Gregor Robertson, the incumbent Vancouver mayor whose path to re-election once seemed assured, has won a third term despite palpable voter dissatisfaction with his party's approach.
Chants of "Gregor, Gregor," broke out at a Vision Vancouver rally at the Wall Centre on Saturday evening when media outlets projected his victory after a tough campaign.
Indications in the last couple weeks were that Mr. Robertson's return to office was not as assured as polls once suggested. But the mayor was never behind as the results trickled in. He outdistanced his main challenger, Non-Partisan Association candidate Kirk LaPointe, with each reported result.
In his victory speech, Mr. Robertson acknowledged complaints about his party's style, which prompted him to issue a remarkable apology last week.
"I am so humbled and honoured to be re-elected as your mayor," he said in the speech, delivered late into the evening as a result of extended poll hours to deal with the crush of people waiting in line to vote.
"I've heard loud and clear there are things we can do better. And we will."
Mr. Robertson – whose aggressive agenda of bike lanes and housing was met with complaints that his party wasn't listening to residents won by about 10,000 votes over Mr. LaPointe.
Mr. LaPointe, a former journalist making his first foray into politics, conceded defeat in a speech in which he congratulated the "magnificent" NPA team for its effort.
He described the election as " a great hard-fought campaign," and said it had revived the NPA. The party picked up a city council seat from Vision, and also gained a stronger voice on parks board and school board.
Mr. Lapointe said the campaign, which sometimes degenerated into bitter exchanges with Mr. Robertson, was a tough fight.
"The campaign has not always brought out the best in us, but it did deliver a clarity of choice," he said.
Mr. LaPointe said COPE contender Meena Wong had run " a great campaign" and he congratulated Mr. Robertson for winning a third consecutive victory.
"I wished him congratulations – I wish him well," he said to a smattering of boos.
Mr. LaPointe joked that when he started he was such an unknown that nobody knew how to pronounce his name, let alone spell it.
"Even my dog didn't like being walked by an underdog," he said. "We were an association that had lost its mojo and we were up against a (formidable) machine. We have moved ourselves back into the conversation a bit."
There appeared to be little change in city council. Mr. Robertson's Vision Vancouver lost one seat, but continues to hold a majority: six of 10 seats.
Green Party Councillor Adriane Carr kept her seat, far outpacing the number of votes any other councillor received. But Ms. Carr won't have any more company on council. She became the first Green Party candidate elected to any level of government when she squeaked on to council in 2011 and the Greens had hoped to win two more council seats this time.
The NPA now has three seats, gaining one from last time.
Unlike other major cities in Canada, Vancouver elects its councillors on an at-large basis. So the top 10 vote-getters win spots on council.
Mr. LaPointe repeatedly hammered Mr. Robertson for running a government that lacked transparency. Mr. LaPointe promised a new conversation with residents about the future of the city.
Mr. Robertson also faced a challenge from his left flank. Ms. Wong, of the Coalition of Progressive Electors, or COPE, was never in a position to win the race, but was a threat to lure away a significant number of voters. She offered a comprehensive housing strategy that included new subsidized units and a tax on vacant properties, though she was hard-pressed for answers on how the programs would work.
Vision Vancouver, created in 2005, is a centrist operation with a strong green emphasis. Mr. Robertson has regularly touted his opposition during the campaign to more oil tankers in Burrard Inlet.
But polls over the last year have shown Vancouver residents think Vision has done a poor job of handling growth and development, engaging with citizens, and combatting homelessness. Mr. Robertson had, in the 2008 campaign, vowed to end homelessness by 2015.
Both Vision and the NPA raised more than $2-million in the campaign, though Vision's success raising money from developers led to suspicion about the impact of developers on council decisions.
The campaign was not without its share of vitriol.
Mr. Robertson filed a lawsuit against Mr. LaPointe and the NPA over Mr. LaPointe's remarks involving a city decision not to contract out union jobs. Mr. LaPointe said the decision amounted to a swap of cash for favours, because the union donated to the Vision campaign.
Vision, on the other hand, criticized Mr. LaPointe for, among other things, living outside the city proper. Mr. LaPointe resides near the University of British Columbia, which is in a different electoral area.
Vision also accused the NPA of spreading false rumours about Mr. Robertson's separation from his wife.
Voter turnout for the 2011 election was only about 35 per cent. However, long lineups were reported at several polling stations Saturday. Advance voter turnout was up 98 per cent from three years ago.