11/12/2014 03:11 EST | Updated 01/12/2015 05:59 EST

Gregor Robertson apologizes during CBC Vancouver debate

Gregor Robertson appeared to send a message Wednesday morning: he's worried he's losing votes, and he feels he needs supporters of the Coalition of Progressive Electors to vote for his Vision Vancouver party if he wants a third term as Vancouver mayor.

It was apparent from the opening moments of a debate at CBC Vancouver that Robertson had a new strategy. One that began with an unprompted apology.

"I want to start with a message to voters, directly. And that is that I have heard you," Robertson said.

"While we've done a lot of good things in the past six years, there's also things we haven't done particularly well."

"And for those in particular, when I haven't met your expectations, I am sorry. And I know if I am re-elected again, and honoured to have that position going forward that I can do better," he continued.

Pitching COPE voters

It was a new, conciliatory tone from Robertson, but there was also an aggressive pitch to supporters of the candidate standing to his right, Meena Wong.

"There is so much at stake in this election, and I take this opportunity to reach out, in particular, to COPE voters," Robertson said.

"We share all the same values, and ideals, and it's really important, when it's between Vision and the NPA that progressive voters ensure that they vote for the progressive team that can win," Robertson said, over protests from Wong.

The other candidates, and many in the audience, noted Robertson's shifting message, with NPA opponent Kirk LaPointe accusing Robertson of "fear mongering" by sending a message that Vancouverites can't risk an NPA victory.

'A close election'

After the debate, Robertson acknowledged he is concerned about losing "progressive" voters to COPE.

"Certainly, it's a close election. I think it's just important people understand what's at stake, and they understand that I'm owning some of the mistakes that I've made," he said.

The NPA has been criticizing Robertson and his council for a lack of consultation on major developments and city bike lanes, and Robertson suggested others on the campaign trail have given him the same feedback.

With four days before the election, Robertson will have to hope his changing style will deliver votes from COPE and NPA supporters, and not drive away his existing support.