VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Vancouver is the only city in Canada with an elected park board and after its decision on Monday night to ban new cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium, there are suggestions it may time to eliminate the city’s second level of civic government.
“I actually think it could be something [voters] might be interested in if there was enough public pressure. I think after recent fiascos, there seems to be some mounting sense that the park board model isn’t the best,” explains SFU Political Scientist Dr. David Moscrop. “I actually don’t think it would be all that much more work. And again, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of models they could follow. It is the norm to have the park folks built into the bureaucracy and not elected.”
He says the average voter has no idea who the commissioners even are, and if that’s the case, why bother having an election?
“Let’s be honest, voters, they don’t know who park board candidates are, they’re not doing their research. They’re not paying any attention to that. When I went to the ballot box last time, I had no idea who these people were,” says Moscrop. “People are going to blame the council or reward them based on what the park board does anyway. They’re not going to blame the park board because they’ve got no idea who the park board is.”
The Vancouver Park Board has been around since 1889 and Moscrop admits the seven commissioners would likely fight to keep it alive, much like the situation facing Canada’s Senate.
“The institutional protections around the park board are much less than say the Senate, so that is something we can get rid of, despite the fact there are a number of interests there to keep it going. [The board is] going to scratch and claw as much as it can to make sure that it continues to exist. That doesn’t mean that it should. In a democratic society, we certainly have the right to fold some of those bodies and this is one that should go. And it should go sooner rather than later.”
Most of the board’s duties could easily be absorbed by city council. “When it comes to accountability, it’s already on city council. So, it might as well be shifted to the bureaucracy and let council take the fall because they are the one who is going to manage the bureaucracy to begin with,” says Moscrop. “It’s also worth noting that just because something is in the interests of those who happen to benefit from it doesn’t mean it’s in the interest of the public at large and the park board is a great example of that. Good for folks on the board, not great for the public.”