Vancouver's newly re-elected mayor is promising residents more say in the future of their neighbourhoods, after complaints he and his party weren't listening to the community nearly swung last weekend's vote.
Gregor Robertson's re-election once seemed assured but turned increasingly uncertain in the weeks leading up to the vote, prompting him to issue a last-minute public apology. He told reporters Monday he'll focus on making sure the community's voice is heard.
"We just need to have, obviously, more conversations, more forums for people to weigh in when there's change facing their neighbourhood," he said.
Mr. Robertson said it can be difficult to balance affordability, density, growth and public engagement. However, he added that a number of recommendations proposed earlier this year by a city-engagement task force can be implemented in the year ahead.
Specifically, he said he wants to see changes in the development process, so the community has earlier input and is able to "shape the proposals coming forward more directly."
Mr. Robertson, of Vision Vancouver, captured more than 83,000 votes – or 46 per cent of ballots cast – to win a third term.
Kirk LaPointe, a career journalist and political newcomer running for the Non-Partisan Association, claimed more than 73,000 votes, or 40.4 per cent. Meena Wong, of the Coalition of Progressive Electors, or COPE, was third with just under 16,800 votes, or 9 per cent.
Though Mr. Robertson was able to retain the mayor's seat, he'll have one fewer Vision councillor at his side. Tony Tang was unsuccessful in his re-election bid, meaning Vision will have six of 10 councillors this term.
Vision lost control of the park board, dropping from five of seven seats to only one seat. The party also lost its majority on the board of school trustees. The nine-person board will now be made up of four members of Vision, four members of the NPA and one member of the Green Party.
Mr. Robertson, at a debate last week, apologized to voters for not listening to them enough as he and Vision pursued an aggressive agenda of bike lanes, housing and reducing homelessness.
Monday, he told reporters he was enjoying finally being able to get some sleep after a gruelling campaign.
He did not bask in his victory for long, devoting much of the news conference to next spring's transit referendum and the need for a subway along the Broadway corridor.
"We need to make sure we have very strong voices here, across the region, calling for support for transit funding, and the Broadway subway is a key part of that package, as well as bus service improving across the entire region, and rapid transit in Surrey," he said.
Linda Hepner, the new mayor of Surrey, has said she will urge the public to vote Yes in the transit referendum and to support whatever revenue tools are needed.
However, Ms. Hepner added that even if the public rejects the proposals she will find a way to have the light-rail system in operation by 2018, perhaps with a public-private partnership.
Mr. Robertson declined to discuss Vancouver's Plan B, saying he remains optimistic the referendum will be successful because "everyone knows we need better transit."
Mr. Robertson was asked about a wide range of issues.
On affordability, he said the city will continue to focus on rental housing units, with about 1,000 being built every year.
He also said he does not at this point plan to drop a lawsuit he filed against Mr. LaPointe and the NPA during the campaign. Mr. LaPointe had suggested the city's decision not to contract out union jobs was "corrupt," because the union involved donated to Vision's campaign.
"I was disappointed to see those personal attacks during the campaign. I think they really lowered the bar for Vancouver politics. At this point, I don't have any intention of holding back on that. I want to see that there [are] no attacks like that and spurious allegations going forward," he said.