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
- post by Mike