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UBCM to ban foreign funding following outcry over China-funded cocktail party

UBCM delegates attend a controversial China-sponsored cocktail reception at the organization's annual conference in September. .
UBCM delegates attend a controversial China-sponsored cocktail reception at the organization's annual conference in September. . Jordan Armstrong / Global News

The Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) has moved to ban foreign governments from sponsoring events at future conventions.

The organization says the move came amid recommendations from a report from an independent panel, appointed in July 2019, to review financing and sponsorship of convention events.

“Although we canvassed many issues and opportunities for change, it was clear that the membership supported existing policies and practices with the exception of one and our recommendations reflect that,” said panel chair and former Saanich mayor Frank Leonard.

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

The move comes after criticism levelled at a cocktail reception hosted by the Chinese government as a part of the annual UBCM convention, amid deteriorating relations between Canada and the Asian superpower.

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China’s detention of Canadians Michael Korvig and Michael Spavor on vague spying charges has been a particular sore point.

The event cost $6,000 plus food and drink for attendees.

READ MORE: UBCM delegates say no to foreign government-sponsored events ahead of China reception

Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West, who has been an outspoken critic of the event, said he was pleased about the change.

“The question for me was always is it appropriate for a foreign government to pay to get access to elected officials, who have sworn an oath to represent our residents, our citizens, our country?” said West.

“And the answer obviously is no, and if you ask anyone on the street they would tell you the same thing.”

Delegates boycott Chinese govt. at UBCM event
Delegates boycott Chinese govt. at UBCM event

West credits the public speaking up about the issue with pushing UBCM leadership to scrap the practice.

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In September, West joined about a dozen protesters who turned up at the cocktail event, delivering a symbolic “care package” of Tim Hortons doughnuts for Korvig and Spavor.

However, several high-profile B.C. mayors did attend, including Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Township of Langley Mayor Jack Froese.

UBCM delegates approved a non-binding resolution in September to stop accepting funding for events from foreign governments.

The independent panel lays out a series of guiding principles around funding the annual UBCM conference.

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

Those include keeping fees for attendees low and operating the event on a “cost recovery basis.”

They permit union and corporate sponsorship, but will now ban foreign contributions.