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UBCM accepting oil and gas sponsorships called 'unethical'

Protesters objected to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink sponsoring municipal conference events.
A small group protested the Union of BC Municipalities taking sponsorship money from the oil and gas sector.

Protesters outside this week’s Vancouver conference of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) called on the organization to refuse sponsorship funding from fossil fuel industry organizations.

Neelam Chadha told Glacier Media that FortisBC, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink sponsored the conference. Among the sessions they sponsored was the annual banquet on Sept. 21.

“We are in a climate crisis. There are hundreds of fires burning in Canada, and poor air quality indexes in many places, even now,” Chadha said.

“I would like to feel confident that our B.C. municipalities will take needed climate action during this climate crisis, but the corporations causing this harm are sponsoring the conference. They are lobbying the municipalities,” Chadha said.

In a handout, the protesters said the world is rapidly deteriorating due to fossil fuel extraction.

“It’s unethical for elected officials to accept handouts from the industries responsible for the damage,” she added.

She said with climate change issues under discussion at the conference, the organizations should not have been accepted as sponsors.

UBCM response

In a statement to Glacier Media, a UBCM spokesperson said climate action, mitigation and adaptation measures are an integral part of the 2023 agenda.

“We publish a list of all our sponsors on our website each year,” the statement said. “The sponsors include a diverse range of industries and interests and sponsorship revenue is not concentrated from any one sector. Fossil fuel companies have contributed close to 15 percent of this year’s total sponsorship, a percentage that is consistent with previous years.”

The statement said two UBCM area associations considered resolutions to ban fossil fuel sponsorship. (Under the UBCM, there are five local government areas which liaise between municipalities and the main UBCM. Two of those considered resolutions.)

“There was a spirited debate in each case, but in the end delegates in both cases voted to retain those sponsorships,” the statement said. “It’s up to delegates to decide whether they will attend sponsored events. We know that many of our delegates find it useful to be able to have conversation with organizations and convey their feedback directly.”  

The same day as the protest, B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office announced two administrative penalties totalling $346,000 to Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd. for non-compliance with requirements of its environmental assessment certificate.

2019 China sponsorship

It’s not the first time the UBCM has been targeted for accepting sponsorship contributions or sponsored events.

In 2019, UBCM delegates voted 65.5% against accepting foreign sponsorship money for its annual convention, but local leaders the same year flocked to a Vancouver event put on by the Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China.

As they sipped cocktails and tasted appetizers inside, protesters gathered outside.

“UBCM should not be taking money from foreign governments,” then-and-current Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West told a protest outside the downtown Vancouver venue.