Park board prepares to reverse its position on anti-HST petitions in community centres

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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May 30, 2010 at 1:13am

Oh good Constance Barnes..her imparied record makes Campbell look like a charter member of MADD...her dad wa sa class act though and he suffered

Island Man

May 30, 2010 at 7:10am

Wow..they finally woke up to he fact that public facilities should be open to legal public petitions...what a revelation.
What disturbs me is they took so long to figure this out.


May 30, 2010 at 2:09pm

too little too late.

glen p robbins

May 31, 2010 at 12:20pm

The BC Civil Liberties -- gets all lofty about Charter Rights -- which are likely applied, misapplied or ignored on any given day of the year in this province and the country -- we certainly don't need to talk Ottawa speak to make common sense of this. The Park Board is a municipal body governed by a Charter that allegedly keeps community centres from politics -- likely a good policy -- most people like to avoid politics when they can.

What is different here is that the Fight HST Initiative is Registered under BC law and Election BC - this creates validity of the campaign province wide including Vancouver whose residents are part of the province.

The connection between special approval for the Fight HST campaign predicated on a reasonable schedule for availability--in these Vancouver community centres is glaring and common sense would have had this turned around in short order -- some may say better late than never---but as far as I am concerned --this decision is taking much too long and the question I would ask is: How many potential signatures were lost to the Fight HST campaign owing to the long delay by Vancouver's Park Board to permit the Fight HST campaign in civic community centres in the City of Vancouver?

My guess is 30 to 50 thousand signatures. Someone on the Parks Board must have calibrated this -- at some time in the delay.

"Freedom of Expression" -- let's all sing along --Someone's coming Lord---

glen p robbins

May 31, 2010 at 1:38pm

This story and the delays I spoke of get better. Isn't Campbell talking about the law? -- a referendum if the Fight HST Initiative wins?

Well, as at today the Fight HST has 620,000 + signatures. 788,315 valid signatures would reflect 51% of British Columbians -- legally and politically Campbell would be cornered like a rat/the campaign would have satisfied the numbers from the Initiative and the number expected by most British Columbians (50% plus one) -- with 788,315 valid signatures.

Campbell et al have long since quit thinking about the success of the necessary 10% in each riding -- they are looking at the signature total -- if it hits the magic number of 788,315 valid signatures --51% of the total number of votes cast in the last provincial general election in 2009-- the People of British Columbia win -- lock, stock and barrel--Campbell and BC Liberals lose -- Zero Sum with no place to go.

Makes the 30,000 to 50,000 signatures that Vancouver Parks Board delays cost the Fight HST (bringing 600,000 closer to 700,000 with over one month to go) in Vancouver (where Campbell has plied most of his political trade) Suspicious --- political interference.

Joseph Lin

Jun 1, 2010 at 1:44pm

I participate in this HST Petition for the democracy. We saw many many people eager to participate in this historic process, but we have only short time left for people to sign HST. Many volunteers like me are very busy in their daily life.

Public servants have to consider and response to citizens' need as soon as possible. But, why does it take three weeks long for you to approve this "constitutional right"? Till you "approve" this special motion, we may not need community centres any more.

The left eats its own

Jun 2, 2010 at 9:10pm

Gordon Campbell has not had this much negative coverage in the main stream press in the last 10 years.

glen p robbins

Jun 5, 2010 at 9:37am

To "The Left" -- What choice to they have -- A Comptroller Generals' report -- starting a scrap on the Education file?