Supporters rally as Vancouver Park Board meets in shadow of mayor’s plan to scrap it

Click to play video: 'First Park Board meeting since mayor vowed to scrap it'
First Park Board meeting since mayor vowed to scrap it
Vancouver Park Board Chair Brennan Bastyovanszky discusses Mayor Ken Sim's motion to eliminate the board. – Dec 12, 2023

Elected commissioners on the Vancouver Park Board lodged their opposition to Mayor Ken Sim’s plan to disband the body.

Commissioners passed a motion to keep the board.

Monday marks the first board meeting since Sim unveiled his plan to seek changes to the Vancouver Charter to eliminate it.

Three of the six commissioners on the board who were elected with Sim’s ABC Vancouver party subsequently split with the mayor over the plan.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver starts process to abolish elected park board'
Vancouver starts process to abolish elected park board

The trio of ABC exiles are now sitting as independents and expected to vote with Green Park Commissioner Tom Digby on a motion opposing the board’s elimination, Monday night.

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“It is our position that as an elected board we cannot be removed mid-term only one year after the election, there is no mandate for these actions, since the majority on council and the park board were elected on the platform to retain the park board,” incoming board chair Brennan Bastyovanszky said early in Monday’s meeting.

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

“The park board should be allowed the time to implement the recommendations to fix the park board as was promised.”

Sim’s first election promise in 2021 was to eliminate the park board, however he reversed that position in July 2022 when he announced a slate of ABC park board candidates and pledged to keep it and fix it instead.

In announcing his plan to disband the board last week, Sim said the system was “broken” and folding parks administration under council’s authority would make it more accountable and easier to manage.

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It’s a position that may win significant public support: a 2022 poll by Vancouver pollster Research Co. found 52 per cent of respondents think the board should be eliminated, up from 44 per cent two years earlier.

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

However the board isn’t without its supporters.

More than 1,000 people have signed onto a petition calling for the board to be retained.

Over two dozen former parks commissioners from across the political spectrum have also signed a letter calling for the board to be preserved, a number of whom attended Monday’s meeting to speak against the mayor’s plan.

“It’s depressing, it’s sad,” said Sarah Blyth, executive director of the Overdose Prevention Society and a former park board commissioner for Vision Vancouver.

Blyth argued the board is a venue for hyper-local democracy, where average people are able to interact directly with elected officials.

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“It’s very grassroots,” she said.

“Sometimes you get hundreds of people at the meetings … people come right up to the table and they talk to the commissioners.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. prepared to make amendments to Vancouver Charter next spring'
B.C. prepared to make amendments to Vancouver Charter next spring

John Coupar, who was Blyth’s erstwhile opponent when he sat on the board for the Non-Partisan Association, called Sim’s plan undemocratic, adding the mayor never campaigned on it.

“He had no mandate to do it,” he said.

“We are seeing commissioners from across the political spectrum come together.”

Vancouver city council, where Sim’s ABC Vancouver party holds a majority, is expected to pass a motion calling on the province to eliminate the board on Wednesday.

The proposal would then go to the provincial government, which holds the sole authority to amend the Vancouver Charter.

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