Meeting on dolphins and belugas continues Monday, July 28th. Recap of marathon meeting (July 26).

Park Board
The Park Board held a special meeting to discuss the practice of keeping captive cetaceans in Stanley Park at the Vancouver Aquarium on July 26, 2014. The all-day meeting started at 9am and lasted until slightly after 5pm. A total of 133 speakers had signed up to give presentations, but time ran out. The meeting will therefore reconvene at 6pm on Monday, July 28th to hear from the remaining speakers, continuing with speaker #49. Park Board Commissioners will also have a chance to debate the future of dolphins and beluga whales at the Vancouver Aquarium. Over 70% of the speakers were opposed to holding cetaceans in captivity; clips from several speakers are included in the following video:
The staff report prepared by Dr. Joseph Gaydos did a comparative analysis of the Vancouver Aquarium with other similarly-sized facilities in North America. It looked at the conditions, standards and accreditation for zoos and aquariums. It did not examine the ethical questions on the practice of keeping live cetaceans in captivity. Dr. Gaydos was on hand to present the report and to take questions from the Commissioners. The report noted that the “Vancouver Aquarium is currently meeting all North American industry standards for the care and husbandry of marine mammals” based on the data received. Some aquariums did not provide information to Dr. Gaydos, while the other facilities that did were self-reporting. It was noted that several countries have outright bans on keeping cetaceans in captivity, with the most recent ban in India in 2013.
Crowd Commissioner Sarah Blyth
A delegation from the Vancouver Aquarium made an extensive presentation to the board. They examined the research and rescue operations of the facility. A recent UBC graduate student as well as a veterinarian employed by the Aquarium described their first encounters with cetaceans at the facility and cited this as a reason for their career choice. John Nightingale, President and CEO of the Vancouver Aquarium defended the track record of the facility. Nightingale spoke about the history of the cetaceans at the facility and provided more details about why the Aquarium shifted away from keeping live orcas on display:
The delegation also noted the importance of the tourism industry and revealed attendance figures of slightly over 1 million visitors annually. As part of a breeding program with other North American facilities, a number of the beluga whales are on loan to other facilities.
The facility has plans to expand its display of cetaceans with a round of expansion set to start as soon as 2015. Responding to a question by Commissioner Loke, Nightingale dropped a bombshell by revealing that the Aquarium would seek financial compensation from the Park Board or the City if cetaceans were to be phased out:
Commissioner Jasper later noted that the Aquarium has full knowledge that the Park Board were set to review the cetaceans policy by 2015, and they are in this process a year earlier (in 2014). Jasper also asked for details on the ages and genealogy of the 9 belugas owned by the Aquarium, and the location of the each of the beluga whales. The delegation stated that the beluga breeding program has been charted for the next 80 years so that wild capture should not be required to maintain the genetic diversity of the pool. Continue reading

Public companies do full and continuous disclosure, so why can’t the NPA and Vision Vancouver? (Charlie Smith, Georgia Straight)

Dollar signs, CHWThis is an excellent commentary in the Georgia Straight, by Charlie Smith. Here is an excerpt. Please follow the link for the full text.


UNDER CANADIAN SECURITIES laws, publicly traded companies are required to provide full and continuous disclosure whenever there’s a change in material facts.

Here’s how Davis LLP explained this concept in one of its online bulletins: “Full disclosure allows investors to make an informed investment decision, true disclosure is accurate and not misleading and does not omit a fact that is either material or necessary to understand the facts already disclosed and plain disclosure must be understandable to investors and in plain language.”

Full and continuous disclosure ensures there’s a level playing field between average investors and company insiders. Unfortunately, there isn’t the same level of transparency in B.C.’s municipal-election rules. You can forget about full and continuous disclosure when it comes to who’s writing the cheques. NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe has promised that if he’s elected, he’ll lead the most open government in Canada. But now, there’s no way of knowing who’s financing the NPA and Vision Vancouver campaigns.

Full commentary here:

Alternate future: An Aquarium without live cetaceans? New Park Board report now online, public meeting Saturday, July 26

Park Board HQThe Vancouver Park Board has posted a staff report dated July 23, 2014 on the current Practice of Keeping Captive Cetaceans in Stanley Park at the Vancouver Aquarium. A Special Meeting has been scheduled to start at 9 am on Saturday, July 26, 2014. This is scheduled as the last meeting of Park Board before the summer break, and it will take place at 2099 Beach Avenue (the Park Board HQ is the last building before entering Stanley Park on Beach Avenue, a short walk from Davie and Denman Streets). Speakers should sign up online by noon on Friday, July 25th; the full agenda for the meeting is available here.

The main thrust of the staff report is a comparative analysis of the Vancouver Aquarium and similar facilities around the globe. The report has confirmed that dolphins and whales are banned from aquariums in 7 countries: Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, India, Slovenia, and Switzerland.Comparison Chart As well, it finds that the majority of aquariums worldwide are without cetaceans (illustration page 9, inset). The only other aquarium with live cetaceans in Canada is Marineland in Ontario.

The Vancouver Aquarium is currently looking to expand its facilities in a second phase of construction. Is there an alternate future for the Vancouver Aquarium, a future that does not include live cetaceans?

aquarium entranceNow is a critical time for decisions – an opportunity to change course and allocate resources and capital plans in other ways than to keep or to expand the display of captive dolphins and whales. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is frequently used as an example of a highly successful facility that doesn’t keep cetaceans in captivity. The Sydney Aquarium is a high profile facility, and again it operates without cetaceans.

The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco has a novel way of engaging visitors with an interactive digital tank. Could something similar be installed in Vancouver?

Decisions made over the fate of live cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium could be used to chart the future course of this facility. Could an alternate and vibrant future be contemplated for the Aquarium without live whales and dolphins? What can be learned from the many aquariums worldwide that do not keep cetaceans in captivity? These questions touch upon ethics and values, public consultation and democracy, tourism and taxes, creativity and practicality, economics and marketing, management and leadership, politics and courage. Perhaps a major force of inertia resisting change in policy at Vancouver Aquarium is the fact that a significant amount of capital and resources has been committed to one vision of an aquarium — based on a business model that includes captive cetaceans for tourism and revenue. In business school and in the real business world, it is the courageous and creative leaders who are able to see issues to their core, recognize where change is needed, and then lead their organizations where they can and should go. What will we see unfolding before our eyes, so close up, right here in Vancouver?

Monaco Digital Tank

Continue reading

Jericho Lands sale: Plans, vision, value, community input, constraints (video of Council – Councillors Carr, Reimer, City Manager) July 22

jericho lands sunset
The upcoming sale of the federal Jericho Lands was discussed during the Vancouver City Council meeting on July 22, 2014. Councillor Adriane Carr noted that there was a forum in West Point Grey on July 15th where it was revealed that the federal government is ready to transfer the ownership of the Jericho Lands to the Canada Land Company at full market value. Carr asked the City Manager about the role the City has played to date with the federal government and she asked if the City is actively talking to the federal government. Councillor Carr also noted the clear and strong language about development contained in the West Point Grey CityPlan Community Vision that was passed in 2010. She also asked about how the City has engaged the citizens.

City Manager Penny Ballem acknowledged that the City of Vancouver has been in communications with the federal government on the planning framework. Ballem noted that the federal government’s goal is to “achieve highest and best use” and the “best possible market value” for the Jericho Lands. The City would provide further clarity as to which zoning bylaws apply in the future (if and when the Canada Lands Company were to partition and sell off parts of the site to private developers under a tender). The full comments can be seen in the following video:

Councillor Andrea Reimer also spoke about the Jericho Lands afterward (her comments are also in the above video). Reimer said that there was no clear direction in the West Point Grey plan for this piece of land and she said that it is “for future planning”. She referred the Jericho lands as a “future planning area”.

She may not have been aware that, in fact, the CityPlan Community Vision for West Point Grey does make clear mention of these matters, and it is critical to respect the following approved direction in the context of current discussions:

26.2 Jericho Lands Planning Process [Approved - Agree 90/89 %]

If the redevelopment of the Jericho Lands is proposed, the City should ensure that a major study of future uses of the site takes place with significant public consultation. Consistent with the approach taken to create the WPG Community Vision, workshops and other consultations – including a survey of WPG residents – should be held to help determine the neighbourhood’s view on issues related to the development of the Jericho Lands not covered in the WPG Community Vision. There should be early feedback to City Council on the interests and concerns of the WPG community before any key decisions are made. The outcome of a Jericho Lands planning process should be a plan for the site development in consultation with the WPG community; the plan should be considered when implementing Vision Directions and pursuing other City initiatives in WPG.

The types of new housing that are supported and not supported by the community are listed in section 15 of the document (more infill housing and duplexes were supported while fourplexes, rowhouses and low-rise apartments were not supported).

What precedents might the City use for planning the Jericho Lands? The Pearson Dogwood policy report was approved by City Council on February 5, 2014. The following model was used to illustrate the scale of this future development in a predominantly single family residential area of Marpole:

Pearson Dogwood model at UDP Oct 2013 Pearson Dogwood model at UDP Oct 2013

City planners may also look to the Little Mountain Housing Policy document, CityGate and Olympic Village as examples of large projects. The Jericho Lands also fall within an identified future rapid transit corridor in the Transportation 2040 Plan. The recently-pproved Oakridge rezoning relied on a policy statement that referenced the Transportation 2040 plan. The Arbutus Walk project is yet another precedent that could be studied by the City. Regardless of the precedents studied, the real question is whether significant public consultation will take place early on in the process. The public should demand it. Politicians should guarantee it.

Once the Jericho Lands are transferred to the Canada Lands Company at “fair market value”, this crown corporation will be under pressure to make sure that revenue from the future Jericho Lands development will at least cover the sale price (BC Assessment values the land at $234 million, zoned as RS-1 single family residential). A very high valuation for the land could potentially limit the form of future development for the site to only a very high-density option. These are public lands. A high level of public scrutiny and involvement is essential.
Jericho Lands housing

Where should the love locks go?

love locksCommissioner John Coupar’s motion to find a permanent home for love locks passed unanimously at the Park Board meeting on July 20th, 2014. Park Board staff have been instructed to find possible locations for a structurally safe location to put the love locks, and to consult with the public.

The love locks motion was originally introduced at the July 8th City Council meeting by Councillor George Affleck. The motion was passed in Council, with Councillor Geoff Meggs opposed. Love locks first appears in Vancouver in 2013 on the Burrard Bridge, and were subsequently removed by the City. The locks reappeared in 2014 on a fence beside False Creek and these were also removed, this time by Concord Pacific (see our earlier post for more details). A location for a permanent display of the love locks can be suggested using twitter with the hashtag #vanlovelocks (this tag was suggested by @george_affleck). The video of Coupar’s motion and explanation is included below:

Where should Park Board put the love locks? Should it be a little bit off the beaten path? In a very popular place? Or somewhere in between very popular and remote? Should the location be close to transit?

We have a few suggestions:

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Park Board may wish to consider having two locations, with one in the east and west. While the love locks display should be ‘permanent’, there could also be consideration to make it moveable, at a future date, and also to make the display expandable.

Here’s a list of a several (and by no means exhaustive) possible locations (pictured in the slideshow above): English Bay, Queen Elizabeth Park lookout, Art Gallery, Kitsilano Beach Park, Olympic pier on False Creek, Science World, Trout Lake, Jack Poole Plaza, Waterfront Square, CRAB Park, Main St / 18th Avenue, the East Van Cross, New Brighton Park, Fraser River pier, Jericho Beach Park, VPL Central Branch and Grandview Park.

System-wide Skytrain failure on Expo and Millennium lines. Second time in a week

Entrance closed
There’s been a system-wide failure on the Expo and Millennium Skytrain lines. All four entrances to the busiest Skytrain station in the system at Commercial-Broadway were closed in middle of the day, just past 1pm on Monday, July 21, 2014. A train was stranded on the tracks on the north side of Broadway. This is second failure in a week; sections of the Expo and Millennium lines were out of service on July 17, 2014. Continue reading