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The Vancouver Courier
Friday, May 8, 2009
By Sandra Thomas

Park board chair backs seniors' centre

Vision Vancouver park board commissioner Raj Hundal relinquished his position as chair of the board this week, but only long enough to move a motion at Monday night's park board meeting for action on a new seniors' centre in southeast Vancouver.

Hundal noted commissioners who chair the board can't bring motions forward, but he felt so strongly about the issue he temporarily resigned his post. "I did it to bring the motion forward," Hundal said. "And also you're supposed to give notice before bringing a motion forward, but I spoke to the other commissioners and they all agreed this was important and time sensitive enough to just go ahead."

Hundal's motion asks parks staff to look at adding 10,000 square feet to the Killarney Community Centre for a seniors' centre. Although more than one-third of Vancouver's seniors live in the area with 26,000 residents over the age of 65, the park board runs no seniors centres east of Cambie, while there are eight to the west.

Hundal said the lack of a seniors' centre in the area has been discussed for too long. "The argument can't be made it's not needed," said Hundal. "Now someone has to step up to the plate. We don't need another study, we need some concrete action."

The lack of results on a seniors' centre has spilled over into the provincial election race. B.C. Liberal candidate Kash Heed, who's running in Vancouver-Fraserview, which includes most of southeast Vancouver, said if elected he'll take the lead on the project.

"One of the first things I'll do is put all of the pieces of the puzzle together," said Heed, a former police officer. "Including involving the federal government to ensure we make this happen."

Heed met with seniors' advocate Lorna Gibbs and Keith Jacobs, president of the Killarney Community Centre Association, who are the driving force behind the seniors' centre proposal, before he announced his run.

NDP candidate Gabriel Yiu said outgoing Liberal MLA Wally Opal, who was elected in 2005, promised to build a seniors' centre but did not deliver. "This seniors' centre was supposed to be built in 2001, but when the Liberals swept in it was cancelled," Yiu said. "I've already spoken to [NDP leader] Carole James and I announced on April 22 that it's fully on our platform. Whether I get elected or not, it will be built if the NDP wins."

Gibbs was delighted by Hundal's motion. "I was so thrilled that when I came home from the [park board] meeting I literally could have danced all night," said Gibbs. "I've been to so many meetings and heard so many promises, but it finally looks like we're going to get more than a handshake."

Gibbs noted support from provincial and federal politicians, but said Hundal's motion is the first solid action. "Of course they're supportive, it's a motherhood issue like apple pie, it's not like anyone's going to say they don't support it," she said. "But I can't declare for either of the [NDP or Liberal] parties because I can't say one way or the other who's going to do what."

© Vancouver Courier 2009

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