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Vancouver mayor apologizes for harsh remarks caught on tape

It was a hot microphone and now Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is in hot water for his foul-mouthed expression of frustration at a city council meeting.

Robertson apologized Monday after he was inadvertently caught by a live mic cursing out some of his constituents.

In a clip uploaded to YouTube earlier Monday, Robertson can be heard criticizing members of the West End Neighbours, a group opposed to a controversial rental housing program.

"Who are all these fucking... who are these hacks, man?" Robertson asked two city councillors last week, unaware that a still-live microphone was picking up his every word.

An exasperated Robertson then said the city just wanted to set up an advisory board, "for fuck's sake."

Randy Helten, a spokesman for West End Neighbours, said one of the group members was listening to the meeting's online feed when the mayor's comments suddenly streamed out of the airwaves. The group uploaded the clip to YouTube.

Helten, one of several local residents to address the mayor and council on July 8, was stunned. "I first of all (was) shocked that the mayor would be speaking that way, using those words," he said in an interview.

"Secondly, I was very disappointed. It showed that even though we spent our whole day there at city hall, trying to speak about some very serious issues, they were totally writing us off and ignoring us."

Robertson conceded he was out of line and apologized in a statement. The mayor did not make himself available for an interview.

"(The comments) were inappropriate and disrespectful," Robertson wrote in the email sent out by his assistant.

Though he said there was no excuse for how he behaved Robertson offered one, stating: "I was frustrated after a long, contentious council meeting."

Robertson joins the likes of former British prime minister Gordon Brown and two-term U.S. president George W. Bush, whose loose lips also landed them in controversy.

Brown was on the campaign trail in April when he forgot he was wearing a microphone as he left a campaign stop and called a woman he'd been speaking with "bigoted." The Labour leader apologized soon after.

At the G8 summit in Russia in 2006, Bush told former British prime minister Tony Blair that the United Nations needed to step up pressure on Hezbollah — not realizing a nearby microphone was on as he peppered his statement with an expletive.

Helten said he just hopes there are some changes to the decision-making system at city hall. West End Neighbours opposes the Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing Program (STIR) that city council introduced in 2009, which offers developers incentives and relaxes bylaws to build new rental apartments within Vancouver's West End neighbourhood.

The group has a petition signed by 7,000 area residents.

At last week's meeting, Helten had hoped to stop appointments to the program advisory committee but council passed the motion.

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