Mayor Wayne Baldwin says it’s “extremely disappointing, disrespectful and a total breach of protocol” that City of White Rock council was not notified of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to the city last Wednesday.
Trudeau visited Laura’s Coffee Corner and Five Corners Cafe to show support for Liberal candidate and former White Rock mayor Gordon Hogg in the upcoming South Surrey-White Rock byelection Dec. 11.
Baldwin told council Monday evening that he took issue with the prime minister being welcomed into the community by Hogg and Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell, and not White Rock council.
“When a sitting prime minister visits a city, it’s only reasonable to expect that welcome would come from the mayor and council, not from the former mayor and a nearby First Nations chief,” Baldwin said during the mayor’s report at the end of council’s regular meeting, noting the slight was “exacerbated” by “the group” entering city hall to get warm prior to visiting the coffee shop.
“The fact that the Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Chappell, who lives in Chilliwack, was invited in sufficient time to make it here would indicate that the time is not really a factor,” Baldwin said.
Chappell, who says Hogg is a “longtime friend of Semiahmoo,” told Peace Arch News Tuesday that he received a “personal call” from Hogg before the prime minister’s visit.
Although there wasn’t time for an official welcoming to the community, Chappell said, he spent about two minutes with the prime minister, shook his hand, and “acknowledged him to the unceded traditional territory of the Semiahmoo people.”
“It was just a very informal welcome,” Chappell added.
More than 1,000 people – young and old – attended the afternoon event. Notified Tuesday afternoon, PAN published an article online at www.peacearchnews.com, letting the community know of the prime minister’s impending visit.
Coun. David Chesney said during his councillor report that he “did enjoy having the opportunity to meet the prime minister when he was here.”
“Not sure exactly where I heard about it, probably Laura’s Coffee Shop. It was very short notice,” he said.
Hogg could not be reached for comment at PAN press time Thursday morning.
However, a statement emailed to PAN from Hogg’s campaign team says that a public advisory was sent for the visit, “but our campaign certainly apologizes for the oversight and regrets that these important additional conversations were missed this time.”
“We respect and appreciate the comments made by the Mayor and some members of White Rock City Council about ensuring they are fully apprised of all visits by Mr. Trudeau, even if those visits are in his capacity as Leader of the Liberal Party,” the statement read.
Chesney said the prime minister’s visit marked the fifth time a sitting prime minister has visited White Rock, “according to Tom Saunders, our resident part-time historian.”
Baldwin, who also made note that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was in South Surrey the same day to support candidate Conservative Kerry-Lynne Findlay, encouraged the community to vote in the Dec. 11 byelection.