Please see our frequently asked questions below. They were updated on September 13, 2017.
Q: Park Board Commissioners voted on and passed the Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) in April 2017. Doesn’t that mean that this is the final agreement?
A: No. All the Park Board vote means is that Commissioners voted to approve this draft of the JOA and that it is the document that was presented to CCAs to sign. It does not mean that the CCAs would agree with or sign this contract.
Q: Have any CCAs signed this version of the JOA?
A: To the best of our knowledge (as of September 11), two CCAs have signed the document.
Q: Who are the CCAs that have signed?
A: That would be a question to ask the Park Board, since the contract is between the specific CCAs and the Park Board.
Q: What about the other CCAs?
A: Over the summer, one CCA held two community meetings to apprise its members on the JOA situation. The feedback provided at those meetings was to go back to the Park Board and push for the required changes to the contract.
In September, several CCAs are holding information meetings to update their members on the situation and the options available to them regarding whether to sign or not sign the current draft of the JOA. Other CCAs are holding more formal general meetings, asking members to vote on whether to sign or refuse to sign the agreement.
Currently, three CCAs (Kerrisdale, Killarney and Hastings) are taking the lead in continuing to push back on the Park Board. The request to the Park Board is to have their lawyer meet with CCA legal counsel to work through the following areas of concern:
- Infringement of the autonomy of the CCAs
- Restrictions on use of retained earnings
- Ability of the Park Board to evict a CCA from all or a portion of their community centre
- Term and renewal
- Commitment to community programming
The CCAs want to resolve the issues within the current draft of the JOA. They want a JOA that works for the Park Board and the diverse communities that each CCA serves.
Q: Who are the CCAs that have communicated that they are not currently comfortable with the draft of the JOA as presented to CCAs for signature?
A: Representatives from several CCAs met at the Kerrisdale Community Centre on the evening of September 6, 2017. They met to consider the Park Board’s written response to concerns submitted to the Park Board before and after the Park Board voted to approve this draft of the contract in April 2017. They have submitted a letter to the Park Board addressing their concerns.
The CCAs are:
- Champlain Heights Community Centre Association
- False Creek Community Association
- Grandview Community Centre Association (Trout Lake)
- Hastings Community Association
- Kerrisdale Community Centre Society
- Killarney Community Centre Society
- Kitsilano War Memorial Community Centre Association
- Mount Pleasant Community Centre Association
- Renfrew Park Community Association
- Thunderbird Neighbourhood Association
- West End Community Centre Association
- West Point Grey Community Centre Association
Following a lengthy discussion, it was the unanimous conclusion of the CCA representatives at this meeting that they have concerns with the current draft of the JOA that the Park Board requires them to sign by September 30, 2017.
The group believes that the proposed amendments to remedy the outstanding concerns that were presented to Commissioners Wiebe and Shum on July 29, 2017 are fair and reasonable. They do not violate the respective authority of the parties spelled out in the proposed JOA, but they do certainly better reflect the culture of mutual trust and respect that has governed their relationship for many decades.
Q: What is this issue about?
A: The Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) is an important agreement that will set the foundation for how the CCAs and the Park Board will move forward in partnership for the next 10 years.
It is crucial that a JOA is developed that meets the needs of the Park Board and the unique community that each CCA serves.
Q: The Park Board has responded to your concerns – what do you say to their explanations of why your concerns are unfounded or already addressed?
A: We don’t believe that the Park Board has effectively addressed the issues. Our response to how they say they have addressed our concerns can be viewed below.
CONCERN 1: USE OF RETAINED EARNINGS
Original CCA Concern: Section 14.3(e) presents two problems. First, the phrase “Subject to the foregoing” prior to limiting how Retained Earnings are to be spent seems to suggest that the funds kept as an operating contingency may be spent differently. Secondly, the omission of “or otherwise in furtherance of the Association’s purposes as set out in its constitution” makes this section unreasonably restrictive. As independent societies, we have fiduciary obligations to our members and to our organizations, financial and otherwise. We need to be able to respond to the needs of our organizations and our communities.
Park Board Response: The requirement for CCAs to spend all surplus revenue within five years, which was included in the first drafts of the JOA, has been removed. We are only requesting that you create a plan for reinvesting surplus revenue back into the system, keep the plan updated, and make it available to the public. As we stated in a letter sent to you on June 12, 2017, we are always open to discussing your plans for reinvesting any retained earnings you may have back into the system.
CCA Response to Park Board: The response from Park Board evades the initial concern, which is that we would like to codify, in the agreement, our ability to spend our funds in furtherance of our mandates. As it stands, the language is too restrictive, and while we appreciate Park Board staff’s openness to discussing our plans, this gives us little comfort.
CONCERN 2: ABILITY OF THE PARK BOARD TO TERMINATE THE JOA
Original CCA Concern: In section 21.1, the 90-day notice period and 60-day cure period are too short to allow for a proper remedy of a material breach by a CCA. Furthermore, the proposed JOA allows the Park Board to unilaterally determine whether a CCA is “continually and diligently” working to resolve the breach and, if its determination is negative, it may terminate the agreement with no further notice during the period allowed the CCA to repair the breach. This is arbitrary and unfair. The language in this section is harsh and overreaching.
Park Board Response: The new JOA includes additional protections, including notification of breaches and a cure period. This is a substantial change from the current JOAs, which allow the parties to terminate the JOA for any reason on 3 months’ notice, with no cure periods. If a CCA were to disagree that there has been a breach, they would have access to dispute resolution under the new JOA. Access to dispute resolution is another significant protection that is not included in the current JOAs.
CCA Response to Park Board: While it is true that the current JOA has a three-month termination clause, CCAs are protected by potential license to occupy, which is yet to be heard by the courts. If we sign the proposed JOA, we are foregoing this protection. Thus, we are seeking greater stability in the proposed JOA in exchange for what we are giving up. We are not asking for elimination of the clauses, but that they be modified to make them more reasonable.
In fact, the provisions of the current proposal mean that the Park Board can terminate at any time before the end of the 90-day cure period, should it wish.
CONCERN 3: ABILITY OF THE PARK BOARD TO EVICT A CCA FROM THEIR COMMUNITY CENTRE
Original CCA Concern: Sections 20.1 and 20.3 give the Park Board the ability to arbitrarily oust the CCA. The Park Board need only state that it has “reasonable concerns” about a CCA’s ability to manage a space in a “safe, professional and compliant manner” to evict a CCA from all or a portion of their community centre, or to remove unused space from the jurisdiction of the CCA. This language is unreasonable and entirely subjective. The Park Board need not demonstrate that a CCA was unable to act in a “safe, professional and compliant manner,” but only that its concerns are “reasonable.” This is too much power to grant to the Park Board and makes the CCA vulnerable to permanent removal.
Further, Sections 20.1 and 20.3 allow the Park Board to remove new or renovated space from the scope of the proposed JOA if the CCA had ever been in breach of the JOA, regardless of whether the breach had been remedied.
Park Board Response: Some CCAs expressed concern that the Park Board can remove a CCA from all or a portion of the community centre if the Park Board has concerns that the CCA cannot manage the space in a safe, professional and compliant manner. The JOA does not include any wording that allows the Park Board to take existing space away from a CCA or terminate the JOA, except in the case of a material breach.
To clarify, the sections of the JOA that relate to whether the CCA can manage space in a safe, professional and compliant manner are only related to expanding current facilities (for example, the new childcare centre at Kensington) or replacing facilities (for example, a new community centre). In those circumstances, we will work with the CCA to assess the new space, determine whether it is consistent with what is currently programmed, and amend the JOA as needed.
CCA Response to Park Board:
This is untrue. Section 20.2 states:
If, during the Term, any space in the Jointly Operated Facilities needs to be closed for reasons of safety (for example, removal of asbestos) or is unused by the Association for the purposes contemplated under this Agreement for a sustained period, then such space may be removed from the scope of the Jointly Operated Facilities
Furthermore, as stated in our original concerns, we are extremely uncomfortable with the language as written, as it gives Park Board too much power to decide arbitrarily if a CCA is “safe, professional and compliant” and to use this as grounds for termination or removal of space. Please see our concerns highlighted above.
CONCERN 4: TERM AND RENEWAL
Original CCA Concern: As CCAs, we are invested in our community centres. In fact, our primary purpose is to represent the interests of our communities at our community centres. Thus, we feel it is reasonable that in Section 3 at the end of the initial term both parties attempt to renegotiate another agreement in good faith.
Park Board Response: The term and process at renewal are critical components of the new JOA and it would not be possible for us to create another perpetual agreement like the current JOAs. The term and renewal were extensively discussed during the consultation phase, and we note that the length of the term doubled from an initial 5 years to 10 years, at the request of some CCAs during consultation. This reflects the need for touch-points between the parties during the lifetime of the agreement.
CCA Response to Park Board: This response misinterprets our request. We are not asking for a perpetual agreement. What we are asking for is an expectation that the parties will attempt to renew or renegotiate the JOA in good faith.
CONCERN 5: PARK BOARD INFRINGEMENT ON THE AUTONOMY OF THE CCAS
Original CCA Concern: Section 4.2 lists wholly internal CCA issues and makes each a potential material breach leading to termination. In addition, Section 6.1 requires CCAs to adopt and comply with several specified internal policies. It is highly unusual and unnecessary for one contracting party to hold this level of oversight over another contracting party. Furthermore, in a review of compliance conducted by the Park Board, a CCA would have to disclose information to which the Park Board would otherwise not have a right.
CCAs are independent societies and many are registered charities. As such, CCAs have responsibilities and obligations under the BC Societies Act and the Income Tax Act. The current level of regulation is sufficient for maintaining compliance with operating norms in the non-profit sector.
Park Board Response: In the JOA, CCAs are asked to adopt and comply with good governance policies, for example, conflict of interest, responsible use of funds, and succession planning. The governance and conduct policies in the JOA are typical of arrangements between the City and community service providers or non-profits. As we are working together to provide services to the public using publicly-funded assets, good governance is critical to ensuring that the CCA’s exclusive use of space is for purposes that benefit the community.
CCA Response to Park Board: The CCAs have a long history of responsible governance and stewardship of community centre programming. The success of this model is driven by strong community engagement and local volunteerism. We are primarily accountable to our members, those who make up our local communities and who expect such quality programming to continue. We are also accountable to several other bodies. For example, we provide ongoing financial and other reports to the Park Board, the City of Vancouver, and other agencies such as granting bodies. We are governed by a number of regulatory bodies, as highlighted above.
The current language in the JOA is overreaching, punitive and unnecessary, given our history of responsible governance.
CONCERN 6: MUTUAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR SERVICE PROVISION
Original CCA Concern: This proposed JOA concentrates on the internal operations of the Community Centre Associations. It does not reflect that the Park Board has a legislated responsibility for the provision of recreation programs and services to Vancouver residents. The Park Board can adopt policies that limit the provision of programs at community centres through reducing hours of operation, instituting requirements that put an association’s financial health at risk, or insisting on system-wide programs that prevent the associations from providing their own community-focused programs.
Park Board Response: The new JOA makes several commitments for the Park Board to support the CCAs with programming and providing services to the public, including system-wide planning sessions and formal opportunities for CCAs and their boards to provide feedback to the Park Board. As well, the JOA states that “the parties agree that it is in their mutual interest to work cooperatively to ensure the successful and financially sustainable offering of Programming and services from the Jointly Operated Facilities and to improve community engagement and participation through the Jointly Operated Facilities.”
CCA Response to Park Board: The wording highlighted in bold in the previous paragraph, in the Park Board’s response to this issue, is taken from the preamble to the document, which is not enforceable and therefore does not compel the Park Board to adhere to this commitment. We are surprised by the strong desire in the agreement to control and limit the CCAs while neglecting to require the Park Board to commit to providing adequate service levels and ensuring financial sustainability in each community centre.
Q: Why would the Park Board vote to approve an agreement that the majority of the CCAs are unhappy with?
A: We can’t speak for the Park Board.
What we can tell you is that we are hopeful that they will take the feedback we have currently put forward and have their lawyer meet with our legal representative so that the concerns can be addressed.
Legal counsel advised us that there are serious issues with some key elements of the current draft of the JOA and that they need to be changed before many CCA presidents can advise their boards to sign this agreement in good faith. The changes we want are not extreme and, in fact, are easy ones for the Park Board to make. We are hopeful that Commissioners will understand this and will ask staff to have a review with legal representatives from both sides.
The CCAs bring 60-70 years of knowledge, expertise and experience in successfully running community centres to the table. Our input is crucial in developing a JOA that meets the needs of the Park Board and each of our diverse communities. And that is what we want – a good agreement that works for all involved.
Q: Why wouldn’t they take your concerns and revise the agreement accordingly?
A: We can’t speak for the Park Board.
We don’t understand why there is a barrier to having legal counsel from the Park Board and the CCAs meet and go through the document to address the issues. Once these areas of concern have been addressed, the majority of the CCAs say they will feel comfortable moving the document forward to their respective boards for signature.
We want a JOA that works for the Park Board and for our respective community centres. We want to get back to focusing on the work that we do best – running community centres that meet the needs of each of our unique Vancouver communities.
Q: This has been a long process – why can’t the CCAs and the Park Board come to an agreement?
A: We can’t speak for the Park Board. We believe that the revisions we want made are not extensive and could be done quite quickly. Having said that, they are important points for the CCAs and we have advice from legal counsel that the points we want revised will have serious legal ramifications for the CCAs if they are not changed.
In addition, this is an important document – the JOA will define our partnership with the Park Board for the next 10 years. We are committed to getting an agreement that meets the needs of our communities and we don’t feel that we are being unreasonable in what we expect to be included in this document.
Volunteer representatives from the CCAs came together over 18 months – and spent several hundred hours – to draft a proposal that we submitted to the Park Board in early November. At that time, we informed the Park Board that we were united in supporting the content of this document. Unfortunately, the current draft of the JOA does not address or resolve the issues that we identified.
Q: What happens if you can’t come to an agreement?
A: We are hopeful that we can come to an agreement and that Park Board Commissioners will see the value in having legal counsel from the group of CCAs and the Park Board review the document and address the key issues we have put forward.
We are asking the Commissioners to send the JOA back to Park Board staff so that they can send it for a legal review.
As for what happens if we can’t come to an agreement, we will have to cross that bridge if we come to it. We are hopeful that the Commissioners will see that we have an opportunity to develop a strong JOA that works for all parties involved. We are close to having an agreement, but there are a small number of changes that are important to the CCAs and that would only minimally affect the Park Board.
Q: There is a rocky history between the CCAs and the Park Board – is this influencing this situation?
A: Prior to 2009, the CCAs enjoyed a collaborative and effective working relationship with the Park Board. It has become rocky only since the Park Board/City began to demand increased control of the associations, as well as the services they provide.
We are committed to rebuilding the trust that has been lost between the Park Board and our CCAs and communities. While we are concerned that this JOA process has continued to erode trust, we are hopeful that the Commissioners will work with us. The changes we are asking for are not extensive, but are crucial to us.
We want to focus on the goal of developing a JOA that works for both parties, and we believe that this will be a positive start to supporting a rebuilding of trust within the relationship between the CCAs and the Park Board.
Q: What happened with the lawsuit filed by six CCAs?
A: The lawsuit is currently on hold while we work to get a JOA that works for the Park Board and the CCAs.
As a part of the JOA, the Park Board has stated that to sign the agreement, the CCAs involved in the lawsuit must terminate the legal action.