The Creative Side of Politics: Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson
When you’re an organic farmer trying to figure out how to get your products to consumers, you need to find creative ways to get past all the giant food firms who rule the market.
How about setting up your own farmers’ market?
When you’re a mayor who’s constantly getting messages about why things can’t be done, you need to find creative ways to make things happen.
How about using the city’s 40,000 street lamps as wifi towers and electric-car chargers?
Change is coming, he added, and it’s better to embrace it than trying to stick to your current path. “We can shape that change for maximum, positive outcomes if we use our creativity.”
Robertson was the first politician to be invited to the monthly forum for innovative ideas and conversation. The only caveat for him was that he had to stick to the theme of creativity. The only caveat for the audience was that they too had to stick to the theme in the question and answer period. No grilling him about taxes or garbage pick-up.
Robertson started with his own journey to the mayor’s chair: a 12-year-old wannabe rock star (who did Kiss covers); a young man’s travels through China to connect with Dr. Norman Bethune, a relative who is viewed as a hero to the Chinese (and with whom he shares a name); a sailing adventure across the Pacific with his wife Amy, fishing for dinner and anchoring off islands in quest of fresh fruit; and then back to BC where he and Amy started an organic farm and Robertson and a friend started the Happy Planet juice company.
Happy Planet’s first name was Creative Juices, which is something they had to tap into when it came to making money. “The only way to compete with the Cokes and Pepsis of this world is to be creative and hustle,” he said.
As he travelled with his juice truck, he became more aware of some of the problems facing us as a society. He wanted to help change things, but how? That’s when he turned to politics, something he could have never predicted happening.
Now he’s a convert.
“Politics is our most direct way to create change,” he told the youthful audience, “but very few of us get involved directly.”
Facing the future, Robertson says that while Vancouver has and will continue to be powered by resource industries, “it’s the creative economy that’s growing in leaps and bounds.”
Vancouver is the world’s third most important digital media hub following LA and London. More can be done to continue with that success and ensure that change is a positive force that moves us forward.
“You need pressure points inside and outside the system,” Robertson said, encouraging people to become more involved in applying that pressure. “I don’t think it will come from same-old, same-old… We need to get more voices to the table and make people think they can help shape the city.”
The next Creative Mornings is Jan. 4 with Joseph Wu, an origami artist and programmer. Tickets are free thanks to event sponsors — this past Friday it was Modo, next month it’s PowerShifter and, as always, W2 Media Cafe and the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada/British Columbia. They become available starting December 31 at Eventbrite.