It’s time for politics to be done differently.
And the change needs to start close to home.
Voters — particularly, young, cynical or disaffected voters — need to know that local politicians are up front and open with their dealings. And when the Union of BC Municipalities convention has a Chinese government-sponsored and -hosted special event, we need to know the details.
Then it has to stop.
The arguments for keeping this longstanding arrangement — that there has been little complaint until now and the event is good for local trade — have been specious as best.
As Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West has pointed out repeatedly of late, show us the money. Where are all these trade benefits to local businesses aided by this annual cocktail party?
We’re tired of these behind-the-scenes discussions and acceptance because it has been done for years and stopping this event would raise questions about other sponsorships or side meetings held by lobbyists.
Call us naive, but we think all these side events should be shared as part of an annual disclosure and if the public thinks any of them are inappropriate, they should be cancelled, too. At the very least, the lineup of lobbyist, sponsorship and other convention details could be voted on at public council meetings.
This is the era of transparency and if it’s not an easy thing for bureaucratic organizations, such as the UBCM, to do, that's too bad.
We want to see an open accounting of all the people our locally elected officials are meeting with and while it's likely these meetings are fair and above board, we want to know more.
It has been said the oil and gas lobby is a big supporter and attendee of this events. Really? And how have meetings between our local government officials and these lobbyists helped citizens in the Tri-Cities?
They haven't helped gas prices. They haven't stopped Coquitlam from getting shafted by both FortisBC, in the construction of the gas line along Como Lake Avenue, where the city maintains it’s not getting fair and timely treatment, and by the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, which has ignored the city’s request for money to cover the cost of delayed road repairs.
These may be quibbles.The bigger issue is that meetings between political officials and agents, whether they be Chinese consulate representatives, business lobbyists or other groups, should be publicized and their funding contributions either stopped or explained.
It’s no excuse that the public hasn’t complained, when in fact, the information was not shared widely.
As for the Chinese consulate, it’s time to play hardball with PRC, which is playing hardball with Canadian citizens it has jailed, and that starts with a thanks, but no thanks for their sponsorship and event hosting.