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Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson apologizes to voters days before election

Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has apologized to voters for the way his party has done business over the past six years, pledging to do better if citizens give him another chance when they head to the polls Saturday.

The surprise apology came in his opening remarks in a CBC mayoral debate Wednesday between Robertson, the NPA’s Kirk LaPointe and COPE’s Meena Wong, the last time the top three candidates will face off before election day.

“I want to start with a message to voters directly. That’s that I have heard you. While we’ve done a lot of good things we’ve done well in the past six years, there’s also things that we haven’t done particularly well. For those, in particular when I haven’t met your expectations, I am sorry,” said Robertson, who is vying for a third term in office.

“I know that if I’m re-elected again and honoured to have that position going forward, that I can do better.”

He later urged COPE voters to pick Vision on their ballots, while Wong invited people to “come home” to COPE. (Vision broke away from leftwing COPE in 2005, but the parties have not run competing mayoral candidates until this election.)

The plea - which COPE called "desperate" - seems to address the narrowing gap between Robertson and LaPointe. Recent polls pegged Robertson just five points ahead of LaPointe, with 46 per cent and 41 per cent of voters intended to vote for each respectively. That’s a far cry from August, when 41 per cent of residents didn’t even recognize LaPointe’s name.

Wong’s support has dropped to 9 per cent, but Robertson’s comments point to a fear that losing support from the left could lead to an NPA win. The NPA leans the furthest to the right of the three parties, notably with its pledges to institute free parking on Sundays, freeze taxes to the rate of inflation for one year and refusal to reject the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion outright.

LaPointe jumped on the mayor’s apology, saying if re-elected he will simply be apologizing again in four years. LaPointe promises his government will be transparent and listen to neighbourhoods, pointing to numerous lawsuits against Vision Vancouver over developments as a sign of the party’s failure to consult.

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