Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West says he has been asked to tone down his criticism of China or his community will be ‘at risk’ of not receiving support.
West has been pushing the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) to sever ties with the Chinese government. China pays $6,000 to host a reception and be included in the annual UBCM program. The government also covers the cost of food and drink at the event.
“Since I have started speaking out a message has been sent to me that I could be putting at risk support for my community and I think that is really concerning. I think we are elected to speak out on behalf of our constituents,” West said.
“I had a message sent to me that there are a lot of people unhappy with me.”
The Port Coquitlam mayor says he wouldn’t say he has been threatened nor would he say who sent him the messages.
West sent a letter to UBCM to state his “strong opposition” to allowing the Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China in Vancouver to host the event. His major concern is that China “is engaged in a number of actions that are hostile to our country’s interests” including the detention of Michael Korvig and Michael Spavor.
“We currently have two of our fellow Canadian citizens rotting in a Chinese prison for no reasons. China just arbitrarily detained them,” West said.
“We should be focused on fixing roads, cleaning up parks, making sure that snow gets removed. Not engaged international relations with a government that is acting so hostile to our own national interest,” West said.
The reception is just one of multiple receptions at the annual conference for municipal politicians. Attendance is optional and the UBCM is not considering making any changes.
Vancouver city Coun. Pete Fry, speaking on behalf of UBCM, said he is “more concerned about the cash for access that happens behind closed doors” than he is about the China event.
The organization would consider a change if the federal government thought cancelling the reception would make a different for foreign relations, he said.
“If Foreign Affairs was to tell us that boycotting China at the UBCM reception was the fastest way to release Canadian abroad I am sure we would do it. But that is not what we are being asked to do,” Fry said.
Fry said the reason UBCM allows the Chinese government to hold the reception is because of the trading relationship with China.
“China is British Columbia’s second largest trading partner. We do about $7 billion in exports and $11 billion in imports in just one year. We are expanding a pipeline so we can send more bitumen to China,” Fry said.
“This is about creating economic benefits for British Columbia communities beyond the Lower Mainland.”