With only five weeks until Mayor Gregor Robertson hands over his title, he sat down on October 3 with UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment and UBC law and public policy Professor David Boyd to reflect on his time in politics and as Mayor of Vancouver.
As part of the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs and the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability’s Policy in Practice series, Robertson discussed how he came into politics 14 years ago after frustrations with the lack of environmental action at the provincial level. This motivated him to run as an MLA in the 2005 election under the NDP. He would later run for mayor in 2008, a position he has now held for a decade.
During the conversation, Robertson chose not to speak about the recent disruption within his party. After the withdrawal of former Vision mayoral candidate Ian Campbell, the party has chosen not to run a candidate for the city’s top job, leaving the party with an incomplete slate for the upcoming election.
Instead, Robertson chose to speak on what he sees as the greatest successes.
Much of the discussion was on the Greenest City Action Plan and its lasting impacts that, Robertson says, have made Vancouver a leading city in climate policy.
He highlighted the lack of alignment between levels of government that he faced during his tenure as mayor, suggesting that it stalled the ability to go further on many issues such as transit and housing, as there was no political will or support at the federal or provincial level.
Robertson did touch on one issue crucial to UBC: the Broadway corridor skytrain extension. When asked his thoughts on a skytrain extension all the way to UBC instead of only to Arbutus Street, as currently planned, Robertson indicated strong support.
He said he "couldn't convince the rest of the mayors that Arbutus to UBC was essential as a next step." He further noted the importance of the next 6-12 months in securing the extension as plans for the first phase are locked in, he urged those in the audience who supported the extension to "get out there and advocate vigorously.”
Bike lanes, often the most divisive issue for the city, are a decision Robertson stands by. "If you don't have separated lanes in particular you can die.” he said, reaffirming his belief that Vancouver should become the foremost cycling city in North America.
Robertson said he had no specific plans for the future — only to take a break to reflect on his past 14 years in politics with hopes that that Vancouverites don't forget to not take "fresh air, local food and clean water" for granted.