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PoCo mayor gets support from council in UBCM battle

Port Coquitlam city council backed Mayor Brad West this week in his campaign to ban foreign government sponsorship at Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) conventions.
Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West.

Port Coquitlam city council backed Mayor Brad West this week in his campaign to ban foreign government sponsorship at Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) conventions.

At a special council meeting yesterday (Tuesday), council unanimously voted to send a resolution to the UBCM to put the topic before delegates at its September gathering in Vancouver.

West is taking issue with UBCM for accepting $6,000 from the Chinese government, which has hosted a reception for elected officials and others at the event since 2012.

West said given China’s trade disputes and human rights record, including the detention of three Canadians — largely seen as retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver — UBCM’s practice of allowing foreign influence should stop.

“The UBCM has no business accepting sponsorship from any foreign government,” West told council at the July 16 meeting. “It is regrettable that it requires a resolution.”

West said he raised the topic with the UBCM after he was elected mayor last fall but UBCM president Arjun Singh said its executive wants to keep the reception this year.

The issue has sparked a divide between B.C. mayors, with West gaining support from peers in Delta and North Cowichan but taking heat from Victoria and Whistler mayors.

In response, UBCM has struck a panel to review how its annual convention is funded or sponsored but, if that panel recommends changes, they wouldn't be implemented until next year. The panel is made up of four former UBCM presidents: Frank Leonard, Wendy Booth, Sav Dhaliwal and Rhona Martin, and Greg Moore, whom West succeeded as PoCo mayor.

“The current financing model for our annual convention has been in place for a generation, so it’s time to receive input from local governments on the assumptions underlying our approach,” said Singh said in a statement. “We have asked the review panel to lead a discussion with our membership that will set the foundations for funding our annual meeting for the years to come.”

To date, PoCo is the only municipality to put forward a UBCM resolution on accepting foreign sponsorship, UBCM spokesperson Paul Taylor told The Tri-City News today (Wednesday).

“I think it’s of the utmost importance for UBCM to retain the confidence of municipalities,” West said Tuesday. “Sponsorship creates an impression or a real or perceived conflict…. This [resolution], at the very least, will provide very clear direction to the UBCM that Port Coquitlam city council doesn’t think it’s appropriate.”

PoCo Coun. Steve Darling called the criticisms of Wests position by opposing B.C. mayors on social media channels “frankly quite embarrassing.”

“Good leaders don’t step aside," Darling said. "Having someone who’s ready to step up shows incredible leadership in our city.”

Coun. Nancy McCurrach concurred and thanked the mayor for standing up to a country that “tortures” its residents and foreigners. “For us to make a statement like this is just brilliant,” she said. “I just hope the rest of the delegates at the convention follow.”

The UBCM convention runs from Sept. 23 to 27 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.