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Three days to election, mayor apologizes to everyone for “overstepping” and asks COPE voters to come to Vision

November 12th, 2014 · 24 Comments

Jeez, to think this election seemed quiet a month ago. Here’s today’s small bombshell. Note appearance of former campaigners Daniel Fontaine and Neil Monckton further down in story. (Text appended below for you cheapos who are not contributing to my upkeep by subscribing to the Globe.)

Vancouver’s two-term mayor, facing polls that give him a surprisingly slim lead in the mayoral race, has apologized to voters for not listening to them enough as he drove an aggressive agenda on housing and homelessness.

Mayor Gregor Robertson also pleaded for strategic voting, asking supporters of COPE – the party that broke away from its alliance with the mayor’s Vision Vancouver after the last election – to switch to his party to keep a “progressive team” in power.


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Mr. Robertson launched into the apology as part of his opening statement at Wednesday’s debate.

“I want to start with a message to voters directly, and that is I have heard you. While we’ve done a lot of good things, done very well in the past six years, there are also things we haven’t done particularly well. For those in particular when I haven’t met your expectations, I am sorry. I know I can do better.”

He closed by asking voters supporting COPE candidates to switch to Vision to keep the Non-Partisan Association out – prompting boos from COPE campaigners and a scornful response from mayoral candidate Meena Wong.

She said the apology was six years too late and issued her own appeal: “I’m asking Vision voters, come home to COPE, vote your conscience.”

NPA candidate Kirk LaPointe also said later that the mayor’s apology is “a form of repentance that’s too late – I don’t think the community will buy it. He was obviously put up to it by some strategist in the background.”

Mr. Robertson admitted later that he planned to vote only for Vision candidates on his ballot, even though the party’s decision to leave spots open on each of the council, school board and park board slates meant he could have thrown some support to COPE or the Green Party. Those are parties that many on the left support, along with Vision.

In Vancouver, voters choose 10 candidates to represent the city at large, rather than choosing one person who represents an individual ward.

Mr. Robertson’s apology and appeal intrigued experienced political observers.

“The timing is surprising, coming this late in the campaign,” said Daniel Fontaine, the chief of staff for previous NPA mayor Sam Sullivan. “It smacks of desperation.”

But a former COPE campaign strategist said it’s a technique that the federal Liberals used effectively in previous elections, particularly in 2004 as they asked for NDP supporters to move over to keep the Conservatives out.

“It does work, providing the group you’re trying to move over is open to that,” Neil Monckton said.

He said Mr. Robertson’s move could be successful if the results from a recent poll are accurate. It showed that 42 per cent of people planning to vote for Ms. Wong would consider switching their vote.

Kathleen Wynne was successful in bringing Ontario Liberals back from the brink of defeat in the provincial election earlier this year by apologizing repeatedly for her predecessor’s mistakes.

Mr. Fontaine said Vision invited problems for itself in this election, not just because of the anger it generated with some of its aggressive approvals for rental housing, bike lanes and homeless shelters, but because it chose to run only eight candidates in the 10-seat council race.

“They’ve encouraged their own base to go window-shopping for other parties. And voters are consumers. They make impulse buys. They’ve got themselves in a pickle.”

Categories: 2014 Vancouver Civic Election