Vancouver is one of only a few cities with an elected Park Board – and this year’s election will give voters a chance to elect a total of seven Commissioners. As with previous elections, we are asking candidates to share some of their ideas and passions about parks and recreation facilities through a short questionnaire. We want to give them a chance to go beyond basic platform materials so share a deeper sense of their priorities for office.
We reached out to each of the 33 contestants for office on Thursday, September 27, and asked them to weigh in on the questions below. We’re publishing their answers – sorted by question and by candidate – as we receive them.
Park Board Candidate – Stuart Mackinnon (Green Party)
- Sustainable Parks
- Affordable Recreation
“The Green Party will: Honour Vancouver’s rich, natural beauty by prioritizing ecological, social, and economic sustainability for projects undertaken by the Park Board. We take a proactive stance toward increasing biodiversity, protecting wildlife, and preserving habitat. Greens will work in close collaboration with our partners and staff to provide a welcoming and inclusive standard at every Park Board facility, for all ages, genders, abilities, and backgrounds. We will promote reconciliation, healthy recreation, and active transportation.”
1. What is your favourite park or park board facility in Vancouver, and why?
Most days I get to walk along the Fraser river at Riverfront Park. On weekends a walk along the western beaches or through Stanley Park recharges me. The truth is every park offers a unique experience. Every community centre reflects their neighbourhood. This is one of the reasons why Vancouver is often listed as one of the most liveable cities in the world.
2. We’ll be sharing the top three priorities that you provided the City of Vancouver, but we want to know: which one of your three priorities are you most passionate about, and why?
As a candidate for the Green Party, sustainability is my most important priority. Preparing Vancouver, a sea-bound city, for the changes brought about by climate change has to be at the forefront of every decision we make. We must ensure that new facilities meet the needs of today and tomorrow, and that we continue to look after the assets we already have.
3. Vancouver is a growing city! What are your ideas for ensuring that the city’s parks and recreation facilities can respond to the needs of an increasing and diversifying population?
Ensuring that parks and recreation facilities are open and welcoming to all. Our community centres should be hubs for everyone, young and old, with day-care, fitness facilities, recreational programming, and seniors’ centres. Whether you are new to Canada, new to the neighbourhood, or new to this world, a warm and welcoming community centre can help at every stage of growth, development, and life. The diversity of Vancouver should be reflected in the programming offered. Community centres must be safe spaces for all, and open to all regardless of income, age, gender, ability or background.
4. Given the high cost of land in the city, what suggestions do you have for how the Park Board should approach the creation of new park spaces?
New ideas are needed to face the growing densification of Vancouver. We cannot continually look backward to another time when land was plentiful and costs low. Smaller pocket parks like they have in Montreal, using unused or repurposed spaces like the Highline in New York City, or creating public spaces where none existed before like the new Oakridge project are just some of the ideas we need to look to. We need to look to the future not the past to have better parks and recreation for all.
5. What, if any, role do you see the Park Board playing in responding to critical social issues such as homelessness, the opioid epidemic, and social isolation?
Community Centres can and should be used for emergency shelters when temperatures become unmanageable on the streets. In the past term some Commissioners wanted to close these facilities and leave the most vulnerable to freeze on the streets. Luckily this was defeated. While the park board alone cannot solve the social problems of Vancouver, in partnership with the City, Coastal Health, the police, and other partner agencies, we can work together to find safe spaces where our vulnerable population can find shelter and support. Working with other agencies we can keep our parks clean and safe. Working together as a community we can ensure that all public spaces are open to all.
6. In the past few years, the Park Board has taken steps to acknowledge First Nations cultures and the impacts of colonization on local Indigenous communities. Would you continue this work? If yes, how?
Yes. Reconciliation is more than just words. The Vancouver park board has undertaken real efforts to work with local First Nations to work toward reconciliation through truth-telling. From truth-telling can come healing. Creating opportunities for dialogue with both the land-based First Nations and the urban indigenous people is the first step. Listening and working in partnership will lead to better understanding and is the path to true reconciliation.
7. How can Vancouver’s parks and recreation facilities best respond to the challenges posed by climate change?
As a sea-bound city, recognizing climate change will have a profound impact on our city is paramount. Planning for sea level rise, ensuring our community centres are prepared to be emergency hubs, and educating the population on measures they can take to mitigate and prepare for change is a key role for the park board. The park board has been, and must continue to be, a lead local agency in natural mitigation and preparedness. Planning for climate change at the park board has already started. This must continue to be a priority.
8. What, if any, role do you think privately owned companies should play in the management, operation, or naming/branding of Park board facilities?
One of the greatest forethoughts of the city was the creation of a park board. This has ensured that public spaces, like parks and community centres, are open to all. I have fought the continuing commercialization of our public spaces for 20 years. Corporate branding and naming have no place in public spaces. Our park workers are some of the best in the world with unique local knowledge and experience. All park board facilities should be managed and maintained by park board workers.
9. What, if any, role do you feel that neighbourhoods or community groups should play in the stewardship of park spaces and facilities?
The community must play an important role in the stewardship of park spaces and facilities as park partners. The community is the reason such facilities exist and must therefore be at the centre of it all. Local input creates the feeling of local stewardship. Regular users become the ‘eyes & ears’ reporting deficiencies and needed improvements. Neighbourhood groups can bring a sense of community that can be lost in a big city. The stronger the partnership, the greater the sense of ownership and community.
10. Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself or your platform?
As a Green, I believe in a collaborative approach to problem solving. Guided by this principle the park board has made great strides in the past 4 years, but there is so much more to do. I’m running for re-election with the Vancouver Green Party because we know that working together works best for everyone.
City of Vancouver – Park Board candidate webpage
For lots more information visit the VPSN website here.