City’s controversial community centre funding proposal hits south Vancouver

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The recent community centre funding controversy has some people worried important services, such as daycare may suffer as a result. Photo: Garin Fahlman
The recent community centre funding controversy has some people worried important services, such as daycare may suffer as a result. Photo: Garin Fahlman

An emergency Parks Board meeting on community centre reform turned into a nine-hour debate on Feb. 4, eventually drawing the attention of police.

Proposed changes to funding could affect the way community centres are operated in Vancouver, after a majority agreement was reached on a new restructuring plan last week.  Some community centre associations oppose the controversial proposal.

Under the proposed amendments, which attempt to eliminate inequalities in community centre funding, cash would be pooled and distributed equally which could result in some associations cutting some services they offer.

Less well-off centres may benefit from the proposal while centres in wealthier neighbourhoods will likely have less cash to spend.

Optimism amidst the controversy

Parks board chair Sarah Blyth said despite some controversy surrounding the change, she is nonetheless optimistic about the progress that’s been made. “There’s a lot of partners, but we all agree on the same core things. We want equal access, the level of programs to go up, and

for all centres to be better represented,” she said. “Everyone would like to move on.”

While the majority of community centres have agreed to go along with the agreement, a vocal minority has brought up concerns.

“The reality is that things are never easy,” Blyth said. “Democracy means that we need to address everyone’s concerns.”

Marpole-Oakridge community centre association has been a vocal opponent of the funding changes proposed by the joint operating agreement, although according to community recreation supervisor Karen Grant, president Danny Yu was not available to speak with media at this time.

Reactions are still hard to gauge

David Hunter, a chess instructor at the Marpole Oakridge Community Centre, said that despite the community centre association’s opposition to the proposals, he’s seen little reaction from those who attend the community centre.

“I don’t know if many people know about it. I don’t see staff or community members talking about it,” he said.

Hunter said that membership has grown in the last ten years, but doesn’t know whether changes to the community centres’ accessibility and funding will help increase growth further.

Blyth said that the proposal has been going back and forth for ten years, but that the discussion is ultimately beneficial to the system.

“At the end of the day, everyone has to look at these systems with a magnifying glass. You need to dissect them if they’re not working, which can be uncomfortable, but the model may be working in some places but not in others.”

A community meeting to discuss the joint operating agreement was held on Monday, and the proposal will continue to be under negotiations for another five months before any conclusion can be made.

Reported by Garin Fahlman

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