‘System is broken’: Vancouver mayor announces plan to remove elected park board

Click to play video: 'Vancouver starts process to abolish elected park board'
Vancouver starts process to abolish elected park board
WATCH: Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim says his party's majority on council is starting the process to abolish the city's elected park board and transfer its responsibilities to city hall. Alissa Thibault reports – Dec 6, 2023

The future of Vancouver’s parks is up in the air after mayor Ken Sim held a Wednesday morning news conference to announce he will table a motion next week to eliminate the elected park board.

“We are taking the long overdue step that will ensure that our parks and recreational facilities are able to serve our community to the fullest potential,” Sim said.

“It is vitally important that we take bold action to elevate the care of these essential spaces and bring a new level of accountability that will ensure not just the long-term viability but the long-term growth and success of our park services.”

Click to play video: 'What’s next for Vancouver park board?'
What’s next for Vancouver park board?

The motion is expected to pass under Sim’s ABC majority council, and then park board will move to under the oversight of city council.

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“What we’ve learned in recent years is how we have been managing our parks and recreational facilities just doesn’t work,” Sim said.

“The current step-up makes it hard to manage. The system is broken and no amount of tweaking will fix it.”

Sim said he envisions the new park board to mirror those in every other major Canadian city.

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“The steps we are announcing will allow us to manage parks and recreational facilities more collaboratively and in harmony with the city’s broader perspectives.”

Click to play video: 'Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim announces a move to end elected park board'
Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim announces a move to end elected park board

Sim believes the changes will streamline park decisions, make better use of staff time, and save millions of dollars. Under his motion, the city would create a working group to ensure a smooth transition from the current park board to the new board.

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Park Board Commissioner Scott Jensen told CKNW’s The Jas Johal Show he was disappointed with the mayor’s move, adding he was never consulted on the plan.

He said the board remains a valuable democratic tool for the city, which gives voice to the community.

“I was told in no uncertain terms you were either with us or against us. So if you are not at the press conference at 10 a.m. in the morning, that you are no longer welcome in this party,” he said.

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160,000 trees to be removed from Stanley Park, impacting traffic

Jensen went on to speculate the decision to try and abolish the park board was intended as a distraction from the city’s budget process.

“I do know that this council is going to be presenting another tax increase to the city,” he said.

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“”That could be something again, you know, let’s divert everyone’s eyes and look at this park board issue.”

In a social media post, park board commissioner and committee chair Laura Christensen also revealed that Jensen, the board’s vice-chair Brennan Bastyovanszky, and herself have been removed from the ABC Party.

She showed an email she claims she received Wednesday morning from a city official before the news conference.

“We will move forward with the Park Board transition team without you three as you have chosen not to support the mayor on the folding of the park board,” the email said.

Christensen said that this email is the first communication she has had with the party on the topic of removing the park board and she has not been asked, or given, her opinion on the unfolding matter.

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Sim said the social media post is “inaccurate.”

“That is not the case at all. No one has been removed from the party.”

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