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Vancouver mayor to propose significant changes involving park board Wednesday: sources

Ken Sim
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Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim is expected to propose some fundamental changes to the city's park board at a news conference scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday.

The exact details of the proposal have not been released, but an announcement from the mayor's office indicates he will be introducing a "proposed motion to change the Vancouver Charter" – the provincial law that governs how the city operates.

Sources tell CTV News the mayor and his A Better City Vancouver (ABC) majority on council will propose significant changes to how the city functions.

Because the Vancouver Charter is a provincial law, the council majority cannot make changes to it. Rather, councillors would have to request that the provincial legislature amend the charter to incorporate their desired changes.

When Sim first announced his 2022 mayoral campaign, he pledged to abolish the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation – the only elected municipal park board in Canada – and bring its responsibilities under the umbrella of city council. 

He later backed off of that pledge, promising his party would try to fix the park board instead. 

"That was one of the many reasons why he did get elected with a significant majority," Tom Digby, park board commissioner.

"He walked away from many of his controversial opinions. Here he is after the election and he seems to have revived this idea and nobody voted for this."

Digby went on to explain that the park board is a small democracy with a mandate to preserve the natural beauty of Vancouver. The park board has over 1,000 employees but Digby believes if changes are made they will likely impact the elected board, not staff.

"I think its going to lead to a referendum. I don't think the mayor would expect the province would just make the change," said Digby via Zoom. 

Last month, the city's auditor general released the findings of a performance audit of the park board, noting significant gaps in revenue management. 

At the time, critics told CTV News the report showed just how dysfunctional the park board has been.

Former park board commissioner, Aaron Jasper, told CTV News on Tuesday that if the mayor feels the park board is not acting fast enough to fix up assets, like pools and community centres, the solution is to invest more money into the board.

 "Eliminating seven elected commissioners. I'm not sure how that is going to better serve the residents of Vancouver. I think that is a power grab," said Jasper.

ABC Vancouver ran six candidates for the park board in the 2022 election, and all of them were elected. Digby was the lone Green representative.

Digby alleges that Sim's intention for Wednesday's news conference at 10 a.m. is to announce plans to abolish the park board.

He called the move "petty" in a social medai post. 

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