31 December 2014

Silent Night

It seems strange to me that I haven't had much to blog about since the election on November 15. The new Board was inaugurated on the 1st of December and yet since then the Board has not met openly. A meeting was scheduled for the 7th of December but the new Chair John Coupar unilaterally cancelled it. Nothing to do perhaps? The first scheduled meeting for the new year is January 19th. At this point no agenda has been posted and so we don't know yet what the new priorities will be.

I know my priority is the a new Joint Operating Agreement with all the Community Centre Associations. I hope this is the priority of this new Board too. Community Centre Associations have been a partner with the Park Board for more than 50 years. This partnership has made Vancouver's Community Centres the envy of many jurisdictions. It is this partnership that has made our Centres relevant and necessary parts of our communities. The priorities of the local associations ensure that they reflect the values and needs of each community. What works in Strathcona or Sunset works because the associations reflect the needs and values of their neighbourhoods. A one-size fits all doesn't work in Vancouver because not every neighbourhood is the same. A set of core city-wide services must be a part of our system, but individual needs must be able to be met within each Centre.

Another priority of these first few months must be putting the Park Board in line with the waste management program that as of January 1st will be city-wide. This means that organic waste will be separated and composted. This is necessary for benefit of both the environment and the taxpayers who pay for waste disposal. The Park Board should be the leader in education on waste diversion with a leading zero-waste program. Since its inception, the Park Board has been the leader in green initiatives; it should be now too.

Planning for the future means planning for now as well. We must start planning not just for the next 4 years but for the next 4 seasons. Our parks and gardens have been neglected over the past 6 years and repairing them must be near the top of the list of priorities. Winter is the time for preparing our parks, gardens, and playing fields for the busy seasons of spring and summer. The priorities for our outside workers must be in preparing for the return of both passive and active park usage. Work now means better parks and recreation later.

As we head into a new year it is time we got down to work. Let's role up our sleeves and start on the long road to once again making better parks for Vancouver.

18 November 2014

Some reflections on the election

After a frantic couple of months I am starting to catch my breathe and come to a bit of understanding of what the results of last Saturday mean. I am incredibly humbled and grateful to the voters of Vancouver for their trust. I made some promises which I intend to keep. Respectful negotiations with Community Centre Associations; meaningful consultation with the public, especially around dogs in parks; working to replace the outdoor swimming pool in Mt. Pleasant; work toward a plebiscite on cetaceans in captivity; and maintaining our parks and gardens.

This campaign was different in that I had a running mate (not since 2005 have the Greens run more than one candidate at Parks), and a campaign team. I am so grateful for all the hard work of the volunteers. It made the campaign a lot easier and a lot more fun.

It was different too in that we had some really great independents running. Not only the hard-working and dedicated Jamie Lee Hamilton (actually not an independent, she ran under the IDEA banner), but others like Jenny DiCastris and James Buckshon. It is a shame that party politics have such a stranglehold on Vancouver politics, as these voices were not heard well above the din of the machines lubricated with millions of dollars from developers and other deep pocketed players.

This race was a lot more personal too. Not in a negative way, but in that I was much better known this time around, and people made an effort to tell me they were supporting me and the Green team. Our support came from a very diverse and wide circle. The Green message of openness, collaboration, and working for the common good, resonated in the electorate.

With being elected I will have to step away from my position of Governor of the VanDusen Botanical Gardens, a position I greatly enjoyed. My promise to them is to continue to advocate for all of our parks and gardens and ensure VanDusen continues to be a world-class destination and research garden.

There is much to do over the next four years. We must regain the trust of the public. We must not only do good, but be seen to do good. We must be vigilant against complacency. We must be open, honest, and accessible.

The Vancouver Green's made history. We have elected the largest group of Green members to any government in Canada ever. Two elected to the Park Board is a new milestone, being elected to all three levels of civic government is a new record. We are all grateful to the citizens and know it is an honour and privilege to serve.

Once again, I will take Glissando Remmy's wise words as my creed: ‘I’ll do the best I can, with the resources at hand, for all the people of Vancouver. Period.’

16 November 2014

Better Parks are coming (back) to Vancouver

"Thank you Vancouver for electing me to the Board of Parks and Recreation. An awesome responsibility that I accept with humility and gratitude. Vancouver's natural beauty is worth protecting. Neighbourhood services are worth preserving. And you agreed"

That quote was from 2008 when I was first elected to the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation.  It still pretty well sums up my feelings this time. Only things are bit different now. Now there are two Green's on the Park Board. My running-mate, Michael Wiebe and I were both elected. This is tremendous as now I will have a partner in this endeavour. It is unfortunate that we are once again facing a majority Board--last time it was Vision Vancouver, this time it is the NPA--which could mean more of the same, but I am optimistic. Optimistic that the NPA majority will be collaborative and not simply wield their majority as though no one else matters. The proof of that may come sooner rather than later.

Already the newly elected NPA have said they will rescind the cetacean breeding ban. How they do this may set the tone for the next four years. Will they simply bring in a motion and use their majority to pass it, or will they set up a collaborative process to examine the decision in more detail. I am hoping for the latter. I sat for three years with a Vision dominated Board who viewed the round table not as a metaphor for collaborative decision-making but as a wheel for crushing anyone who dared to disagree with them.

Regardless of the tone the NPA sets, Michael and I will be there to advocate for natural spaces, parks as parks, collaborative approaches, community consultation, and real Green ideals.We will be part of a larger Green caucus in Vancouver that joins City Councillor Adriane Carr and School Trustee Janet Fraser. We won't be making decisions in secret but will support each other as we face the difficult tasks of managing a city, collaborating on ideas to bring forth, and bringing the public back into the decision making process.

Thank you for giving me another chance to serve my community. Thank you for believing in better parks for Vancouver.

15 November 2014

Mackinnon hopeful as voting nears end

Green veteran vies for comeback to park board and breakthrough for his party

/ Vancouver Courier
November 15, 2014 08:39 PM

 Green park board candidate Stuart Mackinnon relaxes at home with his furry friend as he waits for election results. Photograph By Sandra Thomas

13 November 2014

Vote with your heart and your head

“Remember something, if you will, about voting: Voting is not a horse race, you're not going there thinking "Gee, I gotta pick the winner so I can brag to my friends 'Oh, I picked so-and-so and he or she won'". Voting is voting your heart and voting your conscience and when you've done that, don't ever, EVER let [anyone] tell you that you've wasted your vote because the fact is, if you DON'T vote your heart and conscience then you HAVE wasted your vote.”
― Jesse Ventura

In the quote above, Jesse Ventura was referring to the American electorate and the two party Democratic/Republican system. But it can easily be translated to Vancouver and the 2 party system we have had here over the last 60+ years. In this election we are lucky to have a real choice as the 2 developer-backed parties are being challenged by smaller parties not beholden to any monied backers.

I'm proud to be one of those challenging the status quo. I'm proud to be running on a team with 7 great candidates. In this election the Green Party of Vancouver offers a real alternative. No matter where you put your Xs in Saturday's vote I hope you will consider voting for a mixed Council, School Board and Park Board. And I hope that mix includes 7 Green candidates.

Cleta Brown, Adriane Carr, and Pete Fry for City Council. Janet Fraser and Mischa Oak for School Board. And Michael Wiebe and me, Stuart Mackinnon for Park Board. Candidates that believe in people centred planning. People who believe in consultation. People who believe in independent thought.

Whatever your choice, vote with your heart and your head. There is no split vote; there is no wasted vote--except if you choose not to vote. That would be a waste.

27 October 2014

Dogs Dogs Dogs

By far the most e-mail I received as both a Commissioner (from 2008-2011) and as a candidate (past and present) is about dogs. This is also the hottest button issue at the Park Board and has been for some years. Mostly it is advocates of off-leash areas who write, but occasionally I receive mail from people who think there are too many dogs in the city.

Here is my response to the Dog Owners Group (DOG Vancouver) and also what I send out to people who write:

As a dog owner for most of my life, including presently (I have a 13 year old Shiba Inu named Kiku) I know the importance of space for dogs to run about. I also know that dog ownership comes with responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to not interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of others, both at home and in public. Off-leash dogs has been the biggest issue at the Park Board for more than 20 years. The Park Board has not been able to find a solution, so best practice would suggest that we look at other jurisdictions and see what has been successful.

Calgary is the closest Canadian city of comparable size and they have had a very successful policy for some time now. Calgary has a comprehensive dog off leash program which includes:
·         lots of parks and amenities;
·         real engagement with dog owners as stakeholders and park stewards and self-policing;
·         programming and outreach to encourage responsible ownership and engaging the community;
·         school outreach programs to teach kids about safe dog interaction;
·         partnerships with private sector to provide amenities (like stations and poo-bags courtesy of pet

But it also has:
·         zero tolerance enforcement;
·         high licensing compliance rate;
·         completely self-financed animal control (ours needs to be subsidized because of licensing
I think Vancouver could model our policies after Calgary’s as they have been very successful.  I look forward to hearing from the public on this issue. I will hear all input and perspectives with an open mind (setting my dog owner's hat aside), first as a candidate and, if elected, as a Commissioner. As a Park Board Commissioner from 2008-2011 the one thing I learned is that it is very hard to please everyone and accommodate every need. The best anyone can do is to welcome all input and work with all those concerned to come up with reasonable solutions that satisfy the vast majority of people.

24 October 2014

MEDIA RELEASE: Green Park Board candidates call for time out in community centre association negotiations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 24, 2014 

 Both sides need to reboot with new ideas for agreements 

After dozens of meetings and thousands of hours invested, and still no agreement in sight, everyone needs to cool off and take a time-out in negotiations between the City of Vancouver’s Board of Parks and Recreation and local Community Centre Associations for new Joint Operating Agreements (JOAs), say Green Party of Vancouver Park Board candidates.

“It’s time to pause and reboot,” says Green Park Board candidate Stuart Mackinnon, a Park Commissioner in 2010, when the process began after the Park Board started revisiting JOAs that are more than 40 years old.

"The atmosphere has been toxic from the start with mistrust from the CCAs and entrenched positions from the Park Board. The mistrust is understandable — you can't negotiate with someone who says it’s my way or the highway.

“There’s so much tension, negativity and animosity in the air that everybody just needs to take a breather then start again on better footing with a new Park Board.”

Mackinnon is calling for a halt in the talks, including the City’s threat that the CCAs will be “thrown out of their community centres.”

“With the election we have a natural opportunity to cool off, maintain the status quo and then resume negotiations in better faith with new park commissioners and new ideas at the table after November 15,” he adds.

Alternatives to sharing revenues do exist, says Mackinnon. For instance, CCAs could pay a fee for the facilities and utilities they use, with smaller centres paying less and larger ones more. The funds gathered could be used to offset disparities in programming across the city.

Another approach, similar to one used in some school districts to equalize the diversity of income in various neighbourhoods, would see the Park Board taking a percentage of all revenues after expenses generated by CCAs that would be put into a fund to be shared equitably across the system for programming.

“The kind of centralization we’re seeing with the proposed JOAs is only part of what’s been plaguing our city lately — the dismantling of local neighbourhood initiatives or values with little or poor consultation with the people most affected,” says Michael Wiebe, also running for Park Board for GPV.

“The community knows what services and programming works best in their neighbourhood so they have to be equal leaders in this.”

The six CCAs involved in the current lawsuit are Killarney, Kensington, Kerrisdale, Hastings, Sunset, and Riley Park Hillcrest.   


Media contacts:
Stuart Mackinnon, Green Park Board candidate:778-389-1956
Michael Wiebe, Green Park Board candidate:(604) 616-1220
Glenda Bartosh, Media Liaison:604-669-3669

12 October 2014

Wishing everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. Hoping for a world of peace and harmony

On Thursday, January 31, 1957, the Parliament of Canada proclaimed: A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.

06 October 2014

Stuart Mackinnon: Better parks, together

24 September 2014

Michael Wiebe for Vancouver Park Board

 Michael Wiebe is my running mate as a Green Party of Vancouver Park Baord candidate. Here is some information so you can get to know him better.

 Bio: Michael Wiebe grew up skating on Jericho pond, swimming at English Bay, and cycling Stanley Park. He’s now a local business owner and community leader who wants to work to preserve and enhance the best of Vancouver. He started by volunteering at age 12, by mapping out the wheelchair accessibility of all trails in Stanley Park. At age 16, Wiebe became a Lifeguard for the Park Board and would later co-found the Vancouver Lifeguard Association.
After earning his Bachelor’s in Business Administration, Wiebe worked for the Provincial Government in managing public board appointments and helped build the Best Practice Guidelines. He later migrated to the hospitality industry in order to gain management experience, ultimately leading him to opening his own restaurant.

As a director of the Mount Pleasant BIA, Wiebe feels called to be more involved in community advocacy work. He understands that Vancouver is in a phase of rapid growth with a powerful potential for change, and wants to help ensure that the right decisions are being made, guided by evidence-based policy and the principles of sustainability.

Why is Michael running for Park Board with the Green Party of Vancouver? - “I’m running for Parks Board Commissioner because the voices of our city have been lost,” says Wiebe. “I noticed this first-hand on the Mount Pleasant Implementation Committee. We need to take advantage of the opportunities this city has during a time of growth to work together to maximize our resources and build more natural parks and a healthier food system; foster grassroots community initiatives; and create a sustainable waste management program. ”
Learn more about Michael Wiebe at becascadian.com

On November 15 vote Green Party 1st: 
Mackinnon & Wiebe for Park Board

19 September 2014

Better parks, together

Vancouver parks and recreation facilities have been neglected and need to be made a priority again. People and community groups have been marginalized. It’s time for change. That includes putting community centres back where they belong — at the centre of our neighbourhoods — by giving them the independence to make planning decisions that reflect community needs and values. We need to clearly define decision-making processes and roles to better include the community. Since parks have become the backyards for many people, they should be maintained to enhance and enliven their urban experience. When the Vancouver Parks and Recreation Board works together with the community, our neighbourhoods become more liveable. Our existing parklands are precious and limited. Adding or replacing parkland is expensive so working together is key in this time of growth. 


Your Vancouver Green Park Board candidates will work for: 


Community-driven planning  

Residents know what they want from their parks and recreation facilities. Community centre associations know best what their members want in programming. A stronger partnership between the Park Board and community organizations reflecting these values needs to be established. This can be achieved by:

• Including community groups in all decision making.
• Regarding community centre associations as partners, not adversaries.
• Working with community stakeholders, including community centre associations, to develop better programming as well as a fair and equitable recreation system.

Accessible, safe public spaces for everyone 

The need — and the desire — for more public spaces will continue to increase as Vancouver densifies. To ensure a healthy city, our citizens need great public spaces, so our priorities will be:

• Ensuring that changes to existing park space is supported by adjacent communities.
• Building public park spaces that meet the long-term needs of the area.
• Maintaining and enhancing parks and gardens with universal access.
• Expansion of park and recreational facilities that is proportional to population growth.
• Working with City Council to bring the amount of public spaces back to historical standards.
• Re-emphasizing community facilities vs. destination facilities. 

Strengthening stakeholder communication 

The Park Board must work with others to enhance our recreational experiences, and that means better communication with stakeholders to build better relationships. We will focus on:

• Participatory processes for determining priority funding for community facilities.
• Scheduled meetings with community groups to build communication channels.
• Working with Vancouver School Board to maximize fields and facilities.
• Partnering with sports and community organizations to prioritize field maintenance.

Maximizing facility usage with a stronger digital strategy 

The Park Board should be using new technologies to make easy access to all facilities available to everyone. Coordination of availability and bookings can be achieved by:

• Building an overall parks app that has the functionality of the current VanGolf app. Such an app will allow easy access to information; locate programming; and book facilities.
• Creating a network of connected facilities to increase information and data flow.
• Engaging park user database to provide feedback on community needs and decisions.

Green initiatives: zero waste, local food systems and access to nature 

The Park Board needs to become a leader in green initiatives in Vancouver. We can improve our Park Board practices to become both a role model and an educational model for the community by:

• Increasing education on waste diversion with a leading zero-waste program.
• Introducing more local products into our food supply streams for parks facilities.
• Introducing an animal-waste composting program for our local dog parks.
• Creating a “no net loss of green space” policy regarding changes to our city parks.
• Working on stream day-lighting and seek salmon-safe certification for all parks.

Parks that focus on natural features

Vancouver’s natural beauty is worth protecting. Our children not only need places to play, but also places to enjoy and explore nature. We all need places of tranquil refuge from our busy lives, and this can be achieved by:

• Preserving all green open space in a form as natural as possible for future generations.
• Creating policies to end the continuing erosion of parks by commercial enterprise.
• Increasing the planting of native species in all parks and public spaces.
• Using natural materials to build new children’s playgrounds.
• Working with urban planners to develop parks that need less maintenance.

Revitalized facility and park infrastructure 

For too long our recreational facilities have been neglected: neighbourhood outdoor pools have been closed; community centres have deteriorated due to poor upkeep; and too little money has been reinvested when there was no choice but to upgrade. Many community centres need to be replaced but no money has been allocated in the City’s Capital Plans. We can’t afford to lose what we have, so we will:

• Create a long-term budget and financing plan for continued facility maintenance.
• Ensure transparency on all expansions and upgrades to facilities.
• Work to maximize mixed use of facilities by partnering with non-profits and other civic organizations.
• Ensure long-term planning includes capital expenditures to replace aging community centre infrastructure.


08 September 2014

Green Party of Vancouver members affirm candidates for Park Board and School Board

At a special general meeting this morning, Green Party of Vancouver members voted to officially endorse as candidates for Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation and Vancouver School Board the nominees approved by the party’s Candidate Screening Committee in August. Stuart Mackinnon and Michael Wiebe are the Green candidates for Park Board;  Mischa Oak and Janet Fraser are running under the Green Party banner for School Board.

The four Park Board and School Board candidates join the Green Party of Vancouver Council candidates endorsed by its members in May: current Vancouver City Councillor Adriane Carr and running mates Pete Fry and Cleta Brown.

"I’m thrilled to have our whole team in place – and what a fabulous team”, says Green Party of Vancouver lead Adriane Carr. “By electing three Greens to Council, two Greens to Park Board and two Greens to School Board, Vancouverites will get not only incredibly hard-working representatives who will put public interest first, but also strong teams that will bring sorely needed balance and a collaborative approach to each governing body.”

Green Party of Vancouver Chair Jacquie Miller says that it is the party’s goal to elect all seven of its candidates on November 15th – an objective that the most recent polling suggests is within reach. It shows the Green Party of Vancouver running in a dead heat with Vision Vancouver and the NPA.

More about the latest additions to the Green Party of Vancouver 2014 campaign team:

 Stuart Mackinnon (Park Board):
                Green Party of Vancouver Park Board Commissioner: 2008-11
                Vice President, VanDusen Botanical Garden Association
                Teacher, 24 years; with Vancouver School District since 2001
When he served as Green Park Board Commissioner from 2008-2011, Mackinnon earned a reputation as the most knowledgeable, well-prepared Park Commissioner – he attended Park Board meetings and paid close attention to Park Board issues for years before being elected. Mackinnon has been a strong, consistent advocate for maintaining Vancouver’s parks and green spaces in pristine condition. Mackinnon will campaign for the same this fall.

"I want to return Vancouver to the beautiful city with well-maintained parks and gardens it once was. A city where everyone can play in their own neighbourhood, and where common sense and community values are what drive decision making,” says Mackinnon. "Park maintenance must be a priority. That is what we pay our taxes for."

Regarding last year’s controversy over Vision’s removal of community centre associations’ financial autonomy, Mackinnon says "Community centre associations are the heart of our neighbourhoods. They should be partners not adversaries."

• Michael Wiebe (Park Board):
                Owner, eight ½ restaurant lounge — based on sustainable values
                Vice President, Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Association
                Co-founder, Vancouver Lifeguard Association
Wiebe has had a love affair with Vancouver’s parks and recreational facilities since childhood when he mapped out the wheelchair accessibility of Stanley Park’s entire trail system at age 12. He went on to become a lifeguard for Vancouver Park Board at age 16. In 2003, Wiebe co-founded the Vancouver Lifeguard Association; he continues his love for parks, using them for ultimate frisbee, bocce, soccer, and more.

“I’m excited to officially join the amazing group of seven Green candidates,” says Wiebe. “This is the logical step in my advocacy career as it gives me the chance to strengthen my voice – one that is focussed on bringing my business background to the strategic decision making that’s now needed at the Vancouver Park Board. Our city is in a state of growth, which leads to great opportunities to work together to build a healthier place to live.”

Learn more about Michael Wiebe: becascadian.com

• Mischa Oak (School Board)
                Teacher-on-call, Vancouver School District
                Vancouver Centre NDP Electoral District Association President, 2012-13
                Vancouver Pride Society: former Board Member & Volunteer Coordinator
Oak is strongly motivated by his own experiences in Vancouver schools both as a teacher-on-call who has worked in almost every school in the city, and as a student growing up in Vancouver schools. Prior to embarking on a career in education, Oak obtained a degree in Commerce from Queen’s University. He has been active in a wide range of community and political organisations.

Oak is running to be a strong advocate for Vancouver’s public schools and its students. “We live in one of the most liveable cities in the world, but our schools don't reflect that, they are getting worse", says Oak who has been a Vancouver teacher for 6 years and has taught in all 18 Vancouver high schools and 65 of our 75 elementary schools.

"I will protect programs that support our most vulnerable students and work to create programs that give kids skills for the future.  For a vibrant Vancouver tomorrow, we need vibrant schools today."
Learn more about Mischa Oak: www.voteoak.com

• Janet Fraser (School Board)
                PAC Chair / Co-Chair for 10 years
                Co-founder: Marpole Matters, a neighbourhood organization
                PhD chemist: 10 years’ experience in Vancouver’s biotech industry
 As an active parent of three school-aged children and engaged resident of her Marpole community, Fraser knows the issues facing Vancouver’s schools inside and out. As co-founder of the neighbourhood organisation Marpole Matters, she has a reputation for thoroughly informing herself on community issues and educating her neighbours about matters affecting them.

 “I have three children in Vancouver's public schools, and have spent 10 years in PAC leadership.  I listen to parents and will use their experiences to improve schools for all of Vancouver's children,” says Fraser. “Schools are the hearts of communities.  I will work to ensure students, staff, parents, and the local community work together so that every child can achieve success.”

Learn more about Janet Fraser: www.vangreens.ca/schoolnominees
Motion calling for fully funded schools and binding arbitration
Additionally at the same meeting, Green Party of Vancouver School Board candidates Mischa Oak and Janet Fraser introduced a motion for the Green Party of Vancouver to declare its support for fully funded schools, and calling on the provincial government to agree to binding arbitration in its current dispute with the BC Teachers' Federation. The motion received unanimous support from Green Party of Vancouver members.

Its full slate of candidates now in place, the Green Party of Vancouver will officially ring in its 2014 civic election campaign with a fundraising event on September 28 at Performance Works Theatre.
Full platforms for Council, Park Board and School Board will be unveiled throughout the month of September.

02 September 2014

Stuart Mackinnon for Parks Board Fundraiser Dinner & Campaign Launch

Enjoy a fantastic meal and help me launch my campaign for Park Board!

Dine at Graze Restaurant on September 9th, and Graze will donate 20% of all dinner sales to my campaign!

All you have to do is make a reservation referencing Stuart's campaign and enjoy a fabulous meal! To make your reservation please call: 604-620-8822

 Graze - 3980 Fraser st. Vancouver, BC

For more information about Graze visit their website.

GRAZE food & drink


Our concept from the very start was to provide people of all eating preferences something that they can really fall in love with.  Whether you're a strict vegetarian who is starving for choice, a flexitarian who enjoys trying everything, or an omnivore who simply wants a familiar & satiating meal, Graze was created for you.  Chef Karen McAthy's dishes are culinarily creative, nutritionally balanced and simply delicious!  And with the widest range of gluten free options in the city, our menu is a refreshing oasis for people with restricted diets.

Graze's all plant-based menu (including all of our wines, beers & spirits) incorporates as many locally & organically produced ingredients as possible.  Building on this foundation, we also grow our own herbs & vegetables, collect rainwater for our garden, compost our kitchen waste, reduce/reuse/recycle everything we can, support ethical suppliers, reduce our power consumption, solar heat our hot water, are very particular about our paper and cleaning products and are always looking for ways to do even more.

Please join us for a relaxing meal in our elegant dining room and cocktail lounge, where you'll enjoy comfortable seating, intimate lighting, interesting art covered walls and a professional staff that is truly happy to serve you.

18 August 2014

What kind of a City do you want? Part 2

The City of Vancouver has entered its second phase of consultation on the 2015-2018 Capital Plan. Here is a blog posting I wrote earlier this year. The link at the end is for the new city website.

In the 9 May 2014 edition of the Vancouver Sun in a section called this day in history, they ran an article entitled "The failed industrial plans for Spanish Banks", describing the plans of the former Municipality of Point Grey (1908-29) to industrialize the area we know today as Spanish Banks beach. The plans included heavy industry, docks and even an airport. Point Grey Road would have continued through Jericho Beach and have become a major thoroughfare.

All a bit of nostalgic fluff? Not at all. This was a town doing what towns do: planning. If not for the amalgamation of Point Grey into Vancouver, the beloved beaches of the west-side might not have existed today. This is why planning is so important. So important that it should not be left solely up to the politicians to make these decisions. It is the residents, the citizens, the taxpayers who must make these important decisions.


We have an opportunity to comment on Vancouver's next Capital Planning right now. The Capital Plan is our financial plan to invest in the City's systems. Make your opinions known. Make your voice heard. Get involved. Share your views of the City's Capital Plan.

The City will allow you to provide feedback on the draft capital plan in various ways:
In addition, in August, an independent professional research firm based in BC will recruit by phone a representative sample of Vancouver residents and business owners to take an online survey in English and Chinese.

For more in information go here.

12 August 2014

Stuart Mackinnon hopes for another term on Vancouver Park Board

 Andrew Fleming / Vancouver Courier
August 12, 2014 01:46 PM

 Stuart Mackinnon.
 Stuart Mackinnon. Photo Dan Toulgoet

Former Green Party park board commissioner Stuart Mackinnon wants to get his old job back. Mackinnon, who lost his seat in 2011 after serving one term, is one of only three Green Party candidates ever elected to office in Vancouver.

He is joined on the campaign trail by political newcomers Michael Wiebe in running for park board, as well as Janet Fraser and Mischa Oak for school board.

Mackinnon said he is disappointed with how the seven-member park board has performed while under the control of a Vision Vancouver majority.

“I really think that [it’s] the lack of park maintenance, the lack of respect shown to community centre associations and the lack of attention to what the mandate of the park board is,” he told the Courier. “I’m hoping these are going to be the real issues during this campaign.”

Mackinnon, a special education teacher at Killarney secondary school and vice-president of the VanDusen Botanical Garden Association, was known for his outspoken opposition to keeping cetaceans in captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium while in office. He said the recent decision to ban them from breeding was made by commissioners who aren’t seeking re-election as a way to avoid addressing the emotional issue head on.

“I think it is a deferral of any real decision,” said Mackinnon. “What I called for when I was on park board before was a plebiscite to let the people of Vancouver decide what happens on their park land. The aquarium is in a park so it falls under the jurisdiction of the park board and I think the people of Vancouver have a right to say what happens. [Vision] have a very difficult time making those kinds of decisions and so what they’ve done is deferred the real decision-making to another board.”

He acknowledged that, even if both Green candidates are elected, holding a referendum will be a long shot but pointed out that COPE endorses the idea as well.

Mackinnon was the only incumbent park board commissioner not to be re-elected three years ago, coming in twelfth out of 21 candidates. He also ran unsuccessfully last year for the provincial Green Party in the Vancouver-Fraserview riding, coming in a distant third to Liberal candidate Suzanne Anton and NDP runner-up Gabriel Yiu.

Wiebe is the owner of Eight ½ restaurant lounge in Mount Pleasant, which specializes in sustainable food, and is a former lifeguard for the park board.

Fraser has a PhD in chemistry and is a co-founder of neighbourhood organization Marpole Matters, who has also spent the past 10 years volunteering for a parent advisory council. Oak, a substitute teacher who claims to have worked in almost every school in the city, is a former NDP electoral district association president for Vancouver Centre and a board member for the Vancouver Pride Society.

The four candidates still need to receive official party endorsements at a Sept. 7 nomination meeting. The party’s three candidates for city council are Cleta Brown, Pete Fry and incumbent party leader Adriane Carr.

The election is Nov. 15.


© Vancouver Courier

07 August 2014

Green Party of Vancouver announces Park Board and School Board nominees

With 100 days to go to the civic election, Green Party of Vancouver Chair Jacquie Miller is pleased to announce the Party's four nominees for Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation and Vancouver School Board: Stuart Mackinnon and Michael Wiebe for Park Board; and Mischa Oak and Janet Fraser for School Board.

Miller says the Party’s Candidate Screening Committee has examined each of the applicants and is impressed that they will make excellent candidates and be highly effective in their elected offices. They join a strong Green Party Vancouver City Council team: Adriane Carr, Cleta Brown and Pete Fry. The Candidate Screening Committee will recommend that the Green Party of Vancouver’s members give their official endorsement to these nominees at a September 7 nomination meeting.

Seeking the Green Party of Vancouver members’ nomination for Vancouver Park Board are:

campaign_2014_colour.jpg Stuart Mackinnon:
       Green Party of Vancouver Park Board Commissioner: 2008-11
       2nd Vice President, VanDusen Botanical Garden Association
       Teacher, 24 years; with Vancouver School District since 2001

Mackinnon is well known for advocating for an end to cetacean captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium during his term on Park Board and in recent debates. Having attended Park Board meetings for years even before being elected to the Board, Mackinnon earned a reputation as the most knowledgeable, well-prepared Park Commissioner while in office. He has been a strong, consistent advocate for maintaining Vancouver’s parks and green spaces in pristine condition.

Mackinnon says, “I'm running for Park Board with the Green Party because I want to return Vancouver to the beautiful city with parks and gardens it once was. A city where everyone can play in their own neighbourhood, and where common sense and community values are what drives decision-making.”
            Learn more about Stuart Mackinnon: www.betterparks.org (blog) 
                                                                      and www.betterparks.ca (website)

Mike.jpg• Michael Wiebe
       Owner, eight ½ restaurant lounge — based on sustainable values
       Vice President, Mt Pleasant Business Improvement Association
        Co-founder, Vancouver Lifeguard Association

Wiebe has had a love affair with Vancouver’s parks and recreational facilities since childhood when he mapped out the wheelchair accessibility of Stanley Park’s entire trail system at age 12. He went on to become a lifeguard for Vancouver Park Board at age 16. In 2003, Wiebe co-founded the Vancouver Lifeguard Association; he continues his love for parks, using them for ultimate frisbee, bocce, soccer, and more.

“I’m running for Parks Board Commissioner because the voices of our city have been lost,” says Wiebe. “I noticed this firsthand on the Mount Pleasant Implementation Committee. We need to take advantage of the opportunities this city has during a time of growth to work together to maximize our resources and build more natural parks and a healthier food system; foster grassroots community initiatives; and create a sustainable waste management program. ”
              Learn more about Michael Wiebe: becascadian.com

Seeking the Green Party of Vancouver members’ nomination for Vancouver School Board are:

Mischa_Oak-2449.jpg• Mischa Oak
   Teacher-on-call, Vancouver School District
   Vancouver Centre NDP Electoral District Association President, 2012-13
     Vancouver Pride Society: former Board Member & Volunteer Coordinator
Oak is strongly motivated by his own experiences in Vancouver schools both as a teacher-on-call who has worked in almost every school in the city, and as a student growing up in Vancouver schools. Prior to embarking on a career in education, Oak obtained a degree in Commerce from Queen’s University. He has been active in a wide range of community and political organisations.

“I’ve been a Vancouver teacher since 2008 and have experienced firsthand the challenges our schools face,” says Oak. “As your school trustee I will work to get the Vancouver School Board to stand up to BC’s provincial government and demand fair funding for public education. Too many kids and families face discrimination and fear at school, so I have a plan to move our schools to be more LGBTQ + Diversity Proud.”
            Learn more about Mischa Oak: www.voteoak.com

JanetFraser_C_2014_07.JPG• Janet Fraser
      PAC Chair / Co-Chair for 10 years
      Co-founder: Marpole Matters, a neighbourhood organisation
      PhD chemist: 10 years’ experience in Vancouver’s biotech industry

As an active parent of school-aged children and engaged resident of her Marpole community, Fraser knows the issues facing Vancouver’s schools inside and out. As co-founder of the neighbourhood organisation Marpole Matters, she has a reputation for thoroughly informing herself on community issues and educating her neighbours about matters affecting them.

“I’m seeking the Green Party nomination to run as a school board trustee to make sure all of Vancouver’s children have the opportunity to thrive at school and become engaged and successful citizens,” Fraser says. “The core value I’ll bring to my role as School Trustee is sustainability — sustainability of the school community, the student family, and school infrastructure and processes.”

           Learn more about Janet Fraser: www.vangreens.ca/schoolnominees

Green Vancouver City Councillor Adriane Carr urges Vancouverites to elect the entire Green Team this November: “These are excellent candidates with extensive community experience who will bring a much-needed balance to our City Council, Park Board and School Board. They’ve all got enthusiasm, a strong work ethic and dedication to creating a better Vancouver. I couldn’t be happier with our entire team.”
* * *
Green Party of Vancouver’s official nomination meeting for Park and School Board candidates: September 7, 11 a.m.; Alliance for Arts and Culture Boardroom, 938 Howe St., Vancouver. Click here for more info or to RSVP.

01 August 2014

Former park commissioners: Cetacean captivity at Vancouver Aquarium has outlived its usefulness

 This letter was sent to the Vancouver Park Board Commissioners and published in the Straight.com on-line newspaper.
July 31, 2014.


As former Park Board Commissioners, we would like to give our support to ending the captivity and display of marine mammals, particularly cetaceans, in Vancouver Parks at the Vancouver Aquarium.
The display of whales and dolphins is a practice that has outlived its usefulness both for public education and for research. The most desperately needed research in these areas is to work on limiting the impact that humans have on the marine environment, research that cannot be done in captivity.

We feel that the aquarium tanks, regardless of current and future expansions, are inadequate for the humane support of dolphins, belugas or any other type of large marine mammal.

The “showing” of these animals in an artificial environment does not serve current educational practices. The environmental message that citizens, young and old, in Vancouver need to receive is that we need to care for the natural ocean habitat and its inhabitants. Marine mammals sequestered in tanks and performing in shows reinforce a 20th century idea that humans should have dominion over these animals. It is antiquated and harmful to the animals.

The scientific consensus of researchers outside of the Vancouver Aquarium is that these animals are much better off in their natural environment than in the miniscule tanks.

We urge the board to use its powers as landlord to the Vancouver Aquarium and as the elected voice of the people of Vancouver on these matters to phase out the keeping of marine mammals in captivity.

Stuart Mackinnon,
Parks Commissioner ’08-’11

Donna Morgan
Parks Commissioner ’93-’96

Dermot Foley
Parks Commissioner ’90-’93

Anita Romaniuk
Former Parks Board Chair and Commissioner ’02-’05

Tim Louis
Parks Commissioner '90-'96

28 July 2014

Come celebrate diversity and equality at the 36th Annual Pride Parade

This coming Sunday will mark the 36th annual Pride Parade in Vancouver (August 3 @ 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm). Vancouver Pride describes the event as "attracting crowds of more than 650,000, the Pride Parade is renowned on the international stage as one of the largest and most successful LGBTQ events in the world."

This is one of the premier events of summer in Vancouver and has become a huge family event. Whether you are a member of the LGBTQ community or not, there is lots to do and see at Pride Vancouver. I have been honoured with a place in the parade in 4 different years, marching with the Green Party, the Park Board, the Vancouver Public Library and the Vancouver School Board.

Although the event celebrates LGBTQ pride, every citizen of Vancouver can 'take pride' in the tremendous leaps we as a society have made in respecting diversity and difference. We live in not only a multicultural society, but one that celebrates the various diverse communities within our own larger community. We celebrate the differences, knowing that really we are all the same. We are Vancouverites, British Columbians, Canadians, but mostly we are people who share this beautiful planet that we have inherited from our parents and bequeath to our children.

The Pride movement celebrates both our differences and our sameness, which is why I think it has become such an important event in our city. I'll be at Pride to celebrate. I hope you will be too. It is a fun way to declare your support for diversity and equality.

20 July 2014

July? Must be the silly season in Vancouver politics

Being an election year, this summer is a lot more political than usual. In non-election years the local press often has difficulty finding stories of interest on the civic scene. Not this year. Not a day goes by that there isn't some sort of story to shake things up.

What seems lost in most of these stories is what I think is most important to voters: Vancouver. Not infidelity, not youthful exuberance, not the internal machinations of giant political machines. Vancouver. The city and its problems. Its future. Its plans.

I hope we can all get back to what is important soon. For me and for this blog that would be parks and recreation. I hope that in this year's election we can have a real debate about what the Park Board actually does. The Park Board website describes it this way:

"exclusive possession, jurisdiction, and control over more than 230 public parks in Vancouver and a large public recreation system of community centres, pools, rinks, fitness centres, golf courses, street trees, marinas, playing fields, and more" 

I hope in this election this is what we will discuss.

We need to talk about the state of our parks and playing fields. We need to discuss governance and volunteerism at our Community Centres. We need to debate fees and access. We need to talk about future growth and current maintenance. We need the electorate to understand the importance of these public assets. We need candidates that are concerned about the things the Park Board actually does.

So here's a challenge: From now until the election on November 15th, let's talk about Parks and Recreation.

26 June 2014

Beluga battle: Vancouver Aquarium defends captive whales as good science

Amid calls that whales and dolphins in captivity are "cruel" - the Vancouver Aquarium showcases research aimed at improving belugas' lives in a warming Arctic

In a PR push apparently aimed at winning Vancouverites’ hearts and minds over a controversial beluga captivity program, the Vancouver Aquarium put forward its pioneering whale communication scientist for a media blitz to showcase why the whales are needed for important Arctic research.

“I am very proud of the research that we are doing,” said Dr. Valeria Vergara, who will be headed to the high Arctic next week to study the effects of melting ice and increased boat traffic on belugas.
“The long term acoustic communication research that was conducted here on the belugas in the aquarium is a real catalyst for research in the wild.” 

Vergara said years of listening to belugas at the aquarium’s whale tanks led to her discovery of one of the creature’s most important biological conversations – how a mother calls out to her baby calves. 
“At the aquarium, I discovered contact calls – this is essential, because we knew nothing of the function of the hundreds of calls that belugas produce.”

But in the wild, she said, that beluga communication is increasingly threatened by an explosion of loud ship traffic in the Arctic.  The number of vessels in the region has spiked 35 per cent since 2007, according to Canadian Coast Guard records.

“The [beluga] signals can very easily be masked by boat noise.  And an enormous amount of [Arctic] channels that were not navigable in the past are opening up to all sorts of oil and gas exploration activities, shipping, eco-tourism – even research – and belugas are acoustic animals and extremely sensitive to noise.” 

Despite the sheer vastness of the high north waters, belugas are loyal to little coves and estuaries, where ships might roam.
The aquarium in Stanley Park is home to two female belugas.  “Aurora” gave birth to her daughter “Qila” at the facility.  The aquarium only uses whales born in captivity, or those rescued from the wild but no longer deemed able to survive on their own.

Phasing out of belugas demanded

But several politicians, including Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Councillor Adriane Carr have said they want the belugas and dolphins phased out.  Citizen’s groups have also pushed this idea for more than a decade.

“I believe the only reason the whales are kept in captivity is to make money, not to do research or conservation,” said Annelise Sorg, President of No Whales In Captivity.
“A water circus is not education.”

She said several aquaria worldwide have divested dolphins and whales.  The West Edmonton Mall rid itself of its dolphin shows after some of the creatures died, and a former Victoria public aquarium (that closed in 1992) also ended its orca program.

Former Green Party Park Board Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon has also long opposed cetaceans in captivity.

“These are highly evolved creatures, and to do experiments or to keep them in tiny pools is actually cruel.”

“I imagine [the beluga’s life in captivity] would be the same if they put you or myself in a basketball court for the rest of our lives, and never let us out.”

“These are creatures that in their natural habitat swim thousands of miles, and we’re putting them into a small pool.”

Mackinnon said research shows captivity gives whales handicaps, because of the small space where the creatures seem to circle endlessly.

An online petition to push the City hold a referendum on the captivity issue during the November 15th civic election now has 16,000 signatures.

Vergara said she wants what is best for the belugas – and for her, that means doing research aimed at improving their lives in the wild.

“I think the question to ask is how best to help beluga whales -- we all care about them.  We’re in this together, it shouldn’t be a dichotomy.”

“One of the things we can do is use the whales under human care as ambassadors for their wild counterparts, and one of the ways to do that is to do really good research,” said Vergara at a press conference Wednesday.

As a sign of how concerned the public aquarium is to public opposition, gleeful MCs – who oversee the daily belugas shows, where whales jump for fish and splash unsuspecting tourists – now invite visitors to contact politicians to let them know they support the institution’s work.

The aquarium’s website also has an e-mail sign-up form to facilitate letters of support to go to elected officials.  A social media campaign with the hashtag -- #ISupportVanAqua – is also promoted.
The aquarium is now building a $100 million expansion with public and private dollars.  But it's not clear if more whales will be part of that future.

The Vancouver Park Board must decide the fate of the whales and dolphins soon -- a bylaw regarding their captivity must be renewed next year.  The board has ordered staff to provide a report on best practices by July. 

In 1996, the Vancouver Aquarium became the first aquarium in the world to no longer capture whales and dolphins from the wild.  It ended its orca program in 2001.

The aquarium says it only keeps dolphins and whales that were:
  • captured before 1996
  • already being kept in a zoo or aquarium before 1996
  • born in a zoo or aquarium
  • rescued from the wild and rehabilitated, but deemed non-releasable by the government authorities

22 June 2014

Letter of the week: I’ll vote based on my dream for a far better Vancouver

The Province June 22, 2014. • Section: Opinion

Imagine a better city. Imagine a civic government that engaged citizens as partners rather than adversaries. Imagine a city where the civil service is empowered to speak out and speak with taxpayers. Imagine a city where civil discourse and debate is respectful of all, regardless of your point of view. Idealistic? Not possible? Dreaming? No. Many cities in Canada and around the world have civic governments that work by consensus and respect rather than adversary and insult. Vancouver can too.

I think of a city government that focuses on civic issues, issues that matter to the residents and are within the purview of the city charter. I think of a city government that isn’t built on elected officials beholden to developer donors who pay for campaigns with their deep pockets. I think of a civic government that puts people first and focuses on community development.

I want a city that moves people by engaging them, not demonizing them. There is room for pedestrians, bicycles, and cars in our city. Demeaning one group isn’t helpful. Can you imagine a city that couldn’t move goods and services? Our road network is necessary for transportation of goods, services and people. It has to be accessible to all.

Envisage a city that focuses on the root causes of poverty and helps those who, for whatever reason, can’t help themselves, with an integrated housing, health, and education plan. A city that has affordable housing for everyone.

I imagine a beautiful city with parks and gardens open to all. A city where children, families, elders, and youth can play in their own neighbourhoods. Where summer outdoor swimming is as close as a public library or community centre should be.

I can imagine such a city. I can imagine that this city is Vancouver. In five months, the citizens of Vancouver will choose what kind of a city they want. I’ll be choosing a better city.

Stuart Mackinnon, former Vancouver park board commissioner

The editorial pages editor is Gordon Clark, who can be reached at gclark@theprovince.com. Letters to the editor can be sent to provletters@theprovince.com.