Council to debate pay parking ban

City council is making moves to ban parking fees at the new Campbell River Hospital.

At its Monday night meeting, Coun. Larry Samson served notice that he will be putting forward a motion directing city staff to draft a bylaw that would prohibit all pay parking in Public Area One zones throughout the city. That motion will go before council at its Dec. 12 meeting for consideration. The Public Area One zoning is in place in all areas that provide health, social, educational, recreational and other services to the community, including the hospital.

The motion also recognizes that parking fees impede the use of such services or areas and that the Canada Health Act dictates that the primary objective of Canadian Health Care Policy is “to protect, promote and restore the physical and mental well-being of residents of Canada and to facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers.”

Samson first put forward the idea of using a city bylaw to prohibit pay parking at the hospital in April. He noted that the municipality of Delta, in 2004, passed a bylaw amendment dictating that “parking spaces in connection with a hospital must be provided free of charge.”

Campbell River council was officially given the green light to pursue a similar bylaw of its own after the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board – made up of both Comox Valley and Campbell River elected officials – recently voted to support Campbell River and Comox Valley city councils in banning hospital parking fees through a municipal bylaw if they so choose.

Island Health announced last year that it intends to charge for parking at new hospitals in both Campbell River and the Comox Valley.

Provincial Health Minister Terry Lake said the province supports the health authority’s decision, saying that it allows Island Health to “pay for parking lot management, maintenance and security, rather than using hospital funds that are better spent on direct patient care.”

The regional hospital board, though, has been looking at alternate options, including levying a property tax in lieu of pay parking. Under that scheme, a tax requisition would be used to generate roughly $1 million – the amount Island Health says it would accumulate through pay parking at the new North Island hospitals.

Debra Oakman, CAO for the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) which coordinates hospital board meetings, said that $627,104 and $372,896 would need to be collected from Comox Valley and Strathcona regional district residents, respectively, each year through taxation. Of that $372,896 contribution from the Strathcona Regional District, $250,823 would need to come from Campbell River taxpayers.

Joe Murphy, vice president of planning and operations support for Island Health, told the CVRD that Island Health anticipates gross revenues of between $900,000 and $1.2 million from pay parking and net revenues of no greater than $850,000.

Murphy said Island Health has “yet to determine the exact parking rates at each location” but is committed “to providing the lowest of the rates at either St. Joseph’s or Nanaimo hospital.”

Parking rates at St. Joseph’s in the Comox Valley are $1.50 for one hour, $2.25 for two hours, $7 daily and $25 weekly. Nanaimo’s rates are $2.25 for the first two hours, $1.25 per hour thereafter and $26.75 weekly.