The ongoing feud between the Vancouver park board and six community centre associations over the introduction of the OneCard program, intended to provide the public with unlimited access to all community centres across the city, moved to the B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday.
In the first day of a three-day injunction hearing, the six plaintiff associations — Hillcrest, Killarney, Hastings, Kerrisdale, Kensington and Sunset — asked the court to restrict marketing of the card in their respective buildings, claiming it is affecting their abilities to attract new members and maintain their status as non-profits.
“Essentially the plaintiffs want to keep doing what they’ve been doing for decades,” said lawyer David McWhinnie. “They have suffered irreparable harm and are worried about losing potential members. People come in, see signs for the OneCard and nothing about membership.”
According to the provincial Societies Act, community associations need to maintain a membership list to qualify as a non-profit society, which they argue is necessary for them to obtain government funding or grants. They believe the introduction of the OneCard is an indication of the park board’s intention to phase out the associations.
Ben Parkin, assistant director of general litigation for the City of Vancouver, said this isn’t the case and pointed out that most of the city’s 24 centres have adopted them without issue.
“Sixteen associations have agreed to the implementation of the OneCard and, in my submission, that is relevant to the plaintiffs argument that somehow the implementation of the OneCard will be the death knell for community associations across the city and would cause them irreparable harm,” Parkin told the court. “The fact that all the other community associations seem to be OK with it would suggest it is not particularly harmful to them.”
The Vision Vancouver-dominated park board has indicated it wants to change the way community centres operate, including taking revenue from room rentals and programs that was formerly kept by individual associations and putting it into a general account to be shared by less affluent community centres.
Jesse Johl, president of the Hillcrest-Riley Park Community Centre Association, told the Courier during a court recess that the community associations simply aren’t willing to take the city’s word that their facilities will meet the same standards and service levels if they give up any financial autonomy.
“It’s a complex issue but it all comes down to trust and the trust has basically been broken,” said the former NPA candidate for city council. “I relate it to a parking meter. If you’ve ever lost a quarter to a parking meter, good luck getting it back from the city. Taken that strategy, how can we guarantee that they will be returning [lost revenue] to the pot?”
Last month, the six community association centres filed a separate injunction to prevent the implementation of the OneCard program. The board responded by serving notices of termination of joint operating agreements that would see the city assume control of the centres by the end of the year. The associations plan to fight the eviction in a separate suit in late November.
© Copyright 2013