As if Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson isn’t busy enough already, he took some time off from his regular routine to speak to the Vancity Buzz Team, answering some questions we had on his life, policies and the future of Vancouver.
Having climbed up a few floors at Vancouver City Hall to a conference table inside the Mayor’s Office, we begin the conversation on his nearly five years behind the desk.
This is the first part of a special 3-part Vancity Buzz series with Mayor Gregor Robertson:
- Monday, October 28: On His Life – Getting To Know The Mayor
- Tuesday, October 29: On Jobs and Vancouver’s Tech Industry
- Wednesday, October 30: On Public Transit, Liquor Laws and Fun City
How did you grow up?
I grew up on the North Shore and graduated from Carson Graham Secondary School. I participated in a lot of sports. Specifically, playing rugby, hockey and soccer was a big part of my youth. Music was also another big thing growing up. I played in school bands to rock bands (“the garage band thing”).
I went to Colorado College and did four years there doing a Biology and English combination. I had ambitions to go to medical school at UBC, but got rejected because I had been in the states for my undergrad.
So with that behind me, I worked and traveled all over the world over a three or four year span – the largest chunk spent on fixing up an old sailboat and sailing it with Amy, my wife-to-be, to New Zealand. This was all during my mid-20s.
I sold the boat in New Zealand, came back to Vancouver and started a farm near Fort Langley. It was a 50-acre dairy farm that had been shut down by an old couple who could no longer run it anymore. We brought it back to life over the years, growing everything organic but mainly market fruits and vegetables like strawberries and carrots.
From there, we started Happy Planet. We decided to take it to the next level, we had to get more entrepreneurial as it’s difficult to make a living just as a farmer. Happy Planet started from here, it took off, and we grew the company for 10 years into becoming a full tilt organic juice company.
At that point, which was approximately 10 years ago, I began my shift into politics.
How’s your new house and neighbourhood?
It’s foggy so far. But no, it has been great. I’ve spent a lot of time at Kitsilano over the years, it’s fun to actually live there and be close to the water and downtown. It’s a great location.
It’s a very active neighbourhood with lots of people working out – walking, running and biking. It’s great to live in an active neighbourhood like that.
Can you describe your typical Sunday?
You mean a non-work day? A lot of Sunday’s, I’m working at community events.
But when I do have free time, which is sometimes on a Sunday, I try to get out into the great outdoors whether it be Stanley Park, the beaches, Pacific Spirit Park or the North Shore Mountains. That would be the ideal plan – to get a chunk of the day or even a full day when it happens. And as we all know, that also happens to be Vancouver’s trump card – to be able to access incredible nature and the city all in one day.
I also try to see friends and family. My job is so full on that I don’t get a lot of hours for friends and family. So my days off need to be used productively, and if I can combine those – for instance, go ski or paddle with friends and family – that would be the best.
What are your fondest memories as Mayor?
There are so many intense moments, can I do two? For one, handing off the Olympic Flag during the Closing Ceremony in BC Place was off the charts exhilaration. With the gold medal game, with the streets roaring with happiness, that was an unforgettable moment.
My other moment would be during my first winter as Mayor. I went to a shelter we opened up as an emergency. Seeing people warm, well-fed, recovering from coming off the street… we felt like we made a huge difference overnight in people’s lives with just one action.
People who had been on the street had a place to call home. A shelter isn’t perfect, but it was a really clear, tangible positive step that also helped accelerate the work of the City to open more shelters and housing.
Five years ago, we had over 800 people sleeping outside and we forget how brutal that was. There were a lot more people on the street, and it has changed dramatically since. Seeing that immediate impact was very motivating.
Who are your favourite DJ’s and artists?
That’s a very tricky one, I try not to pick favourites… that’s a hard one. Well, I listen to funk hip-hop and jazz the most – it’s the range where I have the most fun. I also love some of our great local bands, like the Booms Booms – they’re doing quite well.
But when it comes to the DJ front, it’s wide open there.
If you had a DJ name, what would it be?
The last time I played as a DJ, ‘G-Force’ is the name I last remember hearing. And I often get called “G” by friends and family.
Tomorrow on this special 3-part series with Mayor Gregor Robertson: Part 2 – On Jobs and Vancouver’s Tech Industry.