VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The mayor of Port Coquitlam is gathering support for his push to have the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) cancel a reception at its upcoming conference over its connection to China.
In a letter to the UBCM executive, Mayor Brad West argues some of the actions taken by the Chinese government are hostile to Canada’s interests, and China’s continued involvement in the conference reflects poorly on the union and its members.
“I think it’s completely unethical and wrong for the UBCM to accept cash from the government of China to provide access to mayors and city councillors. It’s cash for access,” says West.
The Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China in Vancouver is currently listed as a sponsor for the reception. Its involvement dates back to 2012.
If the event goes ahead as planned in September, West is calling on municipal leaders to join him in boycotting it.
He adds since going public with his opposition, several mayors in the B.C. Interior and councillors in the Lower Mainland have reached out to express their support.
Two Canadian citizens are still currently being detained in China. The arrests of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are widely seen as retaliation against Canada for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the Vancouver airport.
Vancouver councillor Pete Fry, a member of the UBCM executive, says China’s involvement in the reception has been discussed several times before, and will be talked about again at an executive meeting in mid-July.
But he says he does not agree the reception should be cancelled.
“If we really don’t like doing business with China, then we should put our money where our mouth is and stop doing business with China, and that includes the $7 billion in exports and $11 billion in imports we do a year here in British Columbia,” says Fry.
He adds the conference provides an opportunity for smaller municipalities to develop business ties with potential Chinese trading partners.
“We have resource extraction communities throughout our province, we have communities where the mills have closed down, and they’re looking for economic opportunities. That’s part of what the UBCM convention is about.”
Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie — whose community is over 50 per cent Chinese — also supports the continuation of the reception.
“With the focus being on trade and economic development as opposed to geopolitics, I think that it shouldn’t be offensive that China would host a reception, and people can make their own decisions about whether they want to attend that or not,” he says.Mayor West Ltr to UBCM Exec Re Gov of China Reception