An initially anemic Vancouver municipal election evolved into a hotly contested race to decide who would run the city for the next four years, with Vision Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson staving off a late campaign surge by the Non-Partisan Association’s Kirk LaPointe, a victory that will make Robertson the city’s longest-serving mayor if he serves out his new term.
Just before 11pm, Robertson, who ultimately beat LaPointe by 10,086 votes, was declared the winner to the cheers and applause of a relieved but jubilant crowd that had been buzzing with anticipation since early in the evening.
To the beat of Pharrell Williams’s “Happy,” Robertson emerged at about 11:30pm to savour his reelection, albeit with one fewer Vision colleague in council and lost majorities on the school and park boards.
In 2011, seven out of 10 councillors, five out of nine school trustees and five out of seven park board commissioners were elected from the Vision slate. In 2014, the party will return six city councillors but took a significant hit on the park board, securing only one seat on what will now be an NPA-led body.
On the school board, Vision also lost ground and, like the NPA, will now field four trustees, with the final seat going to a new Green trustee, Janet Fraser.
The Green Party saw its fortunes improve across the board, with voters not only returning Adriane Carr to council with the strongest showing of all councillors, but electing two commissioners to the park board and Fraser to the school board.
In 2011, Robertson defeated his then-NPA opponent Suzanne Anton by almost 16,000 votes. This time, his margin of victory decreased, as he defeated LaPointe by fewer than 11,000 votes.
“I am so humbled and honoured to have been reelected as your mayor,” Robertson told the high-energy crowd packed into the grand ballroom of the Wall Centre. “We also have a wider diversity in council, park board and school board,” he added, in a nod to the ground that Vision lost on those civic bodies.
“We still share many of the same values, and we’re going to find common ground. We’re going to continue to build a green, inclusive and vibrant city together,” he said.
Throughout the day, long lines and wait times were reported at a number of polling stations across the city, including the West End and Roundhouse community centres. As 8pm approached, word came that voting hours at four of the city’s 117 polling stations — Killarney, Britannia, Oakridge Centre and Hastings Elementary school — had been extended to as late as 8:45pm because of the heavy turnout and a shortage of ballots. By that time the Wall Centre, where Vision candidates and supporters had gathered to hear the results, was buzzing in anticipation of a long, tense night.
“I’m really nervous,” gay activist Yogi Omar confessed early on, saying he wasn’t sure what the big turnout meant, even though he welcomed it. “I don’t know if that means good things or bad things. It’s good that people are showing up because it matters.”
Michael Kwag also admitted to some anxiety but said the mood among the Vision team was optimistic as they pulled out the stops in the final days.
At 9:21pm, the first reserved cheer of the night went up as Robertson took about a 1,000-vote lead over LaPointe. Just before 10, Robertson extended his lead to 2,000 votes.
Development, lack of affordability, homelessness, transparency and accountability were key issues debated by candidates throughout the campaign. In an unprecedented move, parties released their donor lists before election day, seemingly in acquiescence to the emphasis that candidates and voters placed on the need for transparency.
The deafening silence in the campaign’s early days gave way to an increasingly vitriolic atmosphere in which LaPointe and Robertson sharpened their rhetoric and vote-soliciting strategies.
Clearly feeling the pressure of the rapidly closing gap between LaPointe and himself, and worried that disgruntled progressive voters were turning to COPE and the Greens, Robertson apologized to voters whose expectations he hadn’t met during his party’s two-term tenure at city hall.
“I am sorry, and I know that if I am reelected again and honoured to have that position going forward, that I can do better,” he said during a Nov 12 CBC Vancouver debate. He later made a direct pitch to COPE voters to throw in their lot with Vision, which he called the “progressive team that can win,” to ensure that the NPA didn’t motor through the middle in a come-from-behind victory.
Whether progressives heeded his 11th-hour appeal or independently concluded that an NPA victory would be the worse of two perceived evils, a relieved Robertson said he heard “loud and clear” from many Vancouverites that there are things Vision could do better. “And we will, over these next four years,” he pledged.
Gay Councillor Tim Stevenson, who said he was “very worried” as election day approached and polls showed LaPointe and the NPA gaining significant ground, says he feels wonderful about winning a fifth term on city council. He reiterated the work to be done to realize a new queer community centre and to ensure LGBT seniors have the facilities and resources they need as they age.
But Stevenson says he’s disappointed for park board colleague Trevor Loke, who lost his bid for a second term as a commissioner. He says Loke, who is also gay, has been a strong advocate for the community and has a lot of potential. Stevenson expressed surprise that Loke wasn’t reelected.
Robertson acknowledged Loke’s work on the park board, eliciting shouts of “Trevor, Trevor” from the ballroom crowd.
For his part, Loke says he’s happy about Robertson’s reelection and Vision’s continued majority on council, which, he says, will ensure a continuing emphasis on LGBT priorities. H says he will continue to serve the community.