:
Current and former NPA members react
The opposition Non-Partisan Association is reacting to Robertson’s departure.
City councillor George Affleck with that party is thanking Robertson for his service but says the mayor will leave a mixed legacy.
“As far as his legacy, I think it’ll be challenging,” he says. “I think that we have seen very little success on some of the main issues that he brought to the table in 2008 and I think it’s unfortunate that he’s leaving a legacy of not a lot of success in my mind.”
But Affleck does say Robertson’s announcement comes as a surprise given previous comments that he would run.
City councillor Melissa de Genova with the NPA is also thanking the mayor for his public service but says he wasn’t able to achieve everything he promised.
“I don’t make a promise unless I’m sure that I will be able to meet that commitment,” she tells NEWS 1130. “Those promises that Vision Vancouver made included ending homelessness, which is something that Vancouver struggles with, and in fact now we have more homeless people than ever before.”
De Genova did not answer directly when asked whether Robertson’s departure would help the NPA in October’s vote, only saying she was excited to put forward a number of new policies.
Meanwhile, Suzanne Anton, the woman who lost the 2011 mayoral race to Robertson, says she’s not surprised he’s ready to move on.
“He’s been there for quite some time now and, he’s obviously, I don’t have an insider information on it of course, but he’s obviously decided that it’s time to move on. So it leaves the door open for a very interesting mayoral competition in Vancouver in the fall.”
As for whether the former Attorney General – who failed to keep her seat as the Liberal MLA for Vancouver-Fraserview in last year’s provincial election – is interested in taking another run at the mayor’s seat, Anton says it’s pretty unlikely but adds she plans to watch the race “closely.”
One expert says he’s surprised with Robertson’s decision.
Political Scientist David Moscrop with Simon Fraser University believes the decision was made with the “prospect of winning” in mind. “A few months ago, he was running. And now he isn’t. So, the natural question is ‘what changed?’”
Moscrop says Vision Vancouver will now have to find somebody else, with less than 10 months to do it.
“First notices that I saw suggested that some of the, you know, potential heir parents weren’t going to run – Geoff Meggs, Andrea Reimer for instance. If that’s true then they’re going to have to find someone else who can take the reins.”
He admits Vision will have time to do so, and adds it may even serve them well.
Moscrop predicts the position will be considered by a wide range of people including federal and provincial politicians, and people in business. “It’s going to be sought after by a number of people I think, or at least considered by a number of people who have political ambitions.”
He believes Robertson’s announcement also opens the door for the opposition, mainly the NPA.
“I wouldn’t imagine COPE is going to have that much of a shot, I mean they might get a little bit of a bounce depending on who Vision chooses. But I don’t think it’s going to make much of a difference for them. It could very well open a door for the NPA though.”