Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson listens during an announcement in Vancouver, B.C., on March 6, 2017. Mr. Robertson, who was first elected in 2008, says he won’t be seeking re-election this fall.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson will not run for mayor again, ending 10 tumultuous years as a frequently controversial leader steering a city engulfed in a crisis of affordable housing.

During his tenure, Mr. Robertson battled homelessness and, more recently, the devastating opioid crisis and he initiated a bold plan to make the city the world's greenest.

But the problem of housing costs soaring to stratospheric levels, where solutions involved tough policy choices of all kinds, became the city's consuming issue. The mayor faced angry protesters on one side, unhappy with decisions to put temporary housing for the homeless in their neighbourhoods and impatient residents who thought he wasn't doing enough to either reduce foreign demand for housing or facilitate more supply.

Story continues below advertisement

"Ten years is a long time in politics," Mr. Robertson said in a Facebook post and direct e-mail to party members announcing his decision not to run in October's civic election. "An important part of leadership is recognizing when to step aside to make space for new leaders."

In an interview, he said that one of his regrets is about the housing issue. "In hindsight, I wish we'd figured out how to get more citywide consensus on solutions before affordability hammered the city."

He cited his party's record in making Vancouver a city of reconciliation for Indigenous people, as well as a city with a strong economy. And he promised to keep the Vision Vancouver municipal party going.

"I will work hard to elect a renewed Vision team that is open to co-operate with anyone on an ambitious, progressive agenda."

Talk of Mr. Robertson's departure has been circulating since he was elected to a third term in 2014, after a difficult campaign where he ended up apologizing to residents for not having done a better job. Although Mr. Robertson always asserted he was running again, his visibility and interest in his role seemed to fluctuate over the past three years.

The former owner of an organic-juice company and a one-time NDP MLA swept in with a massive victory in 2008 on a promise to end street homelessness by 2015 and to push aggressively on a green agenda.

He and the party won control of council twice more, in part by heavily emphasizing their opposition to an expanded oil pipeline and increased tanker traffic – an issue that Vancouver had little control over but that appealed to young, environmentally minded voters. But the mayor faced mounting criticism and disappointment from city residents in recent years.

Story continues below advertisement

In an October by-election for a vacant council seat, the party's candidate came in fifth.

It was clear to campaigners on the phones and doorsteps that Mr. Robertson had become an object of dislike for many voters, who blame him for everything from being in the pockets of developers to forcing bike lanes on neighbourhoods to not ensuring city roads got plowed fast enough during last year's snowstorms.

In spite of that, internal polling showed he could win again as mayor. But it was unclear what kind of mixed bag of parties on council he would be leading. The mayor said he made his decision after a long Christmas vacation with family.

Many still admire the accomplishments of a mayor who set out a list of goals in his first election and doggedly pursued them. "What Gregor and Vision Vancouver have done is pretty remarkable. They transformed a city with their green agenda," said Metro Vancouver chairman Greg Moore, also the mayor of Port Coquitlam. "They put Vancouver on the map as a leader on climate change, not waiting for the province or federal government."

But many more say it was time for Mr. Robertson to go because he had failed to address Vancouver's most challenging problems – homelessness and increasingly unaffordable housing for residents at all levels.

Newly elected Non-Partisan Association Councillor Hector Bremner, whose party aims to win council back this fall, acknowledged the mayor "was on the right side of history in terms of his perspective and values on climate change."

Story continues below advertisement

But, he said, Mr. Robertson just wasn't as bold when it came to addressing the city's housing crisis. "Over the last 10 years, there were lots of opportunities to address it. We've not been keeping up with the demand. The action didn't happen."

Vision Vancouver had been set to begin a leadership review and nomination contests in the coming months. Those preparations will now kick into high gear.

The NPA has set its contest for its mayoral slot for late February.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons or for abuse. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies