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Gregor Robertson wins second term as Vancouver mayor

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson celebrates after he was re-elected in a civic election in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday November 19, 2011. Robertson was re-elected to a second term as mayor of Vancouver on Saturday, but the hold his Vision Vancouver party has had on city council has been reduced.


Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver party have swept to a second majority term in Vancouver, the first time a left-leaning party has won reelection since the days of Mike Harcourt in the mid-1980s.

And it marks the second election in a row that voters have repudiated the right-leaning Non-Partisan Association. Reduced to one council seat in 2008, the NPA won just two seats in the 2011 vote -- with NPA mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton losing decisively to Mr. Robertson.

Green Party candidate Adriane Carr squeaked out a narrow victory, winning the 10th spot on Vancouver city council.

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And the Coalition of Progressive Electors, Vision's electoral partner, was shut out of council. Even without COPE or the support of Ms. Carr, Vision still has a working majority on council, with all seven of its candidates elected.

Speaking to a raucous crowd of Vision supporters, Mr. Robertson said Vision`s victory shows that even in tough times, it`s possible to tackle major problems such as homelessness and the environment. "You have sent a very clear message here in Vancouver that goes well beyond our borders," he said, adding that he is humbled by opportunity to serve for another three years. "We can think big and we can accomplish great things in Vancouver," he said, the crowd roaring with every statement.

He said voters have shown that Vancouver is a city that cares, and favours "thoughtful action", an apparent dig at the rival NPA's "ccomon sense" platform and calls for tougher action against Occupy Vancouver.

Supporters also cheered defeated candidate Suzanne Anton, when Mr. Robertson thanked her for her many years of public service.

Elsewhere in Metro Vancouver, other incumbents also had a good night. In Surrey, Mayor Dianne Watts and her Surrey First party scored a big win, with Ms. Watts easily winning reelection and her party sweeping council. In the city of North Vancouver, incumbent Darrell Mussatto also sailed to victory.

The Vision win in Vancouver marks a triumph in a city that has voted mainly for the centre-right Non-Partisan Association since it was formed in 1937, except for brief blips under Art Phillips, Mike Harcourt and Larry Campbell.

And the results raise questions about the future of the NPA, which had said in advance of the election that it was on track for at least four council seats.

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NPA mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton said it was clear that voters preferred the Vison program, including Mayor Robertson' approach to Occupy Vancouver - not why. "I don't have a sense of what went wrong."

She said Occupy Vancouver was a question of leadership with her and the mayor taking different stands. "Obviously his opinion did not cause him any great harm in the polls and that's how it turned out," she said.

But she said she was pleased to see the NPA gain some traction on council, noting many expected the NPA would need more time to come back.

"I would have liked to continue with (the NPA's) proud record of building the city, but that's not what the voters have chosen," she said.

Ms. Anton said she had not made any decisions about her political future. "I never did have a Plan B. All those things will have to wait for another day."

NPA President John Moonen said the party had come a long way from months ago when it was struggling. He said the boost in NPA members will begin the party's advance back to more influence in Vancouver affairs. He said Occupy Vancouver was a challenge, noting meetings attended by both Mr. Robertson and Ms. Anton featured distracting heckling and made it tough to raise other issues.

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"I just wish Occupy Vancouver hadn't preoccupied us." Ms. Anton had said that the Occupy demonstration, and how each candidate would deal with it, was a major campaign issue.

Vision mounted an exceptionally strong campaign that attracted 1,200 volunteers who crammed into the party's small offices the night before the election in preparation for the all-out assault Saturday. The Non-Partisan Association relied on a smaller volunteer crew of 600.

The turnout was 144823 - a record, at least in absolute numbers - in a city that has seen only about 125,000 voters in recent elections. The biggest turnout was in 1986, when Gordon Campbell was elected as mayor from 143,000 voters.

Delores and Bob Fox came out to their Yaletown polling station motivated mainly by social and environmental issues..

"My issues are totally for the green movement and bike lanes," said Ms. Fox. "And I believe we have to help the homeless."

Gary Sloane, on the other hand, was a diehard NPA voter top to bottom. "There's a tremendous amount of money being spent. We need fiscal responsibility," said Mr Sloane, also voting in Yaletown.

It's unclear how many minds Occupy Vancouver changed, but the furore over the protest forced Vision Vancouver to change course in its campaign and allowed the NPA's Suzanne Anton to mount an attack on the mayor that had more traction than her previous efforts with chickens, bike lanes, or even the Stanley Cup riot had had.

Vision couldn't get any media attention for the kinds of issues it was trying to raise, such as housing, homelessness and transit -- any news conference on this issues ended with questions about the Occupy Vancouver camp.

Vision drew heavy support in 2008 from a big quadrant in the the northeast, the West End, Kitsilano, Main Street, Marpole and parts of Point Grey. The NPA has traditionally been strong in the southwest quadrant, including Kerrisdale, Dunbar and Shaughnessy, but also Yaletown in recent years, and a wide swath along the southern sector of the city.

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About the Authors
Urban affairs contributor

Frances Bula has written about urban issues and city politics in B.C.’s Vancouver region, covering everything from Downtown Eastside drug addiction to billion-dollar development projects, since 1994. More

B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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