‘It makes it difficult to get people to come out,” Liberal MLA Todd Stone said Monday. ‘The caucus budget is taxpayers’ money and we were not going to spend it on a UBCM sponsorship. I think they need to review their practices.’
BEN NELMS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES
Opinion: B.C. municipal governments are welcoming China — and their money — at their annual convention. The B.C. Liberals weren’t so fortunate.When B.C.’s mayors and councillors gather this fall for their annual convention, a wine-and-dine reception put on by the government of China will be included prominently in the official program.But when the Liberal caucus at the B.C. legislature holds its annual engagement sessions with conference delegates, their events will be conspicuously absent from the agenda.Why the difference? Because the government of China paid $6,000 to be an “official sponsor” of the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.The Liberals — who form the official Opposition in the legislature — aren’t sponsors of the convention.At the UBCM, it’s strictly a pay-to-play system: Cough up money for a sponsorship or you don’t get listed in the convention program or on the UBCM website or mobile-phone app.“It makes it difficult to get people to come out,” Liberal MLA Todd Stone told me Monday. “The caucus budget is taxpayers’ money and we were not going to spend it on a UBCM sponsorship. I think they need to review their practices.”Stone told me the Liberals went ahead with three, one-hour panel discussions last year, even though the events weren’t included in the official convention program.“We did our best to spread the word, but it’s difficult when you’re not listed,” Stone said, adding one of the panel discussions attracted only five convention delegates.
The Liberals will try again this year, with panel discussions on housing, drug addiction and forestry. Once again, they asked to be listed in the official UBCM program.“We were told, ‘Buy a sponsorship first,’ ” Stone said. “So the government of China gets listed in the program, but the official Opposition in the provincial legislature does not.“There’s something wrong here.”You’re damn right there’s something wrong.
China has recently taken many hostile actions toward Canada, including retaining two Canadian citizens in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a Chinese tech executive in Vancouver last year.China has also banned some Canadian imports of pork and canola in a growing trade dispute.So why is the UBCM rolling out the red carpet for the Chinese government? Apparently it’s because China is willing to pay for the privilege.“It’s unethical and it should be stopped,” said Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West, who’s leading a boycott against the Chinese reception while demanding that the UBCM cancel the sponsorship and return the money.“I think the UBCM has forgotten who they’re supposed to represent. Local government should be worried about local issues, not taking freebies from a hostile foreign government.“Give your head a shake. This is just wrong.”It sure is. Especially when China gets better treatment than the official Opposition caucus at our own provincial email@example.com/MikeSmythNews