Vision Vancouver’s Constance Barnes is confident she can run in a provincial election campaign while working full time and meeting her responsibilities as a park board commissioner.
Barnes announced Sunday she’s stepping down as chair of the park board while seeking the NDP nomination for the riding of Vancouver-False Creek. Barnes made the announcement on the seawall near the Plaza of Nations in False Creek Sunday afternoon. She plans to keep her seat on the park board while seeking the nomination.
Barnes told the Courier she’s proven she can handle her board duties while in the middle of campaigning.
“I worked full time and sat as a commissioner while I ran for re-election in the  municipal election,” said Barnes. “So I know I can do it.”
Following her announcement, Barnes faced journalists who were quick to ask whether she’s concerned with any fallout from pleading guilty to drunk driving and dangerous driving in 2009.
“Bring it on,” said Barnes, who added she’s been sober three years this month. “My dad always said, ‘When the ‘S’ hits the fan, look it in the face and deal with it.’ I’ve had a whole lifestyle change. I have a great support systems in place.”
Her father is the late Emery Barnes, one of the first black politicians to be elected to the B.C. Legislature, while her mother is Laverne Barnes, one of Canada’s first female sports commentators.
Barnes’ concerns with the riding are a lack of child care, green space and schools, as well as the looming closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. In 2009, the electoral riding of Vancouver-Burrard was split in two to include Vancouver-West End and Vancouver-False Creek, which includes most of downtown plus the area south of False Creek up to West Second, Sixth and Fourth avenues in Kits.
NPA park board commissioner Melissa De Genova doubts Barnes can be effective on the park board while campaigning for a seat with the NDP. She also questions whether Barnes should have run in the last municipal election.
“A seat on the Vancouver park board should not simply be a stepping stone for seeking higher office,” De Genova told the Courier in an email. “It is clear Ms. Barnes has had a desire to run provincially for some time and she should have made that decision before she decided to add her name to Vision’s 2011 park board slate.”
De Genova said if Barnes wins the riding in the 2013 provincial election, she’ll then be forced to resign her seat. Barnes told the Courier she has no intention of resigning and would work both jobs, so long as the city approves.
“This will trigger a costly by-election that will be on the backs of taxpayers,” said De Genova. “And use funds that otherwise should be spent on our parks, not on Constance Barnes’ career ambitions.”
In 2005, then-COPE city councillor Tim Stevenson did not resign his seat while campaigning in that year’s provincial election as an NDP candidate. He lost the election.
Former COPE park board commissioner Loretta Woodcock, who acted as opposition to Barnes during her last term on the board, said Barnes is making the right move and spoke in her favour at the announcement.
“Constance has a wide-open mind and a big heart,” Woodcock told the crowd gathered at False Creek Sunday.
No date for a nomination meeting has been set. No other candidates have made announcements, but Neil Monckton, president of the NDP constituency association for the Vancouver False Creek riding and a former COPE organizer, said he is considering a run.