01 February 2012

An inauspicious beginning for the opposition at the Park Board

With another Vision majority on the Park Board we have 3 more years of them doing pretty much whatever they want. That is the nature of democracy and I respect that. I have not always agreed with the direction they have taken and voiced my concern while I was sitting at the table. A well informed opposition is necessary in a democracy--especially when one group has a majority.

The NPA have the only 2 non-Vision seats at the table and for many people they will be the only voices that can hold Vision's feet to the fire when necessary. The last Board had 4 different parties represented-- Vision, NPA, COPE and Green. The idea at the beginning was to work by consensus, but this soon fell apart when at the second budget debate Vision Commissioner Aaron Jasper declared that the Board would henceforth be adversarial in a 'government and opposition' format. This saddened me but with a majority, they could run things pretty much as they wished.

I was pleased when Constance Barnes was elected as the new chair of the Board and promised to work with all members. My experience of working with Commissioner Barnes is that she truly is a consensus builder and wants to work for the betterment of all. I did not always agree with her policy stands but always was pleased by her respectful approach to disagreement.

So I was very disappointed that with only 3 meetings into the new mandate the NPA has attempted to not only reverse previous Board decisions, but in a recent motion wanted to go against long standing community wishes and pander to a small group of activists.

At the first meeting of the Board, Cmmr. Barnes brought a motion to re-affirm the Board's commitment to daycare by re-instating the Joint Council on Childcare. A fairly innocuous motion bringing back a committee, however NPA Cmmr Melissa DeGenova, in a press offensive, questioned the costs (none) and the role of daycare at the Board (Park Board provides space for daycare in Community Centres and elsewhere). The motion required no additional funding, and would allow Park Board staff to have wider policy input into a service already being provided by the Board.

At the third meeting, Cmmr. DeGenova brought forward a motion to halt the demolition of the old Riley Park community centre. This facility was replaced by the new Hillcrest centre across the street. The community was well consulted on this before Hillcrest was built, and it was the community that insisted that there be no net-loss of green space when the new centre was built. Thus the old building must come down to replace the footprint of the new facility. The building permit for the new centre was predicated on this wish. In addition, the old building would require about $8 million dollars in renovations to bring it up to safety standards. All of this at a time when we do not have enough funds to build the new Marpole CC during this mandate. It is true that a small group from the community has been agitating for this since last summer, but they do not have wide-spread support.

Thankfully the daycare motion passed and the Riley motion failed.

If the NPA want to be a viable opposition they need to pick issues that resonate in the wider community. There is no point opposing simply to be contrary. They need to look at what is in the best interests of the whole community. If the last 3 years are any indication, I am sure there will be enough issues over the next 3 years where the majority on the Board is out of synch with the wishes of the community. This is when the NPA should strike out and make their opposition known. Politics for politics sake shouldn't have a place in the 21st century. It is time for a new enlightened politic in the city.


  1. well said Stuart - I couldn't believe that Melissa brought up the above mentioned motions, when I read about them in the media. It almost seemed counter-productive.

    The Hillcrest Community Centre is receiving above-expected demands and patronage by the community. It is a success - just like #1 Kingsway. Expect the same from the re-built Trout Lake Community Centre. All have had important consultations and process with the community. Hopefully the new Terry Salman Branch Library at the Hillcrest Community Centre will also be enthusiastically visited by the library public too!

    Cheers, Todd

  2. Stuart it is interesting how you single out NPA and suggest that they should not for example see themselves as an opposition, yet are they not? Vision already has a majority and you know very well that their caucus votes lock step with one another. Under the current electoral system this will continue to be the case so I don't think you should unfairly critisize Commissioners De Genova and Coupar for taking on an opposition role or not falling into line with the Vision group think mentality. Happy New Year by the way!

  3. I don't criticize them for being the opposition--but to what they choose to oppose. They do themselves nor anyone else any good opposing for the sake of opposing. We need people to to take a good look at all of the decisions coming before the Board. I did that, Ian Robertson did that, and Loretta Woodcock did that; but none of us opposed simply to be contrary. This is what I am afraid the new NPA is doing.