Nearly a year after Vancouver council backed a proposal to allow B.C. veterans’ licence plate-holders and serving members of the Canadian Forces to park for free year-round at city meters and lots, staff is not only advising against it — but pushing to reduce the few parking perks already in place for veterans.
In response to Coun. Melissa De Genova’s November 2019 motion to honour veterans with the year-round privilege, city staff was directed to develop a plan for potential roll-out by Remembrance Day 2020.
Instead, a report from the general manager of engineering services to the Standing Committee on City Finance and Services recommends cutting back free parking for veterans or serving CAF personnel.
Vancouver currently offers free parking to veterans in the week leading up to Remembrance Day. But starting in 2021, the city suggests limiting it to the Nov. 11 statutory holiday.
Many vets are out in the city distributing poppies for the annual poppy campaign during Veteran’s Week, according to the BC/Yukon Command of the Legion.
“We are quite disappointed that the City of Vancouver would take away anything from veterans,” Vice President Bob Underhill told Global News on Saturday.
Providing free parking would encourage driving which is counter to the city’s transportation and climate goals, according to the report.
Staff say the current privileges are consistent with other major urban centres, and a veterans’ exemption would “not align with current policy objectives around transportation options or effective management of curbside space.”
Free veterans’ parking could also cost the city up to $2 million in lost revenue per year, and “veterans are not, on average, economically disadvantaged,” states the report.
The Billy Bishop/Kerrisdale Legion says many veterans, including some with varying degrees of disabilities, are suffering and regularly struggle to find parking for medical and other appointments.
“A lot of the veterans are rich, they can afford parking? I have to disagree with that,” president Jim Dadd said.
Lt.-Col. Archie Steacy called the recommendation not to move forward with free year-round veteran parking “absolute bloody nonsense.”
“I’m enraged, actually enraged and extremely disappointed,” said Steacy.
The 38-year military veteran and president of the B.C. Veterans Commemorative Association received the province’s first honourary plate, and believes there are fewer than 500 veterans’ licence plate holders in Vancouver.
“For the City of Vancouver to say no to veterans for an hour’s parking is pretty bloody disgusting,” Steacy told Global News.
De Genova says the mayor ultimately has authority over staff, and the Non-Partisan Association councillor maintains every veteran or serving CAF member deserves a few hours of free parking in Vancouver.
“I will accept nothing less than that and I hope that the mayor won’t either,” De Genova told Global News.
In response, the mayor’s communications’ director said Kennedy Stewart does not have authority over staff, and this is nothing more than a report with recommendations.
“Council has the authority to vote on this and they will,” Alvin Singh wrote in an email to Global News on Sunday.
Council is set to consider the report on Oct. 22.
Should the mayor and council decide to provide free year-round parking privileges, the report suggests they consider three other options, including additional free parking on days of military significance, and limited free parking to veterans and active service members.