Aquarium Plebiscite – A Principled Debate

Last Monday July 19 Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon brought forward a motion to hold a plebiscite on cetaceans in captivity in November 2011.  The motion failed 5-2 with my vote being one of the five.  I’m not using this space to debate the pros and cons of cetaceans in captivity – lots has and will continue to be written about this very passionate and emotional topic.

However for the record I did not support the motion for two reasons.  First, the Park Board has an agreement in place with the Aquarium to review this topic in 2015 and an agreement is an agreement.  To review this now, albeit a non-binding review would have greatly jeopardized the Aquarium’s chances of finalizing funding to complete their expansion plans. Second, the decision to have cetaceans at the Aquarium is not a ballot box question; it cannot be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’; there are shades of gray.  What do you do if a white-sided dolphin is injured off the coast?  If we do not permit cetaceans at the Aquarium then they cannot rescue and rehabiliate the dolphin and it would be left to die.  Commissioner Mackinnon has another view and I have posted a link to his blog here.

What I do want to comment on are the comments made by Park Board Chair Aaron Jasper that Commissioner Mackinnon’s motion was “reckless” and putting the Park Board at risk.  This statement is nonsense and was a despicable statement coming from the Chair.  The motion was vetted by the Acting Park Board General Manager and City Legal so in terms of being legal – it was.  As I stated to a number of media outlets during the week leading up to last Monday’s vote, I would have been surprised if Commissioner Mackinnon did not bring this to the Board sometime during his three year term.  This is a topic Stuart has been passionate about long before he became a Commissioner. 

While Commissioner Mackinnon and I are on opposite ends of this discussion I welcome these types of principled debates and discussions at the Board table.  What I did not welcome was the personal attack by the Chair towards another member of the Board.


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