There Is Still Work to Be Done Before We Can Sign the JOA

Readers of this blog know that our negotiation of the Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) with the Park Board has been long, difficult and incredibly frustrating. In fact, it is interesting to point out that throughout the close to two-year process, the Park Board told us not to call this a “negotiation.” That it wasn’t. They called it a “consultative process.” From our perspective, it has never met the criteria required to be considered a consultation or consultative process.

Whatever you want to call it, this is a negotiation. The CCAs have given up elements in this agreement in response to the Park Board’s push back and the Park Board has agreed to include or remove sections that the CCAs have clearly communicated as priorities. That’s a negotiation of two partners working out an important agreement.

It is concerning that the messaging coming out by the Park Board is that out of 19 CCAs being offered a JOA, they are reporting that 11 have signed – and that seven are close to signing. That math doesn’t add up. We’re not sure what they mean because if you do the math, there are three of us (Hastings Community Association, Kerrisdale Community Centre Society and Killarney Community Centre Society) continuing to work together, taking a leadership position, and pushing back on the Park Board about important changes that must be made.

If 11 have signed and seven are close to signing, that is a total of 18 out of 19… Since three of us are not close to signing until some changes are made, the math they are putting out there doesn’t add up.

It is important to remember that “close to signing” does not mean “signed.” We talk to other CCAs regularly – those who have signed and those who have not. And they are following our negotiations with the Park Board because if we get additional changes in our agreement, they will have the option to have those changes included in theirs – even if they have already signed.

We went into January cautiously, hopeful that we could get a JOA that we felt was acceptable enough to take to our respective boards and recommend signing it. Each of our communities and our boards of directors gave us a mandate to get a JOA that will work for our respective communities – not a JOA that just works for the Park Board. And we continue to follow their direction.

While we continue to work towards getting a JOA that we can live with, we are feeling less hopeful at this stage of the negotiation process. We are asking for a change in the document which is crucial to our CCAs that the Park Board lawyers and staff are flatly refusing to make and they are not providing any rational reason as to why they won’t make it, except to say: “We disagree with you.” That’s not good enough.

Through our legal counsel, we have just re-submitted our requirements to the Park Board. We have a rationale and reasons for why these revisions need to be done. We’d like to hear why the Park Board lawyers and staff are flatly refusing to work with us to find a solution.

It is time for Commissioners to step back in and provide the leadership that they continue to tell the people of Vancouver that they bring to their roles.

In an election year, you would think that Park Board Commissioners would want to showcase their value to the diverse and unique communities of this great city.