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Park board seeks more cash for seniors centre

$2.5 million requested from senior governments to build new facility
seniors.jpg
A group of seniors plays cards inside the Killarney Community Centre. Photo: Dan Toulgoet

The Vancouver park board wants the federal and provincial governments to kick in $2.5 million to expand the Killarney Community Centre to house a long-promised seniors
facility.

It’s been four years since the board voted unanimously to have staff look into building an approximately 10,000-square-foot Southeast Vancouver Seniors Centre but construction has yet to begin.

On Monday, the Vision Vancouver-dominated board endorsed a motion by vice-chair Aaron Jasper to request additional government funding to help build the new centre. Vision Coun. Raymond Louie is expected to introduce a motion in two weeks asking city council to do the same.

“I think it is important to show the other levels of government that the municipal governments and the residents are all on the same page and pulling in the same direction,” Jasper said on Wednesday.

Last April, the provincial government committed $1.3 million to the new facility located in an ethnically diverse region whose senior population is growing considerably faster than in other parts of the city. Southeast Vancouver is home to roughly one-third of all seniors across the city, or more than 26,000 residents over age 65.

Two years ago, council approved a $2.5 million contribution as part of the 2011 capital budget, but the city’s commitment is conditional on receiving external funding.

“The province, we are hoping, will top up, and the feds to this point have not made a commitment,” said Jasper.

The Liberal MLA for the Killarney area is former NPA park board commissioner and city councillor Suzanne Anton, while Conservative MP Wai Young is the neighbourhood’s official representative in Ottawa.

NPA park board commissioner Melissa De Genova said she planned to introduce a motion at the same meeting that would have tried to instead find the necessary funding through community amenity contributions (CACs), which is money provided by property developers when city council grants development rights through rezoning.

“Once again, ‘Tunnel Vision’ has prevailed,” she wrote in an email sent to the Courier. “If the motion I put forward had passed… I am confident construction would have begun next year.”

De Genova added she is “disappointed and saddened for the seniors who have been waiting over a decade for this centre.”

Jasper disputed the suggestion that the money could be found through CACs and said all available funds have already been spoken for.

“When she brought her motion forward, we actually asked our general manager [Malcolm Bromley] at the meeting if there is any CAC money currently available and he said there isn’t,” said Jasper. “Even if we were to look beyond the catchment area, say to Norquay or Kingsway or the Fraserlands development, those monies have already been accounted for in terms of which projects they would be spent on.”

He added that the city paying for the project without federal help is a possibility, although the centre would likely be on a smaller scale than planned.

“We can scale it down and take out elements so that it can be built for less, but to do right and really take in the demographic growth and ethnic diversity of seniors population in that part of the city in the coming years, it will require full matching funding by the federal and provincial governments.”

afleming@vancourier.com

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