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Please Advise: Who Will Fill Gregor Robertson’s Bike Shoes?

It doesn’t matter — they too will soon be scorned.

By Steve Burgess 26 Jan 2018 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a Ph.D in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.

Dear Dr. Steve,

Mayor Gregor Robertson is not running for reelection. Good riddance! Not that he had a snowball’s chance of winning anyway. So long, Mayor Moonbeam! Who do you think will be the leading contenders this year?

Signed,

Celebrating

Dear Celeb,

Yes indeed, Robertson appears to be wall-literate. The writing has been there for a while now — at least since the fall municipal byelection that saw Vision Vancouver’s candidate Diego Cardona fail to win, place, or even show. Robertson has been the target of increasing hostility, which is perhaps not surprising for a three-term political leader. What does surprise Dr. Steve somewhat is the unanimity of the displeasure. The mayor has been taking those flying mud pies on both ears.

The right, of course, loathes the guy. The Province “Letters to the Editor” section is always a reliable fountain of curmudgeonly vituperation — the voice of the crab grass roots. On Jan. 17, there was this letter from Rick Angus of Vancouver: “Robertson’s realm is devoid of the essential freedoms all Canadians are entitled to pursue at their own instigation rather than simply kowtowing to their neighbour’s ideas of the new world order. The dictator is leaving… ”

Without having spoken to Mr. Angus, Dr. Steve suspects this “new world order” probably refers to lawn-watering restrictions during summer droughts. But the main anti-Robertson theme seems to be the one reflected in the Jan. 16 letter from Barry Craig of Vancouver: “Now that Mayor Robertson has decided to pedal off into the sunset, maybe citizens of this beleaguered city can catch a break. Ever since Robertson and his Vision party became our rulers, he has been on a mission to turn Vancouver into some sort of theme park for the environmental and socially conscious... Millions of dollars have been spent frivolously on bike lanes…”

There’s the rub. Antipathy toward bike lanes should not be underestimated. It’s true that the recent Cambie bike lane proposal did not generate the same outrage as the Hornby lane proposal, but that may well be because, as NPA Coun. George Affleck suggests, opponents have simply given up on this council.

Bike lanes, in the Doctor’s humble opinion, are one of those projects where enlightened governance runs lockstep with suicidal politics. There are many, many more motorists than there are cyclists. Relations between the two groups remain fraught. Talk to motorists about the two-wheeled guerrilla army on our streets and you might as well be asking Wile E. Coyote for his opinion on roadrunner lanes. The belief that cyclists are eroding the hard-won freedoms of the motoring public is as durable in certain quarters as the idea that Muslims are stealthily instituting Sharia law in our once-Christian nation.

So that’s the animus from the right. But why does the left seem to hate the mayor?

That, it seems, is a developing story. Robertson and his Vision team are seen as puppets of Bob Rennie and other condo developers pushing a pro-density agenda. This issue gets rolled together with the affordability crisis to create a giant snowball of failure.

It doesn’t help that Robertson rashly campaigned in 2008 on a pledge to end homelessness — an item that remains stubbornly unchecked on the civic “To Do” list. If the mayor is to be faulted on that score, it might be for making dumb promises. He should have stuck to something simpler, like keeping yoga off our bridges.

Dr. Steve does not question the right of the left to find fault wherever they please. He is however a bit puzzled as to why some progressives are cheering Robertson off the stage. What exactly do they think is coming next? The November byelection was won by the NPA candidate, and if one is looking for previews of the next city-wide election, that is probably the best one we have.

Even if the centre-left parties — Vision, Cope, One City — agree to unite behind a single mayoral candidate the odds would seem to favour a reaction against the Robertson regime. Mayor Moonbeam.2 might be a hard sell this year.

And if you are planning to vote for the candidate who will end the affordability crisis, Dr. Steve is all ears. It may well be that, as some claim, increased density will only line the pockets of developers while doing nothing to improve affordability. But it’s not like a freeze on development is going to help either.

Levels of government have been scrambling for solutions to the problem like so many King Canutes standing in the tide. The foreign buyers tax didn’t do it. How about a ban on foreign ownership that will somehow prove enforceable? Or perhaps the complete annihilation of global capitalism? Comrade Dr. Steve, who now considers a cafe visit for a professionally made espresso a rare luxury, is as hopeful as any that someone will find the key to the affordability issue. But he is skeptical that a realistic one will be magically conjured on the election trail this year. Maybe someone will promise an end to disappointing restaurant meals instead.

Meanwhile Robertson will spend 2018 on his farewell tour, hobbling around like a mallard on crutches. Rejected, reviled, and lame — the reward for 10 years in the mayor’s chair.

But don’t pity the guy. He’ll be fine. Save your pity for the incoming victim.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics, Housing

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