As part of a lawsuit filed against the park board Aug. 20 in B.C. Supreme Court, six community centre associations are asking for a short-term injunction to stop the use of the OneCard at their facilities.
The OneCard is a system-wide card introduced by the park board in June to replace the Flexipass and virtually eliminate the need for individual memberships to 22 of the city’s community centres.
The card was initially accepted at just some of the city’s community centres with a plan to go system-wide in September so long as the proposed joint-operating agreement between the park board and those centres’ associations was ratified by that date.
With no sign of that ratification in sight, Hillcrest, Killarney, Hastings, Kerrisdale, Sunset and Kensington community centre associations have continued to charge membership fees for association-run programs where the OneCard is not applicable.. As with the Flexipass, users must pay to load the OneCard before it can be used. Membership fees to most centres are typically under $10 a year.
Dean Davison, the lawyer for the six associations, is hoping the injunction will be approved in early September in anticipation of an October court date to hear the entire 45-page suit.
“It’s complicated and I think the park board uses that to their advantage when they say the OneCard is all good,” said Davison. “But there’s too much history and too much going on for that to be the case.”
The six community centres are concerned because the OneCard eliminates the need for community centre association memberships. According to the provincial Societies Act, the associations must have a membership list to qualify as a non-profit society. The associations say non-profit status is vital to their ability in obtaining government funding or grants.
Davison said much of the court case also has to do with the decades-long history of the city’s community centre associations and their relationships with the park board. He added if it wasn’t for the ongoing dedication and fundraising efforts of these association volunteers, many of the city’s community centres would no longer exist.
As first reported in the Courier in 2001, the park board has been negotiating with the city's community centre associations to finalize a new joint management agreement. More recently, the Vision Vancouver-dominated park board wants to change the way community centres operate, including centralizing “core programs.” The most contentious of the recommendations would see the park board take all revenues from room rentals and programs — money traditionally retained by the associations. The park board argues the money should be pooled into a general account to be distributed among "have-not" centres.
Davison said a one-size-fits-all approach to community centres make no sense because they’re each different.
“There are 20-plus associations and they’re not all cookie cutter,” said Davison. “They are separate legal entities with legal rights and legal binding control.”
He noted the park board has promised to repay the associations for revenues from lost memberships for one year, but has made no mention of what will happen after that.
“And they’ve said nothing about the consequences of losing members,” said Davison. “I don’t know why they don’t think that’s a concern, but if you’re a non-profit society without members you’re in trouble.”
The park board is not commenting on the lawsuit at this time.