UBCM to go ahead with China-funded reception despite criticism
Published Friday, July 12, 2019 6:01PM PDT
Last Updated Saturday, July 13, 2019 6:42PM PDT
The Union of B.C. Municipalities has announced it will not cancel a wine-and-dine reception sponsored by the Chinese government, despite recent pressure to do so.
The event is set to be held during the UBCM's 2019 annual convention September 23rd-27th, but has faced harsh criticism since two Canadians were detained in China.
Chinese officials arrested Michael Korvig and Michael Spavor in December, accusing them of violating national security. Both men were detained shortly after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver at the request of the United States.
The Chinese consulate is paying $6,000 to be an official sponsor of this year's UBCM convention.
The union said it received very little feedback on the topic and couldn't cancel the event without hearing from all of its members.
"The reviews were very mixed. There's a small sub set we feel of people of our membership who are outwardly talking to us about it,” said Arjun Singh, President of the Union of BC Municipalities.
Instead of calling off the event, it has appointed an independent panel to review convention funding.
"Sponsorship makes up about 20 per cent of our revenue," Singh told CTV News. "If we didn't have that right now, it would be a lot more expensive for our members to attend the convention."
The review will look at all convention funding, but any recommendations that come out of it won't take effect until next year.
"The Review Panel will make recommendations on finance policies and practices that uphold sound governance, transparency, affordability and accountability for the annual convention," the union said in a statement.
The panel is made up of four former UBCM presidents and Greg Moore, a former Port Coquitlam mayor.
Current Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West is outraged.
"I think it's an embarrassing and pathetic cop-out. It shouldn't take a panel of current and ex politicians to know that taking money from a hostile foreign government is wrong."
West is adamant the Chinese Consulate has an ulterior motive.
"The idea that mayors and city councillors think it's okay to go and take a bunch of freebies from the Government of China at a time when two of our fellow citizens are being held hostage in those conditions is just absolutely appalling."
He believes the UBCM's stance sends the wrong message.
"We're telling China that you can do whatever the hell you want and there will be zero consequence."