Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver caucus have denied the park board the governance of Hastings Park.
They also rejected in a special council meeting today (August 1) a proposal to give the board control of all park or green spaces in the 62-hectare public land.
Robertson and his Vision allies approved instead a staff recommendation that essentially retains council’s full control over the park, home of the popular summer PNE fair. They also voted to appoint a new board for Hastings Park and the Pacific National Exhibition.
The current PNE board, whose members are appointed by council, manages the site, except for the Hastings Racecourse, which is operated by the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, and the park board–run Empire Fields.
It wasn’t a question of council’s authority to delegate governance to the park board, a similarly elected civic body. Answering queries from Green councillor Adriane Carr and Non-Partisan Association councillor Elizabeth Ball, city manager Penny Ballem stated that the city actually could do so. In a presentation to council, she stated that the Pacific National Exhibition Enabling and Validating Act passed by the provincial government in 2003 gave council "absolute discretion" with the park.
But Ballem also said at the meeting that allowing the park board to administer Hastings Park isn’t the best option.
On May 27 this year, Vision park-board commissioners Aaron Jasper and Trevor Loke moved a motion to the board asking council to let the park board administer Hastings Park. According to the motion, this will increase not only public access to the park but also transparency in decision-making. It was approved unanimously by the Vision-dominated board.
NPA park commissioner Melissa De Genova noted after today’s meeting that council’s decision is a "very interesting" result.
"I find it very interesting that the Vision park board had unanimously voted for this along with other commissioners on the board, myself, and [NPA] commissioner [John] Coupar, and their own council didn’t vote for this today," De Genova told the Georgia Straight in an interview at City Hall.
De Genova continued: "Maybe they [Vision] need to caucus more and decide what they’re going to do ahead of time."
Vision councillor Raymond Louie is the current chair of the PNE board. At the council meeting, he filed a motion to adopt a staff recommendation to designate a new board with specific skills.
"This moves the issue forward in terms of the management of that site," Louie told the Straight after the meeting. "Council has decided that a refined version of the current board is appropriate."
Louie added this aligns with a December 2010 approval by council of a $300-million master plan for the park. The plan includes the expansion of the Playland amusement facility and the building of a new convention site.
City staff will prepare another report to council on how to implement the decision adopted today. A new board is expected to be named in 2014.
The park board will retain control of Empire Fields.
After her motion for park-board control of the entire park was rejected by Robertson and Vision councillors, Coun.Carr tabled another one. It was to give the park board control of the property’s Momiji Gardens, Italian Gardens, and the Sanctuary, a natural pond and marsh area, in addition to Empire Fields. This, too, was defeated by Vision.