The organization that represents B.C.’s municipalities is facing increasing scrutiny over its annual Chinese-sponsored reception, as relations between Canada and China deteriorate.
The Union of B.C. Municipalities hosts a Chinese consulate at its annual convention in September of each year.
This year, Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West announced he would not be going to the reception, in protest of the two Canadians being held in China.
West’s criticism comes as Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have been detained in China for more than 200 days.
On social media, West said even if he overlooked the “hostile actions of China,” like detaining the two Canadians and trade restrictions, “I won’t back down in my belief that taking $ from a foreign govt is wrong, that ignoring the hostile actions of #China is wrong (sic).”
Pleased to see former Ambassador to China & distinguished career foreign service officer David Mulroney support my position that @UBCM must end its cash for access arrangement with Gov of #China. If @UBCM exec won’t listen to me, maybe they’ll listen to him. #bcpoli #cdnpoli https://t.co/VX9mOS0Gd5— Brad West (@BradWestPoCo) July 3, 2019
Delta Mayor George Harvie spoke out in support. He said he would be attending the convention but not the Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China reception
“The issue of UBCM having a sponsorship agreement with the Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China is concerning and I am opposed to foreign influence in our local affairs,” Harvie said in a statement. “I will be discussing this matter with Metro Vancouver Mayors at our next Committee meeting and taking steps to avoid any perception of foreign influence in my work at the UBCM convention in September.”
However, not all mayors agreed.
“China and Canada have a very strong and long relationship. Like all relationships, sometimes there are challenges,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps posted on social media.
“UBCM always has a reception hosted by the Chinese Consul and unless Ottawa directs, I think it should continue this year.”
China and Canada have a very strong and long relationship. Like all relationships, sometimes there are challenges. UBCM always has a reception hosted by the Chinese Consul and unless Ottawa directs, I think it should continue this year. Thanks for asking.— Lisa Helps - Victoria Mayor (@lisahelps) July 1, 2019
The Chinese government pays the UBCM $6,000 to host the reception, which offers free food and drinks, for local politicians and media. It has been an annual event since 2013.
UBCM communications director Paul Taylor said the organization would discuss the issue at its meeting next month.
“The scheduling of an event hosted by the Chinese consulate in Vancouver at UBCM’s annual meeting has generated much discussion over the past two weeks,” a UBCM statement read.
“As a non-partisan, grassroots based organization, we welcome the comments from our membership regarding the plan for the annual meeting.”
Thread: I’m appalled at this morally compromised, pathetic rationalization of @ubcm taking $ from #China. First: UBCM has not always had a reception with Gov of China. That’s incorrect. It began in 2013. Without a resolution and without direction from Ottawa. #bcpoli #cdnpoli https://t.co/WV6XNQCti5— Brad West (@BradWestPoCo) July 2, 2019