22 April 2017

Some random thoughts on Earth day 2017

  • Earth Day was started 47 years ago. Gaylord Nelson, a Democratic Senator from Wisconsin, was moved to action after witnessing the ravages of an oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969. He partnered with California Republican Senator Pete McCloskey working to promote events across America on April 22, 1970. 
  • The twinning of the Kinder Morgan pipeline will increase oil tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet nearly seven-fold.
  • Friday April 21, 2017 was Britain’s first ever working day without coal power since the Industrial Revolution, according to the National Grid.
  • Germany, Denmark, & Scotland have had days when they ran their entire grids on solar and wind power. 
  • In 2015, 97% of Scottish household electricity came from wind power. 
  • Costa Rica ran their grid for 450 days in the past two years totally on renewables.
  • Sweden is the first country to declare its intention to go 100% renewable.
  • While 60% of Canada's electricity comes from hydro-electricity, only 3% comes from wind, solar, and bio-mass.
  • While hydro-electricity is a renewable, the flooding of prime agricultural land to build reservoirs like at site 'C' is not sustainable.
  •  British Columbia has a vast potential for wind power that is unused as the government's priority is fossil fuel extraction and transportation.
  • For 47 years we have come together to celebrate this place we call home and to work for a better, more sustainable world. As you think about the coming election and who should be elected, look to the party policies and vote for a government that understands that economic growth today shouldn't be on the shoulders of the generations to come. 

21 April 2017

5 ways Vancouver is bringing more wildlife back to the city

From restoring a salt marsh to creating wildlife corridors, Vancouver's biodiversity strategy aims to make wild animals at home in the city

 By: Metro Published on Fri Apr 21 2017

The Vancouver Park Board biodiversity strategy is starting to take root, one year after the wide-ranging plan was approved to bring wildlife back to the city. “There’s a social aspect to nature in the city — people want to be able to experience it as part of their daily lives,” said Nick Page, a biologist with the park board. 

Here are five projects or goals the park board is working on right now to bring the wild back to Vancouver.

1.     Salt marsh restoration in New Brighton Park
Vancouver has drastically altered its shoreline to make more space for industry and housing. But in New Brighton Park on Burrard Inlet, Port Metro Vancouver and the park board are working to remove fill that was placed there in the 1960s and restore a tidal salt marsh. The aim is to restore a habitat that once supported clam beds, juvenile salmon and shore birds.

2.     Native plants instead of invasive species
In the 1940s and 50s, Everett Crowley Park in Vancouver’s Killarney neighbourhood was a city dump. Today, the park board is removing invasive species such as Himalayan blackberry and Japanese knotweed that have flourished — but make it impossible for native tree species to grow. Restoring native plants creates a more welcoming home for native B.C. wildlife such as squirrels, woodpeckers and owls.

 3.     Bring buried creeks back into parks
Work is underway to reintroduce a creek back to New Brighton park, terminating in the salt marsh. That waterway is proposed to extend through Hastings Park along with a restored wetland. Tatlow Park in Kitsilano, where a stream once flowed, is another site the park board is considering. Bringing streams out into the open instead of flowing through pipes is actually cheaper and keeps the water cleaner, Page said.

4.     Create wildlife corridors
To thrive, wildlife needs to be able to move around the city, Page said. So finding ways to make corridors through the city — like the still-under-design Arbutus Greenway — is also an important part of the strategy. 

5.     Return of the wild 
One way to measure the success of biodiversity efforts is when animals come back to areas they left decades ago. Beavers are a common sight in Stanley Park — but recently they returned to Charleson Park in south False Creek. Page would like to see the return of smaller predators such as the American marten because that would signal the ecosystem is healthy enough to support the full food chain. He acknowledges humans and animals can come into conflict in the city. But “I think we can co-exist. Our alternatives are much more difficult and probably unsuccessful in terms of trying to manage or remove [animals].” 

Take Action 
Plant a native species and pollinators for a bee-friendly garden, with a wide range of flowering plants that will provide blooms from early spring right through the growing season into fall. Not only will the bees visit, it will attract birds and butterflies as well. For tips visit feedthebees.org.


11 April 2017

The passing of a Vancouver pioneer and icon: Bill Wong 1922-2017

Bill Wong
photo courtesy of Caroline Y.M Ng

The following is based on remarks I made at last night's meeting of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation plus some additional information provided by Bill's family:

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to recognize the passing of a Vancouver pioneer and icon. Bill Wong, of Modernize Tailors, the last of Chinatown Tailor Shops passed early on Saturday morning. 

Bill was born in Vancouver and raised on Pender street in Chinatown. Like many children of immigrants, Bills parents wanted more for their children than they could have. As a result, Bill and his brother Jack went to UBC and studied engineering. 

Upon graduation due to the systemic, institutional racism prevalent in Vancouver in the late 40s and early 50s, neither Jack nor Bill could find employment in their field and so they returned to the tailor shop of their parents. Ever hopeful for a chance, their younger brother Milton, a few years later, studied at UBC and was more successful breaking the colour bar becoming one of Vancouvers great financiers and philanthropists. You might remember Milton for bringing Dragon Boat racing to Vancouver for Expo 86

Bill, Milton, and Jack Wong

Jack and Bill continued through the years at Modernize Tailors, with Jack walking to work from his home near Queen Elizabeth park well into his 80s. Bill continued to work right up until this past Thursday. Bill Wong was 95 years old.

I had the great privilege to know Bill Wong and would drop by the shop when I was down that way. He always greeted me as Teacher’, an honourific showing his great esteem for education. He followed Vancouver politics and asked about the Park Board whenever I saw him.

With Bill Wong, another piece of Vancouver history passes. His story, and that of Modernize Tailors, has been told in the film Tailor Made: Chinatown's Last Tailors, a 2008 production you can see every once in a while, on BCs own Knowledge network.

Like many of his generation, Vancouvers parks were the Wong family's backyards and play space. He lived across from Queen Elizabeth park for many, many years and loved like it was his own. Bill was a keen golfer who played at the Vancouver Park Board courses--usually Fraserview or McCleery-- year round, two times per week for 50 year.

Bill was an avid gardener and greatly admired the work of our Parks gardeners. Bill and his wife Zoe were long time supporters and participants in the Renfrew Park Community Centre Seniors programs.

Bill's children, as well as his nieces and nephews, were all active with Vancouver Parks and Recreation or affiliated community associations. His daughter Glenna was a Recreation Programmer for almost 35 years. Bill's sons Steve and Peter were outdoor lifeguards on our beaches.

I hope you will join with me in extending our condolences to the Wong family, and thanking them for sharing Bills life and legacy with all of Vancouver. 

A video clip of my remarks here

A clip from Global News January 2012 here.

I've gained a few pounds but can still squeeze into my Modernize Tailors suit. photo by Shirley Joe

Vancouver Park Board approves new Joint Operating Agreement with Community Centre Associations

Vancouver Park Board
News Release
April 11, 2017

At a VancouverPark Board meeting last night, Commissioners approved a new Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) to offer to 20 Community Centre Associations (CCAs).
The decision caps off a one-year consultation between the Park Board and the CCAs and introduces a historic new chapter in their relationship.  
“The CCAs provided valuable feedback throughout this process which has resulted in a stronger document,” said Park Board Chair Michael Wiebe. “Approval of this new JOA marks a major step in rebuilding our long-standing partnership with the CCAs and helps ensure we continue to deliver the best possible recreation services to residents.”
The new JOA clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the Park Board, as well as those of the CCAs. Importantly, it expands access to recreation services and benefits for all residents in all communities across Vancouver.
Key new public benefits envisioned in the new agreement include:
·         Popular OneCard and Flexipass will be accepted city-wide
·         Low income discounts available at all community centres
·         Full access to community centres for all residents - no membership fees required
·         New system-wide recreation programs
CCAs and the Park Board jointly operate all but three of the Vancouver’s 24 community centres. 
The CCAs deliver programs in their centres that reflect local needs, while the Park Board operates and maintains the City owned community centre buildings. The Park Board also runs all pools, rinks and some fitness centres.  
CCAs play an important role in Vancouver’s recreation system. They design and operate programs in individual community centres that reflect local needs, foster community engagement and drive volunteer recruitment. CCAs also deliver special events for communities.
The story of Vancouver’s community centres began in 1949 when Marpole-Oakridge Community Centre opened in southwest Vancouver. Since then, the Park Board and community centre associations have operated under multiple joint operating agreements. Most of the current agreements date as far back as 1979. Over the years there have been many unsuccessful attempts to negotiate updated joint operating agreements with various parties.
The facilitated consultation launched in April 2016 was distinct from negotiations of past years in that it was a “one table” fully inclusive and transparent process model open to all community centre association boards and directors, with support and participation from all current Park Board Commissioners. It was an open process with information shared at key milestones. 
Community centre associations gave a considerable amount of feedback throughout the lengthy consultation that was incorporated into the JOA.
The signing deadline for CCAs is September 30, 2017 with the new JOA scheduled to take effect January 1, 2018.
Learn more about the new Joint Operating Agreement and consultation here.
Media contact:
Vancouver Park Board

10 April 2017

Vancouverites like gentle rain, and even torrential downpours. We don't, however, like rain that comes from the side apparently.

What your 'Vanniversary' says about Vancouver
The City of Vancouver set out to discover more about the people who live here

Martha Perkins / Vancouver Courier  April 8, 2017 09:25 AM

Vancouverites like gentle rain, and even torrential downpours. We don't, however, like rain that comes from the side apparently.   Photograph By David Marcu 

Vancouverites, you own a lot of umbrellas. You need to because you lose a lot of them, too.

You are very good recyclers but only a third of you have recently used a carshare.

To celebrate its birthday on April 6, the City of Vancouver used its TalkVancouver portal to ask residents about their own "Vanniversary" — the day that marks their arrival in Vancouver or, if they were born here, what they like to do in Vancouver on their birthday to celebrate..

More than 2,300 people responded. Here are some highlights.

About You

• 69 per cent moved here from somewhere else; the most common reason was the lure of west coast life

• 25 per cent were born and raised here

When you knew you were a Vancouverite

• “Frustrated with housing prices, we finally decided to pull the chute on Vancouver – but then we couldn't choose another Canadian city that had this balance of bikeability, weather, friends and fun. So we're here to stay....”

• “I am not there yet. I still feel pretty Spanish. But this Talk Vancouver is helping me to feel part of the city and build the identity I could say I am proud of..”

You and the Rain

• 55 per cent say "rain blowing sideways" is their least favourite type of rain

• 36 per cent like gentle spring rains — did the questionnaire ask how often? — but 22 per cent said torrential downpours were the best

• one-third own four or more umbrellas — that's because a lot of us lose them on a regular basis
You and the Snow

• while half of us thought winter was far too long, it also held some of our favourite memories such as skating on Trout Lake and brought people together

• “There was a blue sky in January!!! ," one respondent wrote. "I was probably in the best mood I have ever been in in January since I moved here. And I had so many random conversations -- I met more neighbours shoveling snow for 30 minutes than the five years had lived in my place."

• the city should have and could have done more to cope with the snow.

On Vancouver "typical" attitudes and behaviour

• beautiful, expensive and green were three of the most popular words to describe the city

• over 90 per cent recycle as much as they can

• 70 per cent of respondents had not used a carshare in the past three months

• the thrill of a Vancouver sunset never gets old but 74 per cent have ranted about real estate prices

• the top must-see places for out-of-town guests are Stanley Park (86 per cent), Granville Island (83 per cent) and a beach (51 per cent)

• the top three topics of conversation were housing (49 per cent), the weather (47 per cent) and restaurants and food (41 per cent)

For the full report is go here and find the link at the bottom of the article.

05 April 2017

Righting a past wrong

At the 10 April 2017 meeting of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, NPA Commissioner Casey Crawford has a motion on notice entitled "Recreation Fees for Pre-schoolers and Families". This motion would direct staff to "investigate the budget implications of adjusting the pre-school age category from the current '2 years of age and under', to '5 years of age and under'."

I applaud Commissioner Crawford for this motion. Fees for this age group were implemented in the 2011 fee schedule under a Vision Vancouver majority Park Board in that year's budget. I tried to amend the budget to retain the exemption for children 5 and under, but my amendment was defeated by the Vision and NPA Commissioners.

In my Betterparks blog post of 18 November 2010, I questioned whether that Board was the least progressive in living memory for this attack on families. In that article I wrote: 

"I moved the amendment as I believe this is an unfair burden to put on parents of young children. I simply don’t understand how bringing in new fees for toddlers will generate a significant amount of revenue for the Board. It will most probably discourage parents and children from being active and this will have long lasting costs for all of us. This new fee for young children follows the reduction in Community Centre programmers, a summer of cut-backs in playground programs, and the closing of the Kids Street Clubhouse after-school care program."

After being re-elected in 2014, I tried to change the fee schedule in the 2015 budget to exempt this age group, with the NPA and Vision Commissioners again defeating the amendment.

I am pleased that Commissioner Crawford is bringing this forward and hope that all Commissioners will support the motion. While I would prefer a more proactive approach, where we would direct staff to make this change in the next budget, thereby correcting this past mistake, I am prepared to follow the route chosen by Commissioner Crawford, and hear what our staff reports back. 

Getting a good start in life includes recreation. Any way we can help families instill an active, healthy lifestyle in their children will have benefits now and in the future, not only for them, but for our society as a whole.

29 March 2017

Vancouver's poorest community centres will get unique deal

Park board backs Strathcona Community Centre demands for secure funding
Megan Stewart / Vancouver Courier   March 28, 2017 12:19 PM
The community centre in Strathcona is saddled with unique, complex demands that set it apart from most others in the city and should have a distinct contract and secure funding.
This was the unanimous decision taken Monday night by the park board, now wrapping up a year-long effort to sign the city’s 21 community centre associations to a joint operating agreement. Proposing a different deal marks a new direction for Strathcona and potentially other community centres that struggle financially.
The park board is also prepared to put its hand out. It will consider “potential funding partners” that can “develop an interim as well as a long-term strategy for a sustainable funding model.”
The new direction was supported by the community centre association president.
“Over the last several months, it became clear that we couldn’t be supported in very significantly through the JOA,” said Shannon Williams about the joint operating agreement between centres and the park board that could still include an “investment fund” to a small amount of revenue from more to less profitable centres.
“They have really taken the step. It is a significant shift that the park board is saying they need to support community centres such as ours, so we are really heartened by that,” she said. “The board has heard us and understands and appreciates our concerns and those of other centers in similar situations.”
The decisions has two phases and will begin with recommendations specific to Strathcona on a short-term basis before long-term options are considered for it and any other community centre with similar financial limits and burdens.
“Something needed to be done differently,” said Vision commissioner Catherine Evans.
The Strathcona community centre association fundraises $1 million of its annual $1.7 million operating budget each year. Park board staff is tasked with researching models to follow or innovations to dream up and will present interim, short-term suggestions to the board by June 30. Long-term models will be presented by Nov. 30.
 “I would suggest staff was already working toward a solution with Strathcona, but I think it’s important we separate the process and formalize this so the commissioners and staff all recognize and that we are ready to address this,” said NPA commissioner Casey Crawford, who is the park board liaison to the Strathcona Community Centre and proposed an initial motion that he later revised alongside Evans because she had proposed a similar but separate motion of her own.
“Poverty isn’t restricted to one neighbourhood or two or three, it is throughout our city,” said Evans, who did not want the community centre in Strathcona to be mistaken as anything else. “It’s very important it be a community centre in the same way every other centre plays a central role in its community. The fact if faces funding challenges doesn’t change its role. It is just a difference of resources available to it through program fees.”
The Strathcona community centre association had asked the park board for guaranteed funding of $200,000 going forward. Depending on the operational model that is suggested and approved, they could get more, or less, from the park board or could be funded through numerous other government partners and a distinct model. For example, the Ray-Cam Co-operative Centre located a few blocks from Strathcona is not strictly a community centre, but provides many similar services and is operated through agreements with their a board of directors along with the city and BC Housing.
“I think most community centres say they would face funding challenges,” said Stuart Mackinnon, with the Green Party, who later commended the work of Strathcona representatives, staff and patrons for opening up about their struggles, both financial and human.
After the vote, a small group of spectators broke into applause. Many of them, including Williams, Ron Suzuki and Veronica Light, had attended every special public meeting held by the park board as the joint operating agreement is ironed out.
“We are really happy the board has heard us,” said Williams.

27 March 2017

Vancouver Park Board launches map showing best places to find flowering cherry blossom trees in city

23 March 2017 The Straight.com

Cherry trees will soon be in bloom around Vancouver, offering residents the chance to capture the city during one of the most beautiful times of the year. Photo by Cynthia Wong

Vancouver’s cherry blossom season is imminent and with it comes an opportunity to capture some seriously gorgeous shots of our city in full bloom.

To help residents make the most of the occasion, which will kick off alongside the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival on March 30, the Vancouver Park Board has put together a handy map presenting the best spots in the city to find the pretty, pink-and-white petals.

The map includes the addresses of over 2,100 cherry trees in Metro Vancouver as well as in municipalities such as Agassiz and Chilliwack. “Festival favourite” locations (aka the most photogenic sites) are marked by red pins, while others are marked by blue ones.

Users may search cherry tree scenes by their preferred neighbourhood, cultivar, or a combination of both.

Each spot is accompanied by a timeframe in which the trees there are expected to flower, though these dates were drawn from the 2016 season. Given Vancouver’s unusually long winter, this year’s cherry blossoms may begin flowering at later dates.

The full map may be viewed at maps.vcbf.ca/map/. “Cherry scouts” will also be updating the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival’s Blooming Now page with images of budding sites.

Taking place from March 30 to April 23, this year’s Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival features a number of concerts, workshops, and art exhibitions happening around town. For more information about the month-long event, click here.

The Georgia Straight is a sponsor of the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival. 

15 March 2017

BC SPCA supports Park Board decision to prohibit ‘importation and display’ of live cetaceans

 March 10, 2017
The BC SPCA applauds the Vancouver Park Board Commission, whose commissioners voted unanimously in favour of a motion to amend bylaws "to prohibit the importation and display" of live cetaceans — porpoises, whales or dolphins — at the Vancouver Aquarium.

“We are thrilled with this unanimous vote,” says BC SPCA chief scientific officer Dr. Sara Dubois, noting the BC SPCA made bylaw recommendations in April of 2014 to take steps toward the phasing out of cetacean programs at the Vancouver Aquarium.

“The BC SPCA is opposed to the capture, confinement and breeding of marine mammals for entertainment or educational display and this vote is very encouraging.” The BC SPCA sent a letter  (PDF)to the Park Board today thanking them for their brave and compassionate votes that will advance both science and ethical conversations on the issue.

The amendments could be enacted as soon as May 15, once Park Board staff report back.

Read the BC SPCA's position on zoos and aquariums.

The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.

(c) 2017 BC SPCA

10 March 2017

Unanimous Support for Green Commissioner Mackinnon's Motion on Cetacean Bylaw

For Immediate Release - Friday, March 10, 2017

Unanimous Support for Green Commissioner
Mackinnon's Motion on Cetacean Bylaw

Vancouver, BC - Last night, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation unanimously voted to amend the Parks Control By-law to prohibit cetacean captivity in Vancouver Parks.

The Park Board considered four options and heard from speakers over the course of two consecutive evenings. The options included:
  1. Call on City Council to include an assent question (plebiscite) in the 2018 municipal election.
  2. Accept the Aquarium's February 20th announced plans (bring back belugas from other institutions to the Vancouver Aquarium but discontinue display of belugas by 2029).
  3. Amend the Parks Control By-laws (including a ban).
  4. Maintain the status quo.

After hearing from speakers, Green Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon moved and NPA Commissioner Sarah Kirby-Yung seconded the following motion:

"THAT the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation directs staff to bring forward for enactment by the Board an amendment to the Parks Control By-law to prohibit the importation and display of live cetaceans in Vancouver parks and report back not later than May 15, 2017."

In 2010, Commissioner Mackinnon moved a motion calling for a plebiscite on the future of cetaceans in captivity in Vancouver Parks in the 2011 Vancouver municipal election. While that motion did not succeed, his latest motion calling for a ban was supported unanimously.  After hearing from speakers, one by one, each of the seven commissioners voted in support of the motion.

"Tonight is the culmination of thousands of caring people's work. I stand shoulder to shoulder in pride with them. It was a very good night," said Mackinnon of the outcome of the vote.


For more information, contact:
Stuart Mackinnon: 778-389-1956

 Green Party of Vancouver