30 June 2010

Olympic RV Park lost money

That's a headline in this weeks Courier. You might remember the controversy over this initiative last year. Residents in the neighbourhood fought this, and I was the lone voice on the Board against it. It passed by a 4-1 vote by the Commissioners.

Current Park Board Chair Aaron Jasper was quoted at the time in the Vancouver Sun on why Vision Vancouver supported this initiative: “We were confident that the business case was a good one,” said Vision commissioner Aaron Jasper. “The RVs are coming, and this is a way for us to do our part to help with the logistics of the Olympics, and to do this in a controlled way that has minimal impact to Vancouverites.”

Well, now it seems the Park Board lost about $70,000 on this venture. Sometimes commercialization of public lands comes back to bite you.

23 June 2010

Aquarium must stop keeping whales

Editorial: Aquarium must stop keeping whales

The Province June 23, 2010 10:20 AM

The Vancouver Aquarium is a wonderful institution that has perhaps more than any other similar organization in Canada contributed to the public's appreciation of marine animals and their environment.

You only have to look into the amazed eyes of a child, nose pressed to the glass of one of the aquarium's many exhibits, to understand how well the facility teaches all of us to respect the natural world. And, of course, we can express only positives about the aquarium's work at rehabilitating injured or orphaned animals and the research it supports.

However, the latest in a long line of whale deaths at the aquarium ˜ this time one-year-old beluga calf Nala ˜ calls into question the wisdom and morality of keeping captive whales and other large marine animals. It is a practice that must end.

With whale-watching tours and the gorgeous high-definition nature shows we can all now watch on television, the argument that seeing whales up close in an enclosure is the best way to appreciate them have dried up. And the common refrain that baby whales die earlier and more frequently in the wild does not justify raising them in captivity ˜ even without finding pennies and pebbles down their blow holes.

These are tremendous creatures that deserve to be born, live and die in their natural environment on their own terms, and our species should assume no right to impose our will upon them. The aquarium needs to evolve.

What do you think? Comment below or email, including your name and town, to: provletters@theprovince.com.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Dirty, noisy, and inefficient--an end to gas-powered leaf blowers in our parks

At the next meeting of the Board of Parks and Recreation I will be bringing forward a motion directing the Vancouver Park Board to find alternate methods for collecting leaves. Currently the Board uses 2 stroke leaf blowers in some areas. These machines are noisy, dirty, and create more problems than they solve.

The noise generated is not only a nuisance, it can actually be harmful to hearing for those anywhere in close proximity. The two stroke engines, which use a mixture of oil and gas in order to run, spew out noxious fumes that according to the California EPA, produce 145 times more hydrocarbons, 7.5 times more carbon monoxide, and 11 times more particulate matter than a light duty vehicle driven at 30 mph. The Lung Association states that a single gas-powered leaf blower causes as much smog as 17 cars. And then there is all the stuff that the jet engine-like wind blows up and around and we breathe. An excellent essay on this can be found at the Wilmette Life website.

In addition to some background information, the motion will ask the Board to "replace the current inventory of gas powered leaf blowers with more sustainable methods of clearing leaves."

Some links on this issue:

01 June 2010

Much Ado About Nothing?

There is a great deal of to-do in some of the local press about the Park Board policy of not allowing political demonstrations in the public areas of our community centres. The anti-HST proponents want free access to the lobbies of our community centres to collect signatures for their petition. The Park Board turned down the request based on a policy that states in part:

Examples of events which are not necessarily compatible with the Park Board’s mandate include non-recreational events such as press conferences, rallies, protests and events of a political or commercial nature and other gatherings to conduct activities which are not active and/or passive recreational activities. These non-recreational events are not compatible with Park Board’s mandate and thus are not generally approved to be held on parkland. In addition, to safe guard public enjoyment of parks, the Park Board does not allow the distribution of written material or solicitation on parkland without permission.

The Board has offered the anti-HST petitioners the use of a room for a fee—the same as any other group wanting to use a community centre. They have turned this down, demanding free space in the lobbies.

Now the former Chair of the Board is bringing a motion to the next meeting of the Park Board that would allow a one-time exemption for this group - the rationale being that the HST will affect every user of the community centres. I believe this is both risky and unfair. It is risky to pick and choose who should or should not be included in our rules and regulations and it is unfair to exempt one group over others. Other groups will want the exemption as well and we will be hard-pressed to justify why one can and another cannot. What should be debated is not an exemption, but the policy itself. If the Board does not believe this is a fair policy, then the policy should be done away with for everybody, not just a select few who it agrees with.

I firmly believe that community centres are public spaces for everyone and the current policy ensures that they are free from partisan politics. Our users should not have to be confronted with partisans with an axe to grind. I also happen to support the anti-HST movement and have signed the petition. It is easy to find the petition without having to go to a community centre. Many shops and malls and even street corners have people offering the petition for your signature.

The Civil Liberties Association has weighed in on this, declaring that the Park Board policy unfairly restricts freedom of speech and assembly. They even suggest that discussing the hockey game could be construed as against the policy. This is utter nonsense and they should know better than to spread such hogwash. There are limits imposed in many situations. The Park Board is not stopping people from assembling in community centres or restricting conversations. The policy simply says there is a place for political demonstrations, but it is not in parks or community centres.