23 July 2010

The Good is in the Doing

Last Monday evening COPE Commissioner Loretta Woodcock and I brought a motion to the Board of Parks and Recreation seeking a plebiscite in 2011 on phasing out cetacean (whales and dolphins) exhibits in our parks. This motion was brought forward in order to give the citizens of Vancouver the opportunity to democratically express their wishes on this controversial subject. It was not surprising that over 20 delegates came to speak. It was also not surprising that the Aquarium spoke against this initiative. What was surprising was Vision Vancouver's lack of empathy for the cetaceans in captivity and their continuing bullying tactics with the public. Board Chair Aaron Jasper had repeatedly claimed over the previous week that a plebiscite could bring a legal action against the Board which would cost the taxpayers countless dollars, yet at the table this was not mentioned, instead substituting the mantra, first intoned by the Aquarium, that "a deal is a deal". This confirmed my apprehension that Vision Vancouver believes that local government can sign away our democratic rights. Somehow a 'deal' made with the Aquarium prevents the voters of Vancouver from expressing their will in a ballot initiative.

Then in a truly bizarre twist, after accusing the proponents of the motion of trying to waste taxpayers dollars, Jasper sounded like he made a commitment to hold a stand alone plebiscite in 2015 on this subject, thereby incurring ten of thousands of dollars in costs. 2011 was the last opportunity to hold a plebiscite in conjunction with a civic election, saving you money. As my mum used to say, penny wise and pound foolish.

Despite the motion falling 5-2 I still believe this was the right thing to do. I still believe that the citizens of Vancouver have the right to decide what activities are permissible in our parks. I still believe that contracts and 'deals' cannot usurp the basic democratic rights of citizens. Bringing this motion forward was the right thing to do. As my friend Janos Mate said to me, "the good is in the doing". I believe we have done good.

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