PORT COQUITLAM (NEWS 1130) — A controversial reception sponsored by the Chinese government at this year’s Union of BC Municipalities convention is going ahead, but one Lower Mainland mayor is not giving up his fight to shame organizers into cancelling it.
Port Coquitlam’s Brad West says, if it doesn’t get called off, he will crash it.
“I want to talk about the two Canadian citizens being held hostage. I want to talk about the trade war and the devastating consequences that’s having on our communities, the flow of fentanyl into B.C. from China, I want to talk about money laundering and since you’re so open to dialogue, let’s have that conversation!”
West says the reception should also be open to the media, as well as the families of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor –the two Canadians detained in China since December’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
“If this is as innocent as they suggest, it should be open to the public –maybe Canadians who are concerned that the government of China has one million Muslims interned in what are charitably described as re-education camps.”
UBCM President Arjun Singh says he’s well aware of the fallout following the arrest of Wanzhou at the Vancouver airport on behalf of the United States government which is seeking her extradtion on fraud charges.
“They’re very delicate issues and we feel that they’re being dealt with through the proper channels through our federal government.”
Singh says no changes will be made before next year, but an independent panel will review sponsorship policies to ensure they don’t cross ethical boundaries.
“This is really an opportunity for us to reflect our relationships we already have and to bring the sector together and that’s what we’ve always been doing.”
However, West insists the reception –now in it’s sixth year– is nothing more than a ‘pathetic’ cash-for-access scheme.
“If it’s morphed into some sort of big lobby-palooza, then shame on them –the UBCM– for allowing that to be what it’s become. I want to know what line the government of China would have to cross for them to say it’s no longer appropriate? You should not be taking money from a hostile foreign government.”
Singh defends the event saying a knee-jerk cancellation won’t keep Chinese officials from hosting civic leaders elsewhere.
“To say that any of the sponsorships are cash-for-access, they’re accessing us anyways.”
The city councillor from Kamloops says the purpose of the review is to evaluate the various sources of revenue, including sponsorship revenue, for the UBCM’s annual convention which will be held at the Vancouver Convention Centre in September.
The panel includes former Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore who West replaced after he decided not to seek re-election last year.
Other members include former UBCM President and Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, as well as Burnaby City Councillor Sav Dhaliwal who also chairs the Metro Vancouver Regional District and is a past UBCM president.
The Union of BC Municipalities was founded in 1905 and the annual convention draws close to 2,000 participants over five days.