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No free parking for veterans

Peter Crnogorac
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 17/06) - Outside of City Hall chambers Tuesday night, two angry Legion members let loose on municipal council for rejecting a proposal to give people with veterans' license plates free parking in the month of November.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Local Legion members Lorne Power, left, and Lloyd Lush became more downhearted with each no vote by council members on the Legion's recommendation to give people with veterans' license plates free parking during November. - Peter Crnogorac/NNSL photo

"Those people don't know what a veteran is," Yellowknife Royal Canadian Legion president Lloyd Lush said, pointing his thumb over his shoulder toward council chambers as Legion manager Lorne Power stood beside him shaking his head in disbelief.

Minutes before, five council members voted not to give people with federally-issued veterans' plates free parking at meters throughout the city in November, as the Legion requested.

"During my 22 years in the military, we always recognized the distinction between true veterans, ones who served in wars..., and people like me who didn't," said Coun. David Wind when explaining his decision not to vote for the motion.

"My decision is not one of disrespect for the veterans who fought for our freedom," said Coun. Shelagh Montgomery. "I believe the licence plate is recognition in itself."

In the NWT, a person can apply to get a special veterans' license plate if they spent three years of active duty in the military.

One theme that emerged at last week's municipal committee meeting, where the licence plate issue was previously discussed, was that many veterans are seniors, and Yellowknife already has a bylaw granting parking privileges to seniors.

At the council meeting Tuesday night, Power was given five minutes to make a presentation on why council

should accept their motion.

"I want to remind you that all veterans are not seniors," he said, "and certainly not disabled."

Power told council that a City Hall administrator - he didn't name who - recently told him that he had checked with 29 jurisdictions across Canada and didn't find any that offered free parking to veterans.

"I Googled this, and came up with several," Power countered.

He then read off the names of cities and towns that offered full or partial breaks on parking fees for people with a veterans' licence plate. The list included Oakville, Ont. Halifax N.S. Port Moody, B.C. and Burnaby, B.C., among others.

Councillor Lydia Bardak said she thought there were better ways to honour veterans such as closing all stores, bars and retail outlets on Nov. 11.

Councillor Wind asked Power, "Is there any way to differentiate World War One, World War Two, Korean, or any other vets who were involved in active combat missions from (people) who weren't?"

Power replied, "...A veteran is a veteran is a veteran."

Of the six council members present Tuesday, Paul Falvo, excused himself from the discussion and vote because he was once in the military and felt his vote could be seen as a conflict of interest. Councillor Kevin Kennedy and Coun. Bob Brooks were not at Tuesday's meeting.

Before leaving City Hall, Lush said he couldn't understand why it was a big deal to pass the motion.

"That decision was ridiculous," he said. "This is a program supported by the Royal Canadian Legion across the country."

He then explained that there are 35 veterans' plates issued across the NWT, with 25 being applied for and given to people in Yellowknife. However, Lush said there are approximately 10 people with the plate in the city now, due to some of the 25 moving away, not driving or owning up to three vehicles with veterans' plates on them.

"It's not about getting free parking," Lush said. "It's about honouring veterans."