Greens and NPA team up to battle Vision's lack of action

Post by Mike Klassen in


Who will join hands leading up to the 2011 election?

We've not discussed the happenings of the Vancouver Park Board lately, but a recent joint press release from Green Party park commissioner Stuart Mackinnon and his colleague the NPA's Ian Robertson has our attention.

The content of the release is important. Both Robertson and Mackinnon are urging their fellow Vision commissioners to vote on finally removing Jericho Wharf. The aging eyesore is apparently the source of leaching contaminants that will harm marine life, and of course it's limiting access to the waterfront (it's currently fenced off).

In 2008 the NPA majority park board voted to have the structure removed, leaving a small portion as a monument to its original military purpose, and have the waterfront restored for public access. As with anything with "heritage" in our city, there was some opposition to that option. Either way – keeping or restoring the structure – was going to cost millions. The NPA accepted staff's recommendation to get rid of it, but since they've been elected majority Vision appear to have avoided the subject. Hence the release.

The sub-text of the Wharf release is even more interesting. In case you've not noticed we're a year away from a full-fledged election campaign and 14 months away from heading to the polls. Alliances are lining up that will have a significant impact on the electoral success of certain candidates. The cooperation between the NPA and the Green Party is perhaps symbolic at this time, but without question it cannot make the Vision backroom very happy.

By being antagonistic to the Green's Stuart Mackinnon, even using their paid attack dogs to question his judgment, Vision signalled that they do not see themselves in a true coalition of equals. Their persistant jabs at COPE – both online and through private discussions – also suggests that Vision knows that they're always wearing the pants in their relationship. For accommodaters like David Cadman and David Chudnovsky, that's fine. However, for many longtime COPE folks, abiding a developer-friendly at times bullying political partner is a poor option.

This is probably why we're starting to hear from a once potent political tour de force, COPE's Tim Louis. In a recent interview with the Georgia Straight, Louis has suggested that if COPE is to partner with Vision again in 2011 that they should agree to a joint mayoral candidate. This news appeared to give Vision's ED Ian Baillie a bad case of acid reflux:

“Who’s bringing that up?” asked Baillie.

“We had two separate nominations last time,” Baillie told the Straight by phone. “We are two separate parties. We’ve always been very clear on that.”

In a related Straight report, Coun. Andrea Reimer seems to be pining for some kind of COPE-Green-Vision coalition in 2011, also indicating she's not decided on a run herself next year.

For the NPA, they have a decision to make as to whether they intend to run a full slate. Rumours are that the party plans to leave two spots open on each of the three boards – council, park and school board. Is a door being left ajar for the Green Party or anyone else to run? It certainly would make sense stragetically, and mathematically to run a smaller slate of candidates. The fact that Robertson and Mackinnon seem to have the kind of mutual respect needed for a joint release, is a very interesting sign indeed.

Here is the joint press release sent out by Commissioners Mackinnon & Robertson:


Delay in removing the wharf is causing severe environmental damage to fish habitat

Vancouver, BC – Vancouver Park Board Commissioners Ian Robertson and Stuart Mackinnon are demanding that the Park Board take immediate action to remove the wharf at Jericho Beach.  Information provided to the Park Board from Fisheries and Oceans Canada outlines that fish habitat and other marine life is being severely compromised due to toxic contaminants leeching into the water from old creosote pilings.

“This is another example of the Vision Vancouver Park Board caucus waffling on a decision by the previous park board to return the beach to a natural foreshore.  Not only is taxpayer money being wasted but now we have a significant environmental problem”, says Park Board Commissioner Ian Robertson.

The Jericho Marginal Wharf, built in the 1930s, was once used by the Royal Canadian Air Force as a float plane base. It has been closed to the public since the summer of 2009 as it has been deemed a hazard due to age related structural problems.

“Vancouver, being a coastal city, is blessed with a beautiful foreshore, but unfortunately much of it is not accessible to the public. Returning this area to its natural habitat will enhance the area, and create a haven for both people and nature” says Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon. “It’s time the Park Board moved on this”.

The previous Park Board voted in July 2008 to remove a significant portion of the wharf and return the beach to a natural state.  Despite three previous public meetings and strong public support for returning the beach to a natural state, the Vision Vancouver Park Board caucus voted unanimously in March 2009 to rescind the previous Board’s decision.

UPDATE: One of our readers pointed out that last week the Vancouver Park Board voted to close the Stanley Park Petting Zoo because of a $250,000 budget shortfall. Mayor Robertson's office renovations are costing are $260,000.

- post by Mike


An NPA/Green Alliance would serve to trounce Vision/Cope. Let's hope the NPA does leave a few spots open for the Green candidates and they team up to bring common sense back to city government. It would give the NPA life and create something to vote "for".

I dunno about an NPA/Green alliance even though Robertson/McKinnon are on the same page on this matter.

Councillor Reimer was first elected as a Green Party school board trustee in 2002 and jumped aboard Mayor Gregor's 'Green Express' in 2008.

I mean... come on... backyard chicken coops, a vegetable garden on former City Hall lawn, beehives on City Hall's roof and the downtown bike lanes reek of the Green Party agenda. And VV obviously has that voting segment wrapped up.

BTW, the corrugated steel railing along the Jericho Wharf was the original bridge railing from the Lions Gate Bridge, which was recycled from the northern LGB sectional replacements from the mid-1970's.

It was placed thereon as a part of Habitat '76 at Jericho. I also hope that a future use can be made of same if the wharf is torn down. When P.E. Trudeau visited Habitat '76 he was apparently most impressed with the recycling of that LGB bridge rail for that specific use.

Probably the first efficient "green" recycled material ever in Vancouver prior to recycling coming into vogue years later.

I hope this happens. Stuart Mackinnon and Ian Robertson, along with Loretta Woodcock, have been the only worthwhile commissioners on the current Parks Board. In fact, in my opinion they are pretty close to being the only worthwhile representatives in the council.

Whether COPE, Green or NPA it would be good to have the opportunity to elect more people with sincere openly held beliefs, in place of the opportunism and secret agendas that have been at the heart of Vision since its creation.

Those of us concerned about Jericho Wharf were shocked to hear of the abrupt call by Commissioners MacKinnon and Robertson to take down the wharf "immediately" due to a Department of Fisheries and Oceans report. A public consultation process on the future of the wharf was started by the Park Board in November 2009 – two meetings were held with a few “stakeholders,” a pair of landscape architects, an engineer, and two outside facilitators. Follow-up was expected soon, but in fact there has been no Board action or discussion since (the Olympics intervened, and the Board never returned to the issue).

Certainly no decision about the wharf should be made suddenly, when the consultation process has not been followed through. Discussion of creosote was very much a part of the November talks, and several possible ways of dealing with the situation came up.

In the meantime, citizens have been deprived of enjoyment of the wharf for two summers due to the six-foot fence erected in May 2009 by Park Board staff (without prior approval by the Board). This was based on an informal meeting and note from a consultant who walked briefly under the wharf as part of a casual observation.

As far as we know, as of this past spring, no testing had been done to evaluate actual creosote emissions, and/or creosote in the beach sand under the wharf. If the fisheries report gives new science and hard data on this, it will be valuable information. Two of us walked far under the wharf at very low tide last spring, and did notice a pronounced tarry smell from one upper support at the eastern end. Further beneath the wharf, there was no tar or creosote smell perceptible to us, just the smells of ocean, seaweed, wet wood, and shellfish leavings.

The conditions for fish under the wharf will not have changed in recent decades (the wharf has been there for 70+ years). There is no sudden emergency. Situations for fish and wildlife are legitimately among the concerns faced in evaluating urban choices, but are not the only values to be weighed.

Solutions or improvements may be available without destroying the wharf. The yacht club a block away has a large, solid pier extending further out than the wharf. Fish presumably either swim around it, or flit through the narrow, shadowed channel underneath the shore end. Conceivably, for the wharf, the fish could either be diverted around it, or a suitable avenue could be made underneath. One architect at the November consultation suggested that openings could be created in the wharf to allow light to filter down - which might take some weight off the pilings and also create a visually interesting feature, while brightening the water for fish. Also, even wharf advocates expect that the wharf would be at least somewhat downsized, helping to alleviate shade concerns.

On hot days this summer, it was obvious that more people than ever are using the public spaces along the waterfront. As the population grows, spectacular viewpoints such as those afforded by the wharf will be more and more prized. The wharf is a unique historic space, and a traditional destination for walkers and bikers. Once gone, the opportunity it can provide for a spacious public plaza on the westside waterfront is gone for good. The public interest is very much a part of this discussion.

The Park Board voted in March of 2009 to pursue a thorough public consultation process before making a final decision on the wharf’s future. The Park Board Commissioners need to follow through on their commitment.

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