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Vancouver mayoral candidate Gregor Robertson rides his Barbie bike along the Point Grey Road Bike lane. Robertson has been a big proponent of bike lanes during his time in office as Vancouver Mayor.

photos by John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Many people who get into politics start early, with student political clubs, graduating to working on campaigns and constituency work, then eventually running for office.

Gregor Robertson was not like that. The North Vancouver high-school graduate got an English degree at a U.S. college. He thought about medical school, but was not accepted. He spent a few years exploring, working as a cowboy in the interior of B.C., buying a boat and sailing the Pacific with his young wife, Amy.

The Robertsons eventually bought a small farm in the Fraser Valley, where they began organic farming. Later, with the help of a school friend, Mr. Robertson formed an organic-juice company, Happy Planet.

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But political life called out to him when he was in his late 30s, just after the B.C. Liberals were elected. He was dismayed by their changes in environmental policy. He wanted to make a difference, more than he could do as a businessman.

With the encouragement of experienced NDP hands, he ran for the party provincially in 2005 and won in Vancouver-Fairview. But he was relegated to minor roles with the party, and left in 2008 to run for mayor of Vancouver with the Vision party.

Mr. Robertson has always been viewed by those who work with him as dogged and focused, the kind of person who decides on a few key initiatives and drives forward on them relentlessly.

That is what he has done as mayor, pushing hard to get new winter shelters and permanent housing for homeless people, offering developers incentives to create rental housing, putting separated bike lanes on downtown streets. All have caused some degree of uproar.

Mr. Robertson says he does not regret anything. "I came into politics to get things done. I've pursued those goals transparently. And I feel a lot of support from people in the city on the street. That inspires me."

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