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Premier Eby says province 'committed' to abolish Vancouver park board

Eby: "While there remain some details to be addressed, we are confident they will be resolved in the coming months."
Premier David Eby, seen here during a visit to Vancouver city hall in 2023, announced Friday that his government is “committed” to abolish the elected Vancouver park board.

Premier David Eby announced Friday that his government will make the necessary amendments to the Vancouver Charter to satisfy Mayor Ken Sim’s wish to abolish the elected park board.

Eby said in a statement that “we are committed to advancing the dissolution” of the park board in the next legislative session. If that happens, parks and recreation will be under the control of city council.

“The Province appreciates the enormous amount of work Mayor Sim and the City of Vancouver has done to move this forward,” Eby said. “While there remain some details to be addressed, we are confident they will be resolved in the coming months.”

Eby didn’t identify which details need to be addressed.

But his government has been clear that it had questions over land ownership, the future of workers at the park board and consultation with the Musqueam Indian Band, Squamish First Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation.

Eby’s statement comes the same week that Sim’s office released a letter from the three Nations that indicates their support for the abolition of the board.

City manager Paul Mochrie recently outlined steps city staff is taking to accommodate ABC Vancouver’s wish, which was approved in a formal motion at a council meeting in December.

Mochrie’s update can be read here.

In a statement Friday, Sim said he was "pleased" with Eby's announcement, but disappointed changes will not occur in the current legislative session.

“His dedication to making the necessary changes to the Vancouver Charter in the next earliest legislative session ensures our parks and recreation facilities can serve our community to their fullest potential," the mayor said.

“This announcement welcomes a new era of parks and recreation in Vancouver and provides certainty to the City, our valued staff, and Vancouverites as a whole. While we are disappointed that this transition will not be taking place this current legislative session, the Premier’s commitment affords us additional time to collaborate with staff to ensure a smooth transition."

'Broken system'

Sim announced Dec. 6, 2023 that he wanted to eliminate the board, emphasizing it wasn’t a criticism of the commissioners — six of whom at the time were members of his own party — but a necessary move to fix “a broken system.”

Sim has also claimed the shift in governance will save “millions of dollars,” although he has yet to provide reporters a breakdown of where the savings would come from and whether there would be job loss.

The mayor’s move caught three of his own ABC commissioners off guard.

Brennan Bastyovanszky, Scott Jensen and Laura Christensen now sit as independents and are being supported by former commissioners from all political stripes in their fight to keep the elected board.

'Can been kicked down road'

Bastyovanszky said Friday that Eby's commitment to the "next legislative session" gives him and others opposed to Sim's move more time to defeat the mayor's plan to abolish the board.

"I'm pleased that this can has been kicked down the road by the premier," he said, noting the provincial government was unlikely to have a fall sitting of the legislature because of this year's election.

"Where is the rush? And why is the mayor in such a hurry to get this through without any consultation? It is so suspicious and it just raises so many questions and concerns."

Sim’s rationale for abolishing the board was based on what he described as a “broken system,” which he said is not working in the best interests of citizens.

The mayor has pointed to a leaky Kitsilano pool, the facade of the Aquatic Centre falling off, a jurisdictional dispute over a water pipe at Spanish Banks and the need for him to seek money from donors to get the Stanley Park train operating for the holidays.

Critics have pointed out that assets managed by the board are owned by the city.

Note: This story has been updated since first posted.

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