How far can those dashing good looks get this guy? Well, he's pulled off a lot so far
The fumbling for words, the expressions that come straight out of his teenagers' vocabulary, the adolescent tone of his tweets, the musing about policy-making on-the-fly, and the seeming helplessness when he's more than five feet away from one of his handlers or Mayor "Geoff" Meggs, are leading many Vancouverites to ask, "Who is this greenwashed surfer dude we elected mayor?"
This is not meant to be some kind of partisan put-down. Rather, it's an earnest question. Left to his own devices, is Gregor Robertson capable of leading one of Canada's largest cities?
His performance to date would leave many to believe the answer is a definitive no. At at time when Vancouver needs real leadership for the 21st Century we've got a Warren G. Harding instead, a guy who "looks like" a mayor rather than being one.
Take Robertson's recent performance at the FCM at Whistler. In response to growing US protectionism, the Prime Minister proposed municipal contracting be subject to NAFTA rules. Many municipalities oppose this idea, reacting with a "Buy Canada First" resolution which narrowly passed in a vote Friday. When the Mayor was queried about these issues at a press conference, the Globe and Mail reports:
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he had no firm position on the Prime Minister’s proposal, or the resolution, although he said any decision should ensure that “local governments can make decisions that are appropriate for their communities.
Robertson's skating around on issues like these have become shockingly predictable for Vancouver's media. It's why they choose to scrum Mayor Meggs, at least he'll tell you what Robertson is supposed to think.
In contrast, Toronto Mayor David Miller was definitively opposed and voted against the FCM motion. No weasel words, just a clearly thought out position.
Great defenders of Robertson will explain his inarticulateness as growing pains. I've listened to Gregor speaking publicly before, during and after his campaign for Vancouver's mayor, and there is no growth, and he's painful to listen to.
The two people tasked with explaining what hizonner means are the aforementioned Meggs, and Kevin "Vancouver Kid" Quinlan, the NDP blogger who has risen to the job of being the Mayor's assistant.
Quinlan took great pains to explain his boss's "exuberant" support of the Federal Leader of the Opposition Michael Ignatieff – "hopefully our next Prime Minister," stated Gregor – in a recent Seattle newspaper interview. Here's what he said to Sean Holman:
Well, the city's relationship with Ottawa goes far beyond any one comment. The mayor has met and worked closely already with ministers like James Moore and Stockwell Day on a number of big issues. And we expect that to continue. But, frankly, there is a level of frustration with Ottawa's lack of movement on a number of key issues the mayor has been working on...
Is it Robertson's "frustration" or his complete lack of critical judgment that leads him to pump up Iggy and jeopardize Vancouver's success at gaining Federal financial support? It's reminiscent of his stupid fare-evasion fiasco. Where's the common sense?
Somebody made a bet that Gregor Robertson's telegenic good looks, the polar opposite image of the wheelchair-bound man he succeeded, would be enough to carry him through his term in government. But Gregor's backers are learning that being Vancouver's mayor requires more exposure than being an opposition MLA, and it's getting harder to explain away Robertson's off-the-cuff mayoral style.
Gregor Robertson is either a living example of The Peter Principle, or someone who just needs to bone up on his facts to be better at his job. There is nothing at all I've seen that would indicate it's the latter.