Saskatoon mayor, wife travel to China for trade

Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison and his wife are on their way to China hoping to lure potential investors to Saskatoon.

Mayor's trip costs covered by SREDA, the region's economic development booster

Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison and his wife Mardele will be party of a group of 30 people on a trade mission to China. (CBC)

Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison and his wife are on their way to China hoping to lure potential investors to Saskatoon.

An agenda for the visit would not be provided until April 15.

However, the trip calls for the mayor — who will be in China for six days — to meet with Chinese business leaders and economic development officials at trade seminars.

In a news release about the trip, Atchison called Saskatoon "one of the most business friendly cities in Canada and we want to encourage economic development."

The mayor will travel with Tim LeClair, the president of the Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority (SREDA).

"The science community is very large in Saskatoon," Brad Kraft, a spokesman for SREDA, told CBC News. "We're looking for China to get interested and move over here in terms of some investment levels."

Kraft said SREDA will cover Atchison's travel expenses, not taxpayers.

"His wife is paying her own way entirely," said Kraft of Mardele Atchison's joining the delegation. "It's certainly not on the city's dime."

No other city council members or city employees were invited on the trip.

Atchison is the lone Canadian mayor on the trip, which was organized by the Consider Canada City Alliance. That group was formed in 2007 by business representatives in Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Halifax, Québec City, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and the Waterloo area.

Thirty other people from communities of the alliance will be on the trip.

A Saskatoon business leader, David Gauthier, the past president of Genome Prairie, is also on the trip.

The delegation is set to visit Hong Kong, Shenzhai, and Beijing.

"China is predicted to overtake the U.S. as one of our major trading partners by 2016," Kraft said. "Saskatchewan as a whole has a great relationship with China already so certainly I don't think it'll be a hard sell in order to get the investment to come back."

Atchison called the trip a "great opportunity for the Saskatoon delegation to tell our city's story."

Kraft told CBC News he did not have details on how much it was costing SREDA to cover Atchison's participation in the trip.

According to its most recent Annual Report, most of SREDA's funding comes from the City of Saskatoon, the provincial government and local governments that make up the region around Saskatoon. The University of Saskatchewan and SIAST also contribute funds to SREDA.

There are corporate supporters, as well, including Cameco and the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan.

The 2011 Annual Report noted that Atchison is a member of the board of directors of SREDA.

In 2012, according to information released by the mayor's office, Atchison visited Japan as a guest of the potash marketing agency Canpotex. That trip, according to his office, included sightseeing tours of Tokyo and visits to historic temples and other tourist attractions. The Japan trip was for one week in January.