Vision supports political protests in our community centres

Post by Mike Klassen in

44 comments

war-protest
Are political protests coming to a community centre near you? Vision says 'you bet'

Vision Vancouver are tabling a change of policy at their next meeting – taking place next Monday, June 7th, 7pm at the Strathcona Community Centre – to allow anti-HST protesters to occupy space in the lobbies of Vancouver's local community centres. Whether you're loading the kids out of the mini-van on your way to a swim lesson, or you're on your way to an exercise class, you'll be able to hear from anti-HST folks urging you to sign their petition.

Some folks have some concerns about this effort by the Vision Vancouver park commissioners to politicize our public spaces. Eminence grise of Vancouver politics May Brown is up in arms, and will be registering her protest loudly to this initiative. "To involve our community centres into a political protest goes against everything the park board stands for," says Brown. "Having political protests of any kind in these spaces will remove the tone of friendiness that people have come to expect in our park community centres."

Brown describes this as a "deeply concerning precedent." "What it means is that from now on you'll have to allow all kinds of political protests into these facilities," adds May. "That's what your setting yourself up for. You walk through there with your kids or if you're visiting for some personal fitness, you'll be greeted by this kind of stuff." Brown says she's now looking into getting a legal ruling on whether the Vision park commissioners can allow this to happen.

NPA Park Commissioner Ian Robertson is also having none of Vision's political scheme. "There's a clear policy in place already against this stuff," says Ian. "I'm very, very concerned that this is a dangerous precedent for our parks."

Robertson said he's already received several calls from people opposed to this idea. "Citizens are telling me that our parks community centres must remain neutral environments with no political overtones," says Robertson. "What Vision Vancouver are doing is just continuing the infiltration of politics into the non-partisan public service just as we're already seeing at City Hall. Now they want to bring this to the Park Board, and I want to stop it."

Robertson remarks that the Park Board has much bigger priorities it should be concentrating on. "We've just taken the single largest cut to our budget in the history of the Vancouver Park Board. We've cut $1.3 million to our programs, which means that kids are not going to be able to get the kind of recreational opportunities in our parks this summer. Meanwhile over at City Hall they're spending $25 million on bike lanes. You have to wonder if this government has its priorities straight."

Stuart Mackinnon, Green Party park commissioner weighed in on Wednesday afternoon announcing that he will also not support the politicization of the community centres. “I believe this is both risky and unfair. It is risky to pick and choose who should or should not be included in our rules and regulations and it is unfair to exempt one group over others,” commented Commissioner Mackinnon. “Other groups will want the exemption as well and we will be hard-pressed to justify why one can and another cannot. What should be debated is not an exemption, but the policy itself. If the Board does not believe this is a fair policy, then the policy should be done away with for everybody, not just a select few who it agrees with.”

Mackinnon is not adverse to the goals of the anti-HST petitioners. “I also happen to support the anti-HST movement and have signed the petition. It is easy to find the petition without having to go to a community centre. Many shops and malls and even street corners have people offering the petition for your signature”, said Mackinnon.

Here is the motion to be debated at the end of the meeting (of course) that was submitted by Vision's Raj Hundal –

WHEREAS the Fight HST campaign is a legitimate, democratic citizens' initiative of public expression and action that is officially recognized by Elections BC; and

WHEREAS the introduction of the HST will increase the costs of essential programs and services offered at Vancouver community centres and as a result negatively impact patrons, particularly low income residents, youth and seniors; and

WHEREAS the Vancouver Park Board has written a public letter to British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA) voicing concerns that the introduction of the HST may lead to decreased public use of recreation services;  and

WHEREAS the introduction of the HST may have a direct negative impact on the Vancouver Park Board's revenues; and

WHEREAS the Vancouver Park Board limits the use of Community Centre lobby space for public gatherings due to operational and safety concerns;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Vancouver Park Board grant the Fight HST campaign temporary access to all community centre lobbies for the remaining duration of its campaign.

It's expected that there will be a large turnout to Monday's Park Board meeting at the Strathcona Community Centre. Parking is bad around there, so it's recommend that you arrive early.

Monday June 7, 2010 at 7:00pm
Strathcona Community Centre (Google Map)
601 Keefer Street, Vancouver, BC

Meeting Agenda | Location Information

- post by Mike

44 Comments

As a member of the West End Community Centre, former Board member and current committee member I think this sets dangerous precedent.

While Political organizations and causes often hold meetings or parties or picnics in our parks or community centres they are inviting supporters for the most part. That's fine and not assaulting patrons with their viewpoint or cause.

Allowing our Parks and Centres into pulpits of any political organization or cause leads to a dangerous precedent.

I can tell you from experience that for the vast majority that use our facilities the last thing they want is to be bombarded by anythign political or some cause as they come to work out, play, attend a club or just chill out.

In addition what causes are worthy and which aren't, what is distasteful and what isn't, what is deemed ok by one Park Board and isn't by another.

This is a can of worms that needn't be
be opened.

I suspect that when Vision and its NDP supporters lose power and some
anti NDP issues arise they will scream like the stuffed piggies they have become that it's not appropriate to use our City resources for partisan political purposes.

KEEP OUR PARKS AND CENTRES A HAVEN FOR EVERYONE!

of course some pigs are created more equal than others.. Ho hum another day of lessons in ideology trumping common sense


"To involve our community centres into a political protest goes against everything the park board stands for."

Why does the City of Vancouver even have a separate entity Parks Board? It is a fair question.

I also have no idea what they 'stand for'...aside from the interests of a small, vocal few.

This is a good move. Fight HST is not a political organization or group. It is a multi-partisan movement that has been endorsed by over 600,000 voters of British Columbia. It is comprised of New Democrats, Conservatives, Greens, BC Refederation members, non-political people and yes, even Liberals.

This is an Elections BC Initiative, no different than permitting polls in community centres during election campaigns. Canvassers are registered by Elections BC and are under strict guidelines as to their behaviour. I hardly think they will be "bombarding" anyone, rather respectfully asking for signatures and backing off if rebuffed. Anyone with complaints about canvasser behaviour are free to complain to Elections BC and their complaints will be acted upon.

Several other municipalities around the province have and are permitting HST canvassers in community centres. Why not Vancouver?

It's an interesting debate, and one that deserves more attention than it's getting. There are a few questions that need to be asked and answered, as I see it, in order to clarify the intent of this motion:

1. Is the HST petition-gathering a protest? Yes and no. Rallies have been held, chants sung, etc. But most HST petition action I've seen have been small tables on street corners, with a few signs up.

2. Is this a legitimate form of democratic decision-making? Yes. Elections BC has sanctioned the petition-gathering. In theory (if not practice) this is similar to voting, and for that we take over entire institutions. If the action wasn't so obviously anti-Liberal, then it might not be so easy to dismiss as a protest. That said, the theory doesn't quite translate into practice because of the highly political nature of the intent.

3. Are our community spaces meant to be apolitical? I would hope not, but I also don't want to be bombarded by Marxists or Libertarians every time I want to go to the pool.

4. What does this mean for the future of our community spaces? The motion is clearly worded to only allow anti-HST action, it is not a blanket policy. However, it does set the Parks Board up to allow more groups that want to hold similar actions. Will the PB have to act as the gatekeeper? What happens when crazy pro-life groups that can't even get a spot on a university campus apply to set up a display outside Kits pool? Tough question for the PB, and one I think I would have avoided, especially now that the anti-HST petition has already reached its targets.

I don't think anyone is asking to allow "political protests" in the community center.

Simply, Elections BC approved initiative petitions (few that have ever been attempted) be allowed.

This is a reasonable thing to allow.

If you've ever viewed one of these petition signing locations, it is usually one or two canvassers quietly sitting at a table with a sign, and people willingly approach, sign and leave.

No one is stopping people, blocking hallways, walking around holding picket signs, or chanting slogans.

Don't refer to it as protesting, as much as it is, accepting signatures on a petition from those that want a central place to sign.

political thought must be welcomed in public arenas, not hidden behind closed doors.

Is this the same Federal Liberal May Brown that we've all come to know and love? Is she not the Godmother of the Liberals in British Columbia.

Funny, I thought Vision was cozy with the Fed Libs. Hmmmm...maybe not so cozy anymore. The Fed Libs should wake up and smell the coffee. They helped elect the NDP in Vancouver and now we're all paying the price.

The sooner the NPA (Lib/Cons) coalition gets rebuilt, the sooner we can say goodbye to Robertson and his visionistas. Perhaps this is the first step having May Brown speak out. Good on ya May! Go get em.

The fact that this is even up for debate as a political protest goes to show the lack of understanding. As others have said this is a NON-PARTISAN initative, under Elections BC rules.

If you allow polling stations you should allow ANTI-HST canvass VOLUNTEERS to sit in your community centres.

They will not/should not harass anyone, or be agressive.

This does not open it up to anything, except for other Elections BC and Elections Canada actions, which most already permit anyway.

SHAME on Vision for turning our community centres into partisan headquarters. They are showing their true NDP colours and will do anything to take down the BC Liberals and Gordon Campbell. I wonder how Rich Coleman will explain his cozying up to Gregor and the Vision caucus now?

If there is a legal challenge to this, count me in. I'll contribute a few bucks to the legal fund. If vision won't listen to the people, perhaps they'll listen to the supreme court? Then again, maybe not.

This just in from Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon...

GREEN PARKS COMMISSIONER TO OPPOSE POLITICIZATION OF COMMUNITY CENTRES

Green Party of Vancouver Park Board Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon will oppose the Vision Vancouver motion to allow anti-HST petitioners free access to Community Centre common areas. “I firmly believe that community centres are public spaces for everyone and the current policy ensures that they are free from partisan politics. Our users should not have to be confronted with partisans with an axe to grind”, says Mackinnon

Former Vision Vancouver Park Board Chair Raj Hundal is bringing a motion to the next meeting of the Park Board that would allow a one-time exemption for this group - the rationale being that the HST will affect every user of the community centres.

“I believe this is both risky and unfair. It is risky to pick and choose who should or should not be included in our rules and regulations and it is unfair to exempt one group over others” commented Commissioner Mackinnon. “Other groups will want the exemption as well and we will be hard-pressed to justify why one can and another cannot. What should be debated is not an exemption, but the policy itself. If the Board does not believe this is a fair policy, then the policy should be done away with for everybody, not just a select few who it agrees with”.

Commissioner Mackinnon is not adverse to the goals of the anti-HST petitioners. “I also happen to support the anti-HST movement and have signed the petition. It is easy to find the petition without having to go to a community centre. Many shops and malls and even street corners have people offering the petition for your signature”, said Mackinnon.

The motion to allow the exemption comes to the Park Board on Monday, June 9. The Commissioners will be meeting at Strathcona Community Centre for their regular meeting.

As an HST protester, I too have been shut out of public areas, by the very ones affected by this onerous tax. This is a citizen's petition, ie the taxpayer, the very one who pays to build these facilities and staff them and then again to attend them. This is our building and if we want to have our voices heard and sign the peoples' petition to protest a government initiative , we have that right and should exercise it.
E

@Ellen. Very dangerous precedent. What next? Anti-abortionists should be given space? Pro-Choice? Anti gay rights? Anti-Israel groups? Where does this end? If you are okay with one political group taking over our community centres, you need to be open to all.

Vision can't just pick their friends and insiders. Once they support this, it should be open to ALL political groups, regardless of what they stand for. Doesn't sound so appealing now does it?

Way to go Stuart. This guy has guts and actually stands for something. Unlike the weak-kneed melba toast COPE opposition members who have duct tape on their mouths and and trembling when vision comes in the room. Stuart has demonstrated he's an independent thinker and the guy should be running for council. Why doesn't the NPA save a spot for him? Smart politics in my opinion. He'd be a breath of fresh air.

@Stacey T - Non-partisan? Try this on for size: http://bit.ly/d9n3TU

How can Raj Hundal push this when he is no longer on the board?

I think Ms Brown and her pro HST band of thieves should have a look at the law. Which allows access to public areas for such things as this.
If you're going to allow voting stations there on election day then you must allow this Initiative. I'll bet if Campbell were to call a referendum, spending 20 million dollars, and they allowed the referendum in the community halls she wouldn't complain one Iota.

Mackinnon, Robertson & Brown have got it right, and despite the blind rage of a bunch of anti-tax folks, no one wants community centres to be turned over as political rallying places.

Like Mackinnon says, there's already plenty of places to sign the petition. What Gary fails to notice is that any political literature or signage is not allowed in community centres when they're used for voting.

Leave our community centres alone!

What everyone in favour of this motion is glossing over, is the fact that the initiative has already surpassed their required signatures, and this is really not even necessary any longer.

Once an initiative has surpassed it's goal, what is it, other than political?

There is absolutely nothing to gain with this, other than to set precedent, so that every other fringe group, supported by the board of the day is allowed access in the future.

I for one will never set foot in another community centre again if this passes - and my family will not being going either.

Enough is enough from this Vision lot.

What a shameful act! Have vision lost their minds? I think a lot of other federal liberals are beginning to ask just who they got into bed with. No politics should be allowed in our community centres. Period.

Dave stated: "some pigs are created more equal than others."

Gee Dave I know you weren't talking about Mr. "Cost of Democracy" Hiebert from White Rock but that statement perfectly matches his attitude. I picture him in the lead Bore role. The voters down there should follow Bill's lead and have a recall petition.
If ever

Our parks, libraries and community centers are shelters from external political conflicts and should stay that way. I support and canvass for the petition but some places are sacred. In my neighbors I find a level of animosity and anger towards the HST and Gordo that is unprecedented, and we don't want that hostility carried into a neutral and peaceful inner sanctum that serves as a refuge from such influences. There has to be some place left where one can find peace and quiet.

As far as the campaign goes it won't make any difference. Knowing my fellow canvassers I suspect that there has already been a nearly constant sign up location just next door to all the libraries and centers. Most visitors have already been contacted by volunteers and either signed or not but the sign up effort is going to go on for another whole month. Maybe we can get 20% ? 25% ?

As I see it, any one percentage point gain is another rub of Gordo's nose through his own doo-doo.

Great minds think alike

It is fairly insipid to hear people talk about how taxpayer-subsidized recreational facilities are "non-political." The community center system is itself evidence of commitment to certain political values, so the idea that these are apolitical, nonpolitical spaces is hogwash; they already shout loud and clear "We are socialists!"

And it is OK to be socialists, but what is not right is socialists suggesting, either through ignorance or for more nefarious reasons, that their antique projects, like community centers, are no longer political institutions. Once political, always political. It's really disturbing how many aspects of socialism are now considered "non-political."

And as to the issue, IMO if it's a public building, any sort of political activity is fine as long as it does not make the typical use impossible---inconveniencing members of the public in use of public spaces may be desirable and necessary in order to cause social change. For example, community centers are often infested with "true believers" in law and order who have children. These people support drug prohibition and therefore are the cause of gun violence and enrichment of organized crime networks. They must be informed of their harmful action, but I suspect that protesters would be turned out the door for upsetting the poor dears.

So, if this is the thin end of becoming civilized and respecting the right to protest peacefully anytime, anywhere if the land is open to the public, good work.

The whole world is a theatre, and the patch of ground occupied by any one man at a time belongs to the occupier. Turning peaceful occupiers out simply because you don't like their message is uncivil.

To all concerned BCERs
The fight against the hated HST was caused by the Campbell government themselves.They have lied continuosly about BC rail, pussed the carbon tax down our throats passed the HST without 1 thought or conceration for the voters of BC this is not a democracy this is dictatorship.Canadians will not nor should they ever stand for it.Way to go BC no more sitting back and taking the crap from the likes of dictator Campbell and his croonies.Wher are the liberals that we thought had GUTS and would fight for our rights and the future generation ie you kids and grand children,
Blair Henderson Surrey bc.

Whether or not they agree with it, or if it inconveniences some, there is a right to freedom of speech, association, and expression on public property under the Charter of Rights under the Canadian Constitution. What good are these rights if they exclude public affairs or political matters?, which was why they were included to begin with. Community centers are public property, as public property they are subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms under the Canadian Constitution since they are financed by taxpayers. If they were to allow HST petitioners into the community centers then they are not setting any precedent they are following previous precedents set by the Supreme Court in 1991 and the Canadian Constitution. Sorry to break it to you but this isn't North Korea or Iran.

Please understand as you may think this is all about politic, IT IS NOT...it is about being a victim of the Liberal government and haveing ALL our voices heard to say "you shoved this tax down our throats, and you did wrong". I have the honour to meet Chuck Cadman and he showed people how politics should be brought forward, ASK THE PEOPLE NOT TELL THE PEOPLE.
Gordo has shoved us to far and now we are holding him accountable and if this makes you unhappy so be it. There is nothing wrong with allowing us in all public spaces.

Are other public spaces off limits to political discourse. If not please tell where it is allowed. audreylaferriere@yahoo.ca 778-329-1250

I am not surprised. It started with the politicization of the senior staff at City Hall. Where will it end?

Hey, I guess I can set up a Conservative table at each of the Community Centres now and sign up members as they are walking in and out. This is great! I am sure the Park Board won't have a problem with that.

I'd like to know how many of the people who have commented on this post are even from Vancouver and use the community centres.

I certainly know NDP operative Gary E. isn't from Vancouver, and for him this is all about sinking the Liberals and not about anything else.

Blair Henderson and Nina, in both of their comments try to state that this isn't about politics, but go on to rail against Campbell. Please folks lets at least be honest now.

Oleg, this has nothing to do with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Nice to see every immigrant that comes to Canada wear that document like it relates to any cause they support.

As I've stated the petition has surpassed it's goal and THE ONLY purpose this serves going forward is to further politicize all branches of civic government as Vision has been doing since day 1.

Get your signatures elsewhere, leave our community centres alone......especially if you reside in another city (Gary E.) and have a political axe to grind. 2013 will be here before you know it, you get your say then.

@marko - I think you should be able to set up a conservative membership table in the foyer at city hall. Why not? If we're such a free and democratic society, then why can't political parties set up booths right on the city hall premises and sell memberships there.

This is nuts and just one more example of how vision won't sleep until every bureaucrat at city hall is a card carrying member of vision vancouver and hollyhock corp.

"...assaulting patrons with their viewpoint or cause."

Believe it or not, people have the right to initiate verbal interactions with strangers in public. It's not assault. You of course also have the right to say "go away" and feel all offended that someone *gasp* talked to you.

"To involve our community centres into a political protest goes against everything the park board stands for."

The park board shouldn't stand for anything, it should cut the grass, trim the trees, clean the pools and back away from my rights.

"...a neutral and peaceful inner sanctum that serves as a refuge"

It's a community centre not a holy temple of some kind. It's for soccer lessons not spiritual enlightenment.

These anti-freedom advocates have truly gone bonkers.

The Thought of The Day

"The BC Liberals are in the Mesosphere; they are like the meteorite burning up during its fall to Earth. The NDP are just below in the Stratosphere, trying hard to get Up there... by hot air ballooning. Vancouver Vision are their ballast, their sandbags,usually released one sandbag at a time. They forgot one thing though,their balloon can only reach that high. Lunatics!"

I am against the HST. BC Liberals are a bunch of terrible liars. Gordon Campbell is their Fool in Chief. I put my name down on the HST petition two Saturdays ago, outside my community center. Guess what? I approached the guy with the clipboard, because he was simply standing there looking a bit embarrassed. I didn't know the guy wasn't "supposed to be there" and it didn't bother me at all. If you missed him however you could always go to the nearby cafe, or gym on certain days and do the same thing...Sign the petition.

What bothers me dearly however, is the visible involvement of the NDP backed, Vision municipal government in the affairs of the city's non politicized community centers. We should be treating this petition canvass as a lemonade stand on a long holiday. You set up wherever you want and you make sure you don't stand in people's paths. If someone tells you to move because you block their entrances/ exits or create havoc with your actions, you move. No harm done. Period.

But don't put this in legal form, in the form of a 'dictate', a new shitty by-law, guideline, suggestion, 'we tell you what to do 'cause we are so smart' which is simply, nothing less than a political fart-mobile for the opposition.

I signed the petition for the same reason I would not have signed it now,in the officially 'designated' space. BC Liberals shoved their HST up my ass. Now what? It is NDP/ Vancouver Vision's play of the month? Well, I think not.

What's next on their agenda, allowing beer parties, hockey induced brawls and fornicating yoga classes in there?
Not so fast, dream on, wishful thinking, 'cause...

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.


And one other thing.

If this was a Charter issue, or possibly a Freedom of Speech issue, the City of Vancouver's legal department would be recommending the Park Board drop the policy altogether.

What they are proposing is a special one-time exemption, which then makes the policy mute anyway.

So let's recap, this is not a legal issue either for those that pretend to be lawyers.

Repeat after me. Vision=NDP. The NDP want to defeat the Liberals. The HST referendum is nothing more than pure politics. Vanderzalm and Bill Tieleman working together to support Carole James. Our non-partisan community centres become ground zero for NDP political protests against HST. Vision=NDP. Get the picture now?

Glen,
I did go on the rail against Gordo because that is what I have deadicate my life to do, holding Politicians both in Federal/Provincial government ACCOUNTABLE ....I have also "went on the rail" as you call it againts John Les,John Van Dougan and Steven Harper and this is just to name afew. I also hold other level of governments accountable.
This HST is and will stay NON-PARTESAN and because it has been approved by elections it should be allowed in all public places, this is not in no way a fly by night petition and is no way a start for others to jump in and go crazy. If the canvasser do not approach people and just sit there then what is the harm?

Marko,

Through the talk about the HST you CLEARLY MISSED the part when it has been said over and over again it is NON-PARTISAN INITIATIVE PETITION, so how can you even connect this to you wanting to sign up members for ANY party.

Anyone who thinks that the HST petition is "non-partisan" by virtue of the fact that so many different kinds of partisans are involved is naive. The HST is an anti-government initiative bolstered by the activities of NDP and BC Conservative operatives. So quit telling yourself that you're on the side of the angels because of that excuse. You're either a dishonest partisan, or a complete sucker.

@dear dear. I couldn't have said it better myself. Either these folks are totally naive, or they know exactly what they're doing. For their sake, I hope they're just naive and don't realize they're getting suckered in by the NDP and the Zalmites. By the way, wasn't it Vandoorslam who brought in the property purchase TAX (read TAX) in BC?? Now this guy is the spiritual leader of a movement against the HST. Give me a break. His phoney campaign against this tax is just one big ego trip to repair his reputation. What sheer hogwash.

Jason:

I think it has more to do with Zalm being a land developer.

To Glenn Hall,
Could it be that you played stopped too many pucks without a mask?
Nah, even the hockey playing Glenn Hall is wiser that that.
It's not mute, it's moot you newt!!!!
Non, partisan, give me a break. This initiative by Vision is as non-partisan as the complete filling of the bureaucracy at City Hall with friends and insiders.
The Parks Board have a time honored tradition of staying away from partisan politics. They have left the politics to the Board room at Beach Ave where it belongs.
All over the system there are people from all walks of life. all political persuasions working together on local boards. They work in partnership with the Parks Board to deliver a fantastic community based set of programs and services that are unique to this city, and without parallel anywhere else on this continent. That is what you risk when you support this bonehead move to allow a one-time exemption to the policy. Forget what the issue is, take the high road. That is what has made the system great. Keep it great.

This opinion piece is sadly indicative of the bizarre mindset that afflicts many otherwise intelligent people--namely, the idea that "politics" is some sort of communicable disease from which poor, impressionable citizens must be protected at all costs.

For example, the VPL has a policy prohibiting the posting of notices by parties or other political organizations. Translink had a similar policy regarding ads on buses, until it was recently declared unconstitutional.

If Canada is a free and democratic society, neither the Parks Bd., the VPL, nor any other body should be presuming to ban free speech from public places. In any other country, we'd call such a policy fascist. Here, I suppose it's better described as misguided paternalism. But it's just as odious and stupid.

Who appointed you commissar? And since when did free people have to ask permission to exercise free speech in public places?

"...another day of lessons in ideology trumping common sense."

It goes without saying, of course, that you attribute "common sense" to your own political views and "ideology" to the views of those with whom you disagree. Mike Harris pulled a similar stunt in Ontario in the mid-1990s with his so-called common sense revolution. In that case, common sense turned out to be draconian neo-conservative agenda.

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