West slams UBCM China decision

Port Coquitlam mayor says review of sponsorship for next year's convention is a cop out

Metro Vancouver politicians will rub shoulders with Chinese consular officials at a reception paid for by the Chinese government despite concerns raised recently by Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West.

The decision announced Friday will see the reception sponsored by the Chinese consulate proceed during the Union of BC Municipalities’ annual convention in September.

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But along with the decision to keep the party will be a review of sponsorship policies.

That review, by a group of current and former politicians — including West's predecessor in PoCo's top job, Greg Moore — will make recommendations for the 2020 conference.

But the review didn’t appease West, who has been a vocal opponent of the event and wrote a letter to the UBCM executive asking that it be cancelled in light of ongoing diplomatic issues with the People’s Republic of China.

“It sounds like a cop-out," West told The Tri-City News Friday. "My view is you shouldn’t need a panel to tell you to do the right thing,”

UBCM president Arjun Singh said the decision to stick with the event was made based on a consensus of the executive, which met Friday and discussed West’s letter of opposition to the sponsored event.

“What we have heard is that there’s a range of opinion about the event: Some support it, and others would like to see it cancelled,”  Singh said in a release. “The consensus of our executive is that the event should be retained this year.”

“We see the current debate as an opportunity to review practices for financing the convention that have been in place for a generation,” Singh stated.

(In addition to Moore, the other panel members are: Frank Leonard, formerly the Mayor of Saanich and UBCM president; Wendy Booth, formerly Area F director with Regional District of East Kootenay and UBCM president; Sav Dhaliwal, Metro Vancouver Regional District and formerly UBCM president; and Rhona Martin, Columbia Shuswap Regional District and formerly UBCM president.)

But for West, the decision merely “kicks the can” down the road and doesn’t deal with current issues, such as what he considers to be China’s “hostile” attitude towards Canada since the arrest of Huawei business executive Meng Wanzhou, including the detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

“What line does the Chinese government have to cross before the UBCM says, 'No more?'” West wrote in his letter.

He said he will take some time before considering his next steps but has not given up his fight to have the event cancelled, and said if it goes ahead as planned, it would be a “media spectacle.”

“I think it’s a pretty pathetic cop-out. It’s an attempt to kind of make the whole issue blow over but I don’t believe it will be successful. It doesn’t address any of the concerns have been articulated not only by me but other people,” West said.

“I think they need to take responsibly and not pass the buck on some review panel that’s going to make recommendations for 2020 that does nothing to answer the concerns about the current behaviour of the government of China towards our country,” he further said.

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