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The fresh-faced "Happy Planet" juice guy, Gregor Robertson, will be Vancouver's mayor for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Speaking in a packed ballroom at the Fairmont's Hotel Vancouver a little more than two hours after the polls closed, Mr. Robertson said his victory over the Non-Partisan Association's Peter Ladner was even more exciting than watching the Vancouver Canucks hockey team defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Vision slate captured a majority on council, and Mr. Robertson was careful to thank his party's left-leaning alliance with the Coalition of Progressive Electors, and the Greens. "We ran a campaign that recognized our shared values," he said. "The result is the city united on the issues we care about."

The polls did not show a city united, however, but a city fractured along community lines. "It was a hard-fought campaign," Mr. Robertson allowed. "But there is still far more that unites us than divides us."

It was a bitter contest marked by controversy over a secret city loan and enlivened by a bizarre episode over fare evasion, and the former New Democratic Party MLA was leading in the polls throughout the night, with most of the suspense surrounding how large a majority his party would have on council.

Mr. Ladner, speaking to supporters, hinted at a lingering bitterness in his concession speech: "We stayed on the high ground - we never resorted to lies and smears."

The outgoing council has six NPA members including the mayor, while Vision has four members, and COPE one.

Mr. Robertson won by a margin of almost 19,000 votes, virtually shutting out the ruling NPA. The Vision team captured 8 of the 11 seats on council. COPE won two, and Suzanne Anton will be the lone NPA councillor.

The 2008 campaign did little to capture voters' attention in the early weeks, particularly with the competing federal campaign and provincial by-elections.

Mr. Robertson, however, created a stir when it was revealed he was facing a fine for fare evasion after getting caught on a SkyTrain having underpaid for a two-zone ride. He initially said he would fight the $173 ticket in court to protest the high fee, but then flip-flopped and settled the bill.

Last night he cracked a joke about it, noting that his party had reached out past the city boundaries "which by the way is a two-zone fare," he said to laughter.

"Robertson's choice on the fare evasion was just stupid," said University of Victoria political scientist Dennis Pilon.

The blunder gave strategists for the NPA one of their few glimmers of hope in the race, but a week later the campaign turned again.

Mr. Pilon said the NPA - and Mr. Ladner - was more heavily saddled by the loan controversy uncovered by The Globe and Mail. Earlier this month, city council quietly approved a loan of up to $100-million to the hard-pressed private developers of the Olympic Village housing complex in False Creek.

Although both Vision and NPA councillors approved the deal, Mr. Pilon said it likely cost the right-leaning NPA more grief.

"The NPA are supposed to be better business managers," he said. "Regardless of who is responsible for the vote, nobody expects Vision to be Joe Business."

Mr. Robertson seized on the issue to attack his rival, Mr. Ladner. He vowed to hold an open council meeting within 30 days of taking office to hear a report on the financial situation of the village project.

Then came the predictable round of finger-pointing over how the information was leaked. The accusations reached a remarkable plateau, with all 10 of Vancouver's incumbent city councillors, plus the mayor, offering to take a lie-detector test to prove their innocence.

Mr. Sullivan, who will hand over the officer on Dec. 8, has asked the Vancouver police to investigate the leak of the deal which he has described as a document "theft."

The new mayor will be the face of the 2010 Olympics, a role that requires a great deal of cheerleading, but Mr. Robertson's campaign focused more on the issues of homelessness and affordable housing - both issues that have threatened to give the games a black eye.

To meet his ambitious pledge to end street homelessness by 2015, he'll need the co-operation of the provincial government, the right-of-centre B.C. Liberals. As an opposition MLA until recently, Mr. Robertson will have to play a different role the next time he sits across from Premier Gordon Campbell.

However the provincial election is just six months away and recent polls suggest the B.C. Liberals under Mr. Campbell face a difficult fight against Mr. Robertson's old party, the B.C. NDP.

Earlier in the day, both mayoral candidates said they started the day early after a sound sleep - "the first one in weeks," joked Mr. Ladner.

Mr. Ladner went for a run in the morning, then went mainstreeting in upscale Yaletown. He went to vote at around 10:15 at Bayswater Elementary School, a few blocks from his house in Kitsilano.

Mr. Robertson walked over from his house in central Vancouver to vote at Emily Carr Elementary School with wife Amy around 10:45.

Both mayoralty candidates expressed regret that the campaign had been somewhat hijacked.

"It's been challenging and frustrating because a lot of attention was attracted away from important issues," Mr. Robertson said earlier in the day.

Mr. Robertson, who was first elected as an NDP MLA in 2005, was chosen by the relatively new centre-left Vision Vancouver party as their best hope to wrestle the mayor's office away from the NPA, which dominates municipal politics in Vancouver.

Like Mr. Ladner, the 43-year-old ex-MLA made a mark in business before entering politics. He co-founded the Happy Planet line of organic fruit juices and soups in 1994, and remains a non-active partner and shareholder in the company.

With files from Frances Bula