Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson gave his first public appearance in weeks Tuesday, defending his decision to stay on vacation as staff struggled to clear roads and sidewalks of ice and snow. 

Speaking at a press conference for Metro Vancouver's transit improvement plan, Robertson commended his team for their efforts dealing with the cold snap, and said he was in constant contact with City Hall while he was away.

"I was on holiday and spending time out of Vancouver, getting a break, although I was on the phone almost every day dealing with the challenges," he told reporters.

"Obviously I had full confidence in my staff and I think they did a good job given the circumstances."

During his absence, many concerns were raised about uncleared roads on residential streets and icy sidewalks around city-owned properties.

Some, including city councillor George Affleck, suggested the mayor should have provided more leadership by addressing citizens directly, even if only over the internet.

"Unless he was somewhere where there was no internet connection, certainly he could have [used Skype]," Affleck said. "He disappeared. He wasn't around and people really wanted to hear from the mayor and he let them down."

Robertson said it wasn't a failure of leadership, but an "unprecedented" amount of pressure put on the city's limited resources that caused the delays getting streets cleared.

"The amount of resources the city deployed are far beyond what we have ever done before, and I think on the operational side a lot of good work was done," he said.

A review into how the city handled the weather is already underway, and Robertson said he will address any problems that are identified, including issues involving the chain of command and leadership roles.

His long-awaited appearance followed one day after the release of a survey that pegged Robertson as the least popular big city mayor in Canada, with an approval rating of 50 per cent. 

Robertson shrugged off the results Tuesday and congratulated his colleagues across the country for their popularity.

"I don't pay much attention to polls, particularly when you've seen what they've demonstrated in recent years in politics," he said.

With files from CTV Vancouver's Scott Roberts