Vancouver Park Board eyes judicial review of mayor’s plan to disband elected body

Click to play video: 'Vancouver one step closer to abolishing Park Board'
Vancouver one step closer to abolishing Park Board
WATCH: The City of Vancouver is one step closer to getting rid of the Park Board. U.B.C. political science professor Stewart Prest talks about what this will mean for the city and it's parks – Dec 14, 2023

The Vancouver Park Board appears set to lawyer up over Mayor Ken Sim’s plan to disband the elected body.

Sim is seeking to have the province amend the Vancouver Charter to eliminate the elected board and bring park administration under city council’s oversight.

A majority of park board commissioners, including three who were elected with Sim’s ABC Vancouver slate but have split with the mayor over the issue, oppose eliminating the 135-year-old board.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver mayor forges ahead with dismantling park board'
Vancouver mayor forges ahead with dismantling park board

The board is now set to vote Feb. 5 on a motion by Green Park Commissioner Tom Digby to retain legal counsel and review the possibility of quashing the mayor’s plan through a judicial review.

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“We have a ton of support in the community to resist the mayor’s attempt to abolish the park board,” Digby told Global News.

“We believe the mayor is way past his jurisdiction and authority to be making an announcement and to be taking any steps towards abolishing the park board.”

The motion would also cut park board staff out of communications with lawyers, authorizing them to communicate directly with the board and involve staff “only to the extent necessary for communication purposes.” The motion would also bar anyone beyond the elected board, including the mayor, city councillors or city staff, from accessing the legal advice.

It goes on to propose allocating $20,000 for “preliminary review and any relevant urgent actions” recommended by lawyers.

Digby said the money would come from park board reserve funds.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver announces Park Board transition group'
Vancouver announces Park Board transition group

Sim promised to try and scrap the board in 2021, before reversing his position and pledging to keep and “fix” the elected body in 2022, ahead of the municipal election.

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Vancouver city council approved a motion in December asking the province to amend the Vancouver Charter to allow the board’s abolition.

On Thursday, Sim unveiled a new working group dedicated to disbanding the park board, calling the step “long overdue.”

“The current system is broken and no amount of tweaking will fix it,” he said.

The province has indicated willingness to engage with the city over Sim’s proposal, but has said the city must demonstrate it has addressed several key issues, including land ownership, the future of workers, and consultation with First Nations.

The xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Indian Band has indicated its support for the dissolution of the park board, while the  səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation) has said it is in full support of “participating in a process to explore amendments to the Vancouver Charter.

The Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish First Nation) has yet to comment publicly on the issue.

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