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'Opposition' councillors host Vancouver park board town hall

Christine Boyle, Adriane Carr, Pete Fry lead Feb. 1 forum at city hall.
OneCity Coun. Christine Boyle and her Green Party colleagues, Adriane Carr and Pete Fry, will host a town hall Feb. 1 regarding the future of the elected park board. Photo Mike Howell

Three Vancouver city councillors who do not belong to Mayor Ken Sim’s party are hosting a “town hall” meeting Feb. 1 at city hall to hear comments and answer questions regarding the mayor’s move to begin the process to abolish the elected park board.

Green Party councillors Adriane Carr and Pete Fry, along with OneCity’s Christine Boyle, have scheduled the meeting to run from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. inside the Joe Wai room on the main floor of city hall.

Registration is required via this link.

The forum is taking place in advance of an anticipated staff report that will go before council next week on the future of the elected board and the work required to have parks and recreation put under the direct control of city council.

Carr said the event will give councillors an opportunity to bring citizens up to date on Sim’s plan to abolish the board, which he announced in December 2023, saying more would get done for parks and recreation with council in charge.

Carr, Fry and Boyle are opposed to the abolition of the board, arguing it has been a long-standing democratically elected body that has served citizens well, despite being chronically underfunded by council.

'Never give up'

“I never give up in terms of the opportunity to change something until it's really, really done,” said Carr when asked about fighting the mayor and his ABC Vancouver majority on the proposed change.

“It could be that there are some good ideas and some important suggestions that could influence the process that's quickly unwinding right now.”

Carr said an invitation will go to Sim and the ABC councillors, along with the seven park commissioners. The current park board was elected in October 2022, with ABC winning all but one of the seats.

Since Sim announced his intention to dissolve the board, commissioners Brennan Bastyovansky, Laura Christensen and Scott Jensen have left ABC and now serve as independents. Tom Digby is the lone Green Party commissioner.

In the past two months, there has been much public toing and froing over Sim’s move, with a campaign launched by former park commissioners — of all political stripes — to push back against the abolition of the board.

'Broken system'

Sim has repeatedly said the move is not a criticism of the people on the board, but of a “broken system” that needs to be fixed by council.

When asked to elaborate, he often points to the facade of the Vancouver Aquatic Centre falling off, a jurisdictional dispute over a water pipe at Spanish Banks and a leaky Kitsilano pool.

“I do want to be very clear here — this change is bigger than any one person or political party,” Sim told reporters at a Jan. 25 city hall news conference.

“It's about prioritizing the needs of all Vancouverites and ensuring that our parks and recreation facilities can serve our community to their fullest potential. This change is about managing these spaces more effectively, not compromising them.”

But Carr and others, including Christensen, have pointed out to Glacier Media that the facilities Sim has been referring to are under the jurisdiction of the city. It was a point city manager Paul Mochrie confirmed at last week’s news conference at city hall.

“The park board doesn't actually own assets,” Mochrie said. “The assets that are managed currently by park board are owned by the City of Vancouver. Those are parks and facilities."

Vancouver Charter

Sim’s move for a change in governance requires an amendment to the Vancouver Charter, which can only be granted by the provincial government.

The government has outlined requirements the city must fulfil before an amendment would be granted, including consultation with the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.

The Musqueam have been on board with Sim since he first announced his intention to abolish the board, with Chief Wayne Sparrow providing a quote in an initial press release that outlined his nation's support .

Meanwhile, the Tsleil-Waututh sent a letter to Sim Jan. 26, which the mayor posted the same day on the X social media platform.

The letter reads, in part: “Tsleil-Waututh Nation deeply values our relationship with you and your council. We are doing great work together on so many fronts and Tsleil-Waututh Nation is in full support of participating in a process to explore amendments to the Vancouver Charter.”

B.C. Declaration Act

The letter continues to say that the nation, along with Musqueam and Squamish, sent a letter Jan. 19 to the provincial government to “open a dialogue on the city’s proposed amendments and how they relate to the Provincial Declaration Act.

The act came into force in November 2019, making B.C. the first jurisdiction in Canada to pass legislation to formally adopt the internationally recognized standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The act mandates government to bring provincial laws into alignment with the UN Declaration and “to develop and implement an action plan to achieve the objectives of the UN Declaration in consultation and co-operation with Indigenous Peoples,” according to information posted on the B.C. government’s website.

Other obligations the city must fulfil involve questions over land ownership and the future of workers at the park board, which the city manager answered in part at last week’s news conference.

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