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Vancouver mayor unveils transition team for elimination of elected park board


Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim has introduced a team tasked with overseeing his desired dissolution of the elected park board with responsibility for parks and recreation to be taken over by city council.

The Park Board Transition Working Group, announced at a Thursday morning news conference, is made of five people who either have direct experience with the park board or a connection to community athletics in Vancouver.

Catherine Evans is a former Vision Vancouver Park Board Commissioner, Shauna Wilton is a former deputy general manager of the park board who also spent time as the interim general manager, Jordan Nijjar is a soccer coach, Jennifer Wood is the director of BC Diving and Gregor Young is the director of Vancouver United Football Club.

The working group will also include the mayor, councillors Rebecca Bligh and Sarah Kirby-Yung, along with the mayor’s chief of staff and one park board commissioner.

The timeline outlined in the working group’s terms of reference is for six months.

“The current system is broken and no amount of tweaking will fix it,” Sim said. “This move will bring parks and recreation under the direct oversight of city council. This aligns the management structure for our parks and recreation with how it’s done in literally every city in Canada.”

The move requires a change to the Vancouver Charter, a provincial statute regulating the city and the park board.

The province has said it expects to see a robust transition plan that includes consultation with the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

"This is an important transition, there are significant First Nations engagement requirements anytime you're talking about governance transitions like this in our province,” Premier David Eby said in December, shortly after the mayor announced his intentions.

At Thursday’s news conference, Sim touted a letter of support from the Musqueam Indian Band and said conversations have taken place with the Squamish and the Tsleil-Waututh.

“At this time, səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation) does not have anything to say on this matter since discussions are still ongoing between leadership and the City of Vancouver,” a spokesperson for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation said in an email.

The Squamish Nation has not yet responded to CTV News inquiries.

Several current and former park board commissioners opposed to the transition were also in attendance at city hall on Thursday – including some who were elected with A Better City Vancouver but have since left the party over this issue.

"There was never any comment about removing the park board in any way,” said commissioner Laura Christensen, formerly with ABC. “If that had been the case, I would not have run with ABC or run for the park board in that case."

The abolition of the elected park board did not appear in any ABC campaign documents or the party’s official election platform.

When asked about whether he made the electorate aware of his plans before they went to the polls, the mayor has repeatedly referred to a single interview where he discussed the possibility.

“There are a lot of issues at the park board that need to be fixed and they need to be fixed now,” Sim told CTV News on May 25, 2022. “If that means getting rid of the elected park board and have them report to council, then that’s exactly what we’ll do."

Sim referred to that interview again when asked about the move during his working group announcement.

"We were very clear before we went to the polls. On May 25th I said it to a reporter…basically we told everyone before the election,” Sim said on Thursday.

Critics have said a single reference in one media interview does not qualify as informing voters of the intention ahead of the election.

“A single interview is not expressive of real intent in a legitimate way during an election,” said Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr. “They put out a 94-point platform – and refer to it all the time – and in that platform it says not a word about dissolving the park board.” Top Stories

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