The Park Board

Name:               Kelly Bunting                  May 29, 2006
Spokesperson: Coalition for No Whales in Captivity

Madame Chair, Heather Holden should not take part in these discussions because they have to do with the Vancouver Aquarium, and of course, Commissioner Holden is paid staff of the Vancouver Aquarium. It is a conflict of interest for her to take part in any votes or discussions regarding the Vancouver Aquarium. In Commissioner Holden’s election campaign in 2005 she announced that she would not take part in any issues dealing with the Aquarium if she was elected. The people of Vancouver expect her to follow through with this statement and obligation.


I am here to speak against Commissioner Zlotnik’s motion which would remove the necessity of having a city wide referendum in order to find out if the public wants the Vancouver Aquarium to expand. I will not go into the inherent cruelty of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium because we are all aware that it is impossible to provide for the behavioral and physical needs of whales and dolphins in pools. We know that whales and dolphins suffer in captivity, and expanding the whale pools at the Vancouver Aquarium means that more whales and dolphins will be brought in to fill the pools. The Vancouver Aquarium already announced last year that they intended on increasing their dolphin population, which was two at the time of their announcement, to at least 7 dolphins.

It is absolutely necessary to have a referendum asking Vancouverites if they would like the Vancouver Aquarium to expand onto more of our public lands. In effect, allowing the Vancouver Aquarium to expand gives away more of our public land to a private enterprise. Vancouver already subsidizes the Vancouver Aquarium by only charging $40,000 a year in rent. This is extremely undervalued rent considering the prime location and real estate value of Stanley Park. Because Vancouverites subsidize the Vancouver Aquarium, and pay to maintain Stanley Park, we must have a say on how our park land is used.

The Vancouver Park Board should be protecting park lands for the use of Vancouverites, not giving it away to private enterprise, especially a private enterprise that keeps whales and dolphins in captivity. There has already been a precedent set for holding referenda for matters concerning Stanley Park. In 1990 there was a referendum held regarding expansion of the otter pools. In 1993 there was a referendum held which decided the fate of the zoo in Stanley Park. In 1995, the Park Board approved a motion that made it necessary for there to be a public referendum to decide on any expansion of the Aquarium’s footprint. In 2005, the Park Board scheduled a referendum to be held in 2008 regarding phasing out the keeping of whales and dolphins in Stanley Park. These referenda are necessary because Stanley Park is a public treasure which is maintained by public funds, and the public has a right to vote on how it is used.

The Aquarium has always requested more land in order to expand. In 1986 they were told that there would be no more expansions. In 1995 they were told that they could only expand if the public voted in favour of the expansion. In 1998 the aquarium asked the Park Board for another expansion. The Aquarium could have asked for a referendum concerning their expansion to be held during the 1999 election, or the 2005 election. They have consistently resisted holding referenda regarding expansion, and regarding the keeping of dolphins and whales in captivity. This is because they are afraid of the public’s decision.

By not holding referenda on these issues, the Vancouver Park Board is representing the interests of the Vancouver Aquarium instead of representing the public’s interest. The Park Board. is elected by the public and their salaries are paid by the public. It is in the public’s interest to have a vote on such vital issues as allowing the Vancouver Aquarium to expand, and on keeping whales and dolphins in captivity. Thousands of people signed petitions asking the Park Board to hold a referendum regarding phasing out the captivity of whales and dolphins in Stanley Park. In 1995, after extensive public consultation it was concluded that a bylaw would be drafted with the intent of phasing out the whale and dolphin exhibits at the Vancouver Aquarium. The Vancouver Aquarium managed to influence the Park Board into approving an ineffective bylaw in the end, but the public consultations concluded that the people of Vancouver wanted the Aquarium to stop bringing anymore whales and dolphins into Stanley Park. The Park Board needs to be representing the public’s opinion.

Commissioner Zlotnik believes that a referendum is not needed regarding expansion, or the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity because the Aquarium will conduct extensive public consultations. It is ridiculous to allow the aquarium to do their own public consultations. Of course, the results will be biased. Even after the 1995 public consultations showed that the public wanted to phase out the cetacean exhibits, and even after the Park board passed a motion in 1998, that says “ no portion of the footprint pursuant to this agreement (VA association rental agreement) be used for any expansion to the current cetacean facilities,” the aquarium still declares that it will maintain indefinitely and expand the cetacean captivity program. In this way, the Aquarium shows blatant disregard for public opinion and for Park Board policy. Clearly, the Park Board must conduct the public consultations, and a referendum is the first step in the consultation process. This is the only way that the public has a chance to protect their public lands.

There is no reason for the Park Board not to have a referendum except if they are protecting the interests of the aquarium, over the interests and the will of the people. Referenda are a tool of democracy that everyone should support because everyone gets a chance to express their opinion.


Will you help the whales today?



© Coalition For No Whales In Captivity 2006