Vision Vancouver park commissioner Constance Barnes says the anti-HST campaign will soon be visible in public buildings in Vancouver.
In a phone interview with the Georgia Straight, Barnes said that she just came out of caucus this morning (May 29), where Vision commissioners agreed to bring forward a motion at the June 7 meeting.
Barnes said that she expects that the board will approve the motion, which will permit registered anti-HST canvassers to collect signatures in the lobbies of community centres.
"My point is the HST will have an effect on every single body that comes to our community centres," Barnes said.
Barnes added that she's particularly concerned about low-income residents who attend the Strathcona community centre, which she is responsible for as a commissioner.
Earlier this month, the Straight reported that the park board would not allow anti-HST canvassers into community-centre lobbies because it violated a policy prohibiting political communications in those locations. Anti-HST petitioners have been allowed into public buildings in Surrey, Burnaby, Richmond, and Coquitlam.
After the article appeared, B.C. Civil Liberties Association president Robert Holmes wrote a letter to the chair, Aaron Jasper, notifying him that the ban violated people's constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression.
Registered anti-HST canvasser Joseph Lin told the Straight earlier this month that he had been forced to collect signatures outside of the Riley Park Community Centre because of the ban. After the article appeared, the park board offered him the opportunity to collect signatures in a room in the centre if he paid a $100 fee.
Barnes said that the board is now prepared to let the anti-HST canvassers into the lobbies because the harmonized tax will have an impact on people who pay user fees.
She added that the board will examine the existing policy and consult with the legal department because she doesn't want to allow anyone with any type of petition into community centres. She noted that the anti-HST initiative, as opposed to a right-to-life petition for example, has a direct impact on all facility users.
COPE's only commissioner on the Vancouver park board is also prepared to support allowing registered anti-HST canvassers to collect signatures in the lobbies of community centres.
Comm. Loretta Woodcock told the Straight by phone from Toronto that the approval should rest with the community-centre boards.
"They should be accepted in community centres that are willing," Woodcock said.
Like Barnes, Woodcock emphasized that the HST will have a direct impact on people who use park-board facilities. In addition to collecting fees for swimming and golf, the park board also charges fees for marina users.
Woodcock noted that editorials in various newspapers, including the Vancouver Sun, repeatedly mention that businesses will be able to claim money back from the HST that they will be forced to pay.
However, Woodcock said that there will be no benefit for the park board and its users, pointing out that the cost of recreational services will increase seven percent on top of a previous four-percent hike. She predicted that this will cause seniors, low-income people, and youth to cut back on expenditures in this area.
"They're not going to exercise as much," Woodcock said.
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