As Vancouver nears an election, once again the fate of Stanley Park's captive whales and dolphins is at issue. How, after a summer of protests, revelations, Jane Goodall and lengthy public hearings that led to the introduction of new whale-friendly bylaws, is this an election issue?
Recent history suggests it is because the Vancouver Aquarium is gaming the system. And while their tactics may technically be legal, whether they are ethical or democratic is another matter.
This is not the first time the aquarium has been accused of playing political games with Vancouver's publicly elected Park Board. In the 2005 Vancouver election, CEO John Nightingale faced public accusations he had contravened the Canada Revenue Agency's prohibition on registered charities engaging in partisan political messaging over a letter to aquarium members that suggested they vote for candidates who opposed a referendum on cetacean captivity.
The results of that election wrested control of the Park Board from the left-leaning, whale-friendly Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) to the right-leaning, aquarium-friendly Non-Partisan Association (NPA), exactly the desired result Nightingale hinted at in his letter.