On Monday, COPE released a press release promising that COPE Park Board incumbent Loretta Woodcock would put a motion forward on November 24 to defer the decision on the 2009 fees and charges to the new Park Board that takes office on December 1. A proposal for fees and charges for 2009 was released by the Park Board on October 28 and the public were given only 10 days – until November 7 – to comment – despite the fact that some fundamental changes – the reduction of the seniors discount for recreation fees from 30% to 25%, and a change in the definition of "child" from 6 – 12 years to 3 – 12 years, forcing young families to pay as much as 55% more in fees to use our Parks and Recreation facilities – were proposed.
When this issue first surfaced last week, the NPA tried to put the blame on Park Board staff, but it was a Park Board Committee dominated by NPA Commissioners that allowed this report to go out to the public with no meaningful opportunity to comment before a vote was taken. On Monday night at the all-candidates meeting at Killarney Community Centre, the NPA advised us that they have rescinded the proposal to decrease the Seniors Discount–so they have backed off on at least part of this shocking proposal. Loretta Woodcock still plans to bring her motion forward to the Park Board meeting on November 24.
At the same all-candidates meeting, more than one person raised the issue of a Seniors Centre for south-east Vancouver. The community can trace the proposal for a Seniors Centre in SE Vancouver back 40 years. Ten years ago, they thought they had it, when a development in the area triggered CAC (community amenity contribution) money that could be used for a Seniors Centre, in addition to a provincial grant. In 2001, the provincial grant proposal died, and the CAC went elsewhere. The seniors of SE Vancouver are still waiting. All candidates at the meeting agreed that a seniors centre must be built, and promised to work with other levels of government to acquire funding.
On Tuesday, I am attending a meeting at Marpole Place. Until a few months ago, Marpole Place – a converted firehall which has been used as a Seniors Centre since its renovation two decades ago – lost its funding from the provincial government, and seniors now have to travel outside the Marpole neighbourhood to attend seniors programs.
Something has gone seriously awry in our city when seniors who mostly live on pensions (now under stress because of the economy) are viewed as a group that can be treated as "cash cows". We also know that seniors stay healthier longer if they can stay in their own homes, in their own neighbourhoods, and have access to healthy activities. Seniors Centres help them to do this. Talking about a Seniors Centre for SE Vancouver for 10 years, never mind 40 years, is simply not good enough.