Spencer Herbert would have stood up for parks

Post by Mike Klassen in


Spencer Herbert
Now an NDP MLA, Spencer Herbert excelled as an opposition Vancouver park commissioner

I've never met MLA for Vancouver-West End Spencer Herbert, but people whose opinions I value have told me that he's a principled and hard-working elected representative. We may disagree on the finer points of some issues, but I always like to give props to someone like him.

The ruckus of the Vancouver park board in the past year has led many to wonder if someone like Herbert would have made a difference. Remember a key decision was made in 2008 by the COPE party to accommodate Vision Vancouver's quest for power. They worked to stick the knife in the back of loyal supporters and principled candidates like Tim Louis, so that their friends in Vision could form government.

More than a few COPE supporters are now wondering if it was such a great idea, but what's done is done. COPE cling onto a seat or two on council, school board and park board, but few consider them to be politically relevant during this term. The most acute failure of COPE next to the disaster that is Carbon Cadman on council, is the non-performance of Park Commissioner Loretta Woodcock.

Park Board observers wonder what happened to Loretta. When the NPA was set to approve a $200,000 cut to park services during their last term, Woodcock and Herbert were a powerful voice for Vancouver's parks. They were loud at the commission's meetings, and were successful in framing the issue. Herbert's skill in media relations helped COPE to make the NPA very uncomfortable when they even hinted that park services would be cut.

Fast-forward to this term of government, and until she put her hand up to vote against Vision's recent slashing of millions in park services and CUPE jobs, Woodcock successfully played the role of a Vision Vancouver accommodater. Even now, she's virtually silent in park board meetings, and only noticed by anyone in the room when she puts up her hand to vote.

Spencer Herbert is a shrewd political operative, and a pragmatist. While it's unlikely he would have caused a rift that would outright hurt the left wing coalition, it's felt that Herbert would come out swinging a lot harder than the COPE and Vision reps on the park commission today.

In fact, it would be downright impossible to see Herbert sitting quietly while key infrastructure like the Stanley Park petting zoo and Bloedel Conservatory is being shelved, and dozens of jobs being cut, as it has been under Vision Vancouver.

Despite the fact that Spencer has moved on to provincial politics, COPE still have a photo of Herbert, embraced by Executive Director Rachel Marcuse, on the top of their web page. Whether it was intented to hark back to a better time for the organization or not, it's a reminder that there was a time when COPE used to stick up for better parks and the people who build and maintain them.

- post by Mike


Loretta Woodcock did vote against the 2010 Operating Budget and the cuts to staff, services, and facilities at Park Board (only the Vision commissioners voted in favour). The motion that Ellen Woodsworth put (unsuccessfully) to City Council in December to remove or dilute the tax shift from businesses to residents in 2010 and raise property taxes to 3% for all is COPE policy and was supported by Loretta as well. It is not easy for a commissioner who is the only representative of her electoral organization to get publicity on anything, but I know that the Straight covered Loretta's opposition to the 2010 Operating Budget.

It is time for all Parks commissioners to stand up for Parks.Lets remove the party politics from this and resolve to do better.No one in this city except the the elected representatives voted to close the Bloedel Conservatory.If any had hinted at this I am quite sure they would never have been elected.It is a bad decision and should be recinded by the Board.Now is the time to work on a community solution,attendance is up citizens are speaking up,paying attendance fees and rediscovering the Bloedel.Lets preserve this facility it is a legacy given to all of us by Prentice Bloedel,a great big green jewel at the pinacle of our great city.What were they thinking!!

I agree with John. Bloedel & the Children's Zoo should be above party politics. Having said that, the opposition members of both Council & Parks Board are not being vocal enough. As well, the generally media, & some press columnists & editors in particular, seem to have taken the position that since Vision says it wants to be 'green' everything they do must be OK. Bloedel & the Zoo are but 2 examples that what they're doing is not OK. It's time for the 4th Estate to do its job. And, it's also time for the opposition to critique Vision initiatives LOUDLY so they're heard.

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