Parks Candidate condemns Aquarium mammals expansion plans: Plans to speak at Park Board meeting Monday night
Stuart Mackinnon, Vancouver Green Party candidate for Park Board, expressed disbelief at the Vancouver Aquarium’s plans to expand its animals in captivity program. “It has come to the point where we have to ask ourselves: Do we want an Aquarium in the park, or a park in the Aquarium?” says Mackinnon.
The Aquarium announced plans to expand the whale and dolphin pools, continue to keep belugas, dolphins, sea lions and otters in captivity, and expand to beavers and sea birds as well. “If the Aquarium wants to expand its footprint and expand its mammals in captivity programs, then it is time the Park Board held a referendum vote to see if Vancouverites agree”, adds Mackinnon.
The Aquarium expansion plans were announced one day after the COPE dominated Park Board refused to consider holding a referendum on aquatic mammals in captivity in this November’s city election. “The Park Board has failed in its promise to hold a referendum” continued Mackinnon, “and the Aquarium is taking advantage of this broken promise. These plans just prove the necessity of having the referendum now.
In the 2002 civic election, COPE Parks candidates promised, as part of their platform, to hold a referendum on whales and dolphins kept captive at the Aquarium. “This is just another broken promise by this Park Board,” said Mackinnon.
Stuart Mackinnon will be at the Park Board meeting at Dunbar Community Centre on Monday October 17 to request the Commissioners hold a referendum on the expansion of the aquarium, as well as the importation of whales and dolphins into Stanley Park. The Vancouver Green Party calls for the removal of all aquatic mammals in captivity.
For more information contact Stuart Mackinnon at: 778 389 1956 or e-mail at: email@example.com
Vancouver wants a
WHAT: Vancouver Park Board meeting
WHEN: Monday, October 17th, 2005 at 7:00 pm
WHERE: Dunbar Community Centre, 4747 Dunbar Street, Vancouver, BC
COPE Park Board commissioners have reluctantly announced that they will be bringing a motion for a Whale Referendum to the Park Board meeting on Oct.17 at the Dunbar Community Centre.
This is the 5th election year (1993, 1996, 1999, 2002, 2005) that a formal request has been presented to the park board to hold a city-wide non-binding referendum vote on whales in captivity. The COPE-dominated park board was supposed to finally fulfill their election promises and give voters a Whale Referendum in these upcoming Vancouver civic elections on November 19th. However, at the COPE policy meeting held on September 10, although a majority of the COPE membership voted 34-15 in favour of a motion to hold a Whale Referendum in 2005, much to everyone’s dismay, all COPE park commissioners voted against that motion. This is a serious case of broken election promises on the part of COPE.
Coalition For No Whales In Captivity spokesperson Kelly Bunting and others will be speaking at the upcoming meeting on Monday night, to request that the park board approve holding a Whale Referendum, not in the civic elections of 2008 or 2011, as some COPE commissioners have absurdly proposed, but in November 2005, as they promised to do when they were candidates running for election in 2002.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 5, 2006
Chair and Commissioners
Re: Agenda items #2 and #3 for September 11 Meeting
For the Commissioners of the Vancouver Park Board to adopt recommendation “C” in agenda item #3 at the September 11, 2006 meeting would create a political scandal.
Before the Park Board is a proposal by the Vancouver Aquarium to conduct a public campaign promoting its plans to expand the Aquarium's buildings in Stanley Park. The Aquarium is requesting that the Park Board officially participate in the campaign, which it terms a "public consultation process", as a way to gather public input in lieu of holding a referendum on the issue of Aquarium expansion. The proposal for the "public consultation process" was prepared for the Vancouver Aquarium by the private public relations firm of Kirk & Co. Consulting Ltd. (“Kirk”). The Aquarium has contracted to pay Kirk approximately $300,000 to plan and conduct the process, which the Aquarium hopes will result in a decision by the Park Board approving the expansion.
On July 9, 2006, the Coalition For No Whales In Captivity wrote to you the Commissioners, pointing out that: “you the Park Board are being asked to endorse and participate in a public relations and promotional campaign that will be planned and managed by a private firm of lobbyists working for the private institution that you are regulating …. For you to do that would be corrupt.” At the Park Board meeting of July 10, 2006, the Commissioners unanimously deferred consideration of the matter until September 11, 2006.
Now on the agenda of the September 11 meeting, under items #2 and #3, are the staff reports of June 30 and September 5 prepared by the Planning and Operations department, and three recommended resolutions. The first two, recommendations “A” and “B”, are proper, which are to receive for information the Vancouver Aquarium’s expansion proposal attached as Appendix 1, and the Park Board staff’s technical review of that proposal attached as Appendix 2. The third, recommendation “C”, is astoundingly improper and proposes a breach of governmental ethics. It asks:
The “public consultation process, as outlined in this report” includes (at page 3) this statement:
“Appendix 3” is a slightly revised version, dated September 5, of the proposal written by Kirk on June 29 and presented to the Park Board in July. It is presumptuously entitled “Vancouver Park Board and Vancouver Aquarium Community Consultation on the Proposed Aquarium Revitalization and Expansion in Stanley Park”. If the Park Board adopts recommendation “C”, it adopts the staff report and its unethical proposal of joint management, and it adopts “Appendix 3”, a document prepared by the Aquarium’s hired consultant, as government policy in a matter affecting the Aquarium.
The Vancouver Park Board is a government regulator. The Aquarium is the entity being regulated. Kirk is a lobbyist paid by the Aquarium to further its interests. For the Vancouver Park Board to join with the Aquarium and Kirk to manage a unified public relations campaign promoting the Aquarium’s plans would be politically corrupt. It would entail an unlawful delegation of a regulator’s management functions to the special interest entity that is subject to regulation. The situation would be the same as if the CRTC had its public hearings run by a broadcaster seeking license renewal, or the City replaced a public hearing on zoning with an open house sales meeting run by a developer.
Any consultation process conducted by government, which may result in influencing public policy, must be under the control of that government alone – in this case, under the control of the Vancouver Park Board. The process must be equally open to influence by any person, without favouritism and without special access or management control being given to any interest or group to the exclusion of others.
For additional background on this topic you may consult the news story about it, in the current September 7-14, 2006 issue of the Georgia Straight.
The report should have added – and by its not doing so the staff were derelict in their duty to the Commissioners to present all information fairly – that a complete revision of the proposal has been received by the Park Board. The staff report should have attached that revision as “Appendix 4” for consideration by the September 11 Park Board meeting.
Kirk & Co. Consulting Ltd., as part of the proposed “public consultation process” that they devised for their client the Vancouver Aquarium, identified the Coalition For No Whales In Captivity as one of the “stakeholder groups” interested in the issue and to be interviewed. Accordingly they conferred with us on August 21, 2006 concerning the terms of reference of the proposed process. As a result of that conference, the Coalition For No Whales In Captivity produced, and presented to the Park Board commissioners and staff, also on August 21, 2006, a revised document, with the suggestion that it be attached to the Park Board staff report for the September 11 meeting.
The revised document, which is a complete re-write of Kirk's original draft proposal of June 29, includes all the material from the original document, but adds these points, which here are summarized in the order of their increasing importance.
The Commissioners should require from their staff an explanation of why the document of September 5 received from Kirk on behalf of the Aquarium was placed on the meeting agenda and the document of August 21 received from No Whales In Captivity was suppressed. Both documents come from private entities, both concern the same matter of public importance. There is no difference in their status except that the first document comes from the entity being regulated, while the second document comes from a third party with no financial interest in the outcome. There is no principle of government procedure by which one of those documents from the private sector should be given superior access to the government decision makers.
If the staff is asked, “why are not both documents on the agenda for information?” it is not likely that they could give a defensible reply. Only one of two inferences can logically arise: one, which seems improbable, is that some staff members are grossly ignorant of governmental ethics to a degree that warrants instant dismissal or demotion, and the other, which seems distasteful though not impossible, is that special influence was obtained through some exercise of corrupt behaviour.
The Park Board should display no favouritism to the Vancouver Aquarium, nor delegate to it nor share with it any of the powers of park governance that under the Vancouver Charter are to be exercised by the Park Board alone. The Park Board should be especially aware that the Vancouver Aquarium currently stands accused of breaking the law, and dealings with the Aquarium should be especially scrupulous and careful until a court decision has determined whether the Aquarium is indeed a lawbreaker.
Every Commissioner should declare publicly, in careful detail, any prior personal associations or business associations with Kirk & Co. Consulting Ltd. or its personnel, as well as with the Vancouver Aquarium, and should withdraw from consideration of any matter that could raise an appearance of conflicting interest or impropriety.
Under the procedures of Robert’s Rules of Order (which the Park Board is presently in process of adopting as an addition to its Procedure Bylaw), there are various ways for the meeting to dispose of a recommendation that never should have been put forward and that would be embarrassing even to consider. The members may decline to move the motion, or a resolution may be passed objecting to the consideration of the question, or the recommendation may be postponed indefinitely, which are all ways of avoiding the improper result without opening this scandalous matter to debate. If recommendation “C” does unfortunately become moved and debated, it should of course be defeated.
WARNING FROM NO WHALES IN CAPTIVITY TO THE PARK BOARD
Avoid a political scandal!
Denis Howarth to speak to the Park Board Commissioners
VANCOUVER PARK BOARD MEETING
On the agenda of Monday evening’s Park Board meeting is a proposal by the Vancouver Aquarium that it and the Park Board should officially and jointly manage a public campaign promoting the Aquarium's plans to expand its buildings in Stanley Park. The campaign is presented as a "public consultation process" that will permit public input in lieu of holding a public referendum on the issue of Aquarium expansion.
For the Park Board as a government regulator to join in this process with the private sector business that it is regulating and whose financial interest is to obtain approval for expansion, would be a breach of governmental ethics.
According to the Coalition For No Whales In Captivity's advisor Denis Howarth, a retired lawyer and former municipal councillor whom the Coalition has asked to speak at Monday night’s Park Board meeting, such a procedure would be more immoral than the federal Sponsorship Scandal. "That just involved handing out government money," said Howarth. "This involves handing out governmental power, exclusively to the very business that stands to profit financially from the government decision.”
"Under the proposal," said Howarth, "the Aquarium would foot the bill, and the Park Board would lend its name and its governmental authority to the carefully controlled results while independent sources of public input would be excluded. If the Park Board foolishly accepts this outrageous proposal, they can expect people to use words like 'stinks' and 'the fix is in' and to question the commissioners' personal honesty."
No Whales In Captivity believes that if the citizens of Vancouver were given a democratic opportunity they would vote to phase out the containment of whales and dolphins in Stanley Park; and that the Aquarium's current request to expand its land in Stanley Park by 50% should be put to a public referendum.
In a letter to the Park Board commissioners, No Whales In Captivity states that “the only valid way to determine public opinion, and the only way that is legitimate for an elected government such as is the Park Board, is by a public vote.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
JOINT MEDIA RELEASE
September 27, 2006
The aquarium paid $300,000 to Kirk & Co. to conduct the public relations campaign, but even Park Board commissioners doubt the results of such a “slick” marketing campaign/survey can be considered accurate.
The aquarium should have instead given the $300,000 to the city to hold a civic public referendum vote to finally ask Vancouverites if we agree with expanding marine mammal tanks so the aquarium can bring more dolphins into Stanley Park.
We feel that a public referendum is the only way to settled this in a democratic way.
We are asking the public:
DON’T BUY INTO THIS FARCE!
Instead, we are asking the public to contact the Vancouver Park Board and urge the commissioners that they send this issue to a public referendum vote. E-mail Park Board Commissioners firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Will you help the whales today?
© Coalition For No Whales In Captivity 2006