President’s Message on the Negotiations with Park Board
On-going discussions with Park Board
Many of you will recall that in the campaign leading up to the Civic Election in November 2014, the NPA and Green party candidates for Park Board promised that, if elected, they would achieve a more effective working relationship with Vancouver’s community centre associations (CCAs) and a Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) that meets the needs of the CCAs as well as the Park Board.
At the end of April, the Park Board called directors from all of Vancouver’s community centres to a meeting to announce “The New Way Forward,” a consultation process designed to achieve a new Joint Operating Agreement by this fall. The message was that negotiations between the Park Board and the community centres over the past 10+ years had not reached an agreement so a different approach was needed. Sadly, continuing the lack of respect for the CCAs that characterized previous processes, this one has been designed and driven completely by the Park Board. Most of the content and even the language varied little from earlier Park Board positions. It’s not so new!
In The New Way Forward the proposed content of a new JOA was initially presented in a piecemeal fashion that did not allow a holistic look at the entire proposed agreement, the potential interactions of different sections, or the addition of issues that are of particular importance to the CCAs. After five, tightly structured and managed, consultation sessions on Tuesday evenings from May to July, the Park Board announced August 17 that it would release its JOA Proposal at a meeting on September 10.
The community centre associations were asked to respond to the 40-page proposal at two sessions: Saturday Sept 17 and Sept 24, and through the Park Board’s online response survey that would be open until September 27. Staff were then to prepare the final JOA Proposal and present it to the Park Board at a public Board meeting on October 19 after which the CCAs would have until November 30 to sign it.
This schedule was clearly unreasonable. Community centre board members are volunteers; many have day jobs, families and additional volunteer commitments. After protests from the CCAs, Park Board added two evening feedback sessions on September 28 and October 5, and extended the closing date of its response survey to October 31.
Since September 15, representatives of 16 of Vancouver’s 20 community centres met for five hours on each of five Saturdays to carefully review the Park Board Proposal for its effects on centre operations, analyze its financial implications, and obtain legal opinions on different clauses. The CCAs advised the Park Board that they would be ready to present an amended proposal on November 4. In an October 14 memo Park Board advised that the only acceptable feedback would be through its online survey until close of day October 31 to “enable the feedback to be consolidated and considered by staff.” The memo went on to say: “we will review any final comments and prepare the final JOA, incorporating useful feedback on any critical omissions from our final JOA document.”
The Community Centre Associations were told that they are not to “wordsmith” the document; this ignores the importance of having clear and precise language in a contract.
The Park Board Chair also stated that the elected Commissioners would not meet with CCAs: “Park Board Commissioners will be stepping back from the process. This is so that Commissioners can review the final JOA without influence in the Public Meeting, and ensure their fiduciary obligations and responsibilities are met.” While Commissioners will be without influence as well as information from the CCAs, they will have influence from Park Board staff. So much for consultation!
The Park Board confirmed that it will distribute the revised JOA Proposal on November 30, and that it will be discussed at a public meeting of the Park Board in mid-December. Once Park Board has approved the document, CCAs will have until February 15, 2017 to sign it. There is no indication that any changes to the Proposed Agreement will be considered after Park Board has approved it. The Park Board has advised that Associations that do not sign the new agreement will have indicated that they no longer wish to work with the Park Board in the operation of their community centre.
Why is this Important to You?
The Joint Operating Agreement is a legal contract defining the roles and responsibilities of both the Park Board and the Community Centre Association as they relate to the operation of the community centres. The new Joint Operating Agreement will affect the kinds of programs and services, pricing, and scheduling at Kerrisdale, and the ability of your community centre association to provide supplies and equipment at the Centre.
Based on the material received from the Park Board thus far, a number of CCAs have indicated that they will be unlikely to sign the new Joint Operating Agreement. The CCAs see too much that will present operational difficulties. We are asked to turn over to Park Board revenue earned at each community centre through the fees that members pay for programs and services, agree to conditions that violate the Societies Act, override Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (Canada), and allow the Park Board to interfere in the internal affairs of the Association.
In addition, the proposed JOA allows the Park Board to approve and implement policies at any time that could alter the terms of the agreement. As proposed it is a contract that allows one party to change the terms and conditions at will.
Let us hope that the Commissioners recognize the importance to Vancouver of having an agreement that community centre associations across the City believe is fair and operationally effective to both parties. If the Commissioners genuinely want community response to their proposed new Joint Operating Agreement, they should not schedule public meetings ten days before Christmas.
Should the Park Board present the community centre associations with a JOA proposal which the associations, in good conscience, cannot sign, your Board of Directors will be calling on you to make your concerns known to the Park Board through channels yet to be determined. Please stay tuned.
Connect With Your Community Centre Association
Check the bulletin boards and the website to find out what’s going on. Send your thoughts about programs and services or the content of this message to firstname.lastname@example.org
This is your community centre!
Kathleen Bigsby, President