Advertisement

UBCM to review funding for annual convention, but China-sponsored event remains

The Union of B.C. Municipalities has created an independent panel to review funding for its annual convention.
The Union of B.C. Municipalities has created an independent panel to review funding for its annual convention. UBCM

The Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) said Friday an independent panel will review how its annual convention is funded or sponsored.

But the group, which has come under fire for accepting money from China, will still allow a Chinese government-sponsored reception to continue at its next convention in September.

China pays $6,000 to host the reception and be included in the annual UBCM program. The government also covers the cost of food and drink at the event.

READ MORE: Port Coquitlam mayor Brad West says people are telling him to back off criticism of China

In a statement, UBCM president Arjun Singh said he’s heard a “range of opinion about the [Chinese-sponsored] event” from UBCM members.

“The consensus of our Executive is that the event should be retained this year,” Singh said.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West, who has called on the UBCM to sever financial ties with Beijing, called the announcement of the financial review “an absolutely embarrassing, pathetic response.”

Story continues below advertisement

“To say that you need a panel of politicians and ex-politicians to decide whether or not it’s right to take money from a hostile foreign government is just unbelievable,” West told Global News.

“It makes me understand why people believe that politicians are just completely out of touch with reality.”

The panel will be made up of four former UBCM presidents — Frank Leonard, Wendy Booth, Sav Dhaliwal, and Rhona Martin — and Greg Moore, who sat in the Port Coquitlam mayor’s chair before West.

WATCH: (Aired July 3) China to Canada on detainees: Don’t get Trump involved

China to Canada on detainees: Don’t get Trump involved
China to Canada on detainees: Don’t get Trump involved

The panel will evaluate “the various sources of revenue” for the convention, including sponsorships, and will seek input from local governments across the province.

However, any changes recommended by the panel won’t be put in place until the next convention in 2020.

West has expressed outrage over China’s involvement in the convention as tensions with Canada sour over the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver last year.

In a letter to the UBCM last month, he also pointed to the continued detainment of two Canadians, Michael Korvig and Michael Spavor, and other activities “that are hostile to our country’s interests.”

Story continues below advertisement

West said the UBCM leadership has asked him to tone down his criticism of China or his community will be “at risk” of not receiving support.

In an interview, Singh said “we can’t just listen to one person” about concerns over China.

“We can’t make policy decision based on one mayor,” he said. “We have to make sure we’re talking to the entire membership.”

READ MORE: Canada has ‘very few options’ to secure release of Canadians being held in China: experts

Singh said the “thoughtful review” is meant to ensure the UBCM doesn’t “jump the gun” and cancel the Chinese-sponsored reception right away.

He also said he has met with Chinese consulate staff before deciding to go forward with the reception.

Singh admitted no formal agenda is in place for the review, which is set to report back to the UBCM by January 2020 with their findings.

— With files from Srushti Gangdev and Richard Zussman