British Columbia

Chinese government reception for B.C. politicians to go ahead as planned

The reception, paid for by China, has taken place every year since 2012 at the annual UBCM conference, where hundreds of mayors and councillors meet for a week to learn best practices and pass resolutions lobbying the provincial government.

Decision comes after criticism for continuing the annual meeting in light of China's arrest of two Canadians

Delegates to the 2017 UBCM conference attend a reception hosted by the Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China in Vancouver. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

After a month of blowback, the Union of B.C. Municipalities has reaffirmed its decision to allow China's annual reception for local B.C. politicians to proceed this year. 

"There's some folks who believe it shouldn't happen. Some folks who think it should happen. So given the fact we've already decided to do it, we're saying we'll go with that for this year," said UBCM president Arjun Singh, in announcing the decision. 

The reception, paid for by China, has taken place every year since 2012 at the annual UBCM conference, where hundreds of mayors and councillors meet for a week to learn best practices and pass resolutions lobbying the provincial government. 

The reception is an optional meet-and-greet event where people can swap business cards and eat appetizers, but the Chinese Consulate has paid $6,000 to be an official part of the conference and be advertised in its program. 

In addition to announcing the reception would go ahead as planned, the UBCM also said it would review the money it receives, "including sponsorship revenue," used to fund the annual convention in future years.

"We see the current debate as an opportunity to review practices for financing the convention that have been in place for a generation," said Singh. 

Cross-country tensions

The UBCM's original decision to let the reception continue was criticized given the arrest and ongoing detention of two Canadians in China.

The Chinese consulate reception has been one of the few events during the week of the UBCM conference that appears on its program. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

Businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig were detained in separate incidents late last year, shortly after Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition warrant.

Chief among the critics of the reception had been Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West, who pushed people upset with the UBCM's original decision to contact the executive with their thoughts.

"I don't think that locally elected mayors and city councillors should be accepting a sponsor of financial sponsorship for an event from a foreign government, period, but particularly from a foreign government that has such an egregious human rights record," he said on The Early Edition on Friday, prior to the announcement being made. 

After hearing the UBCM's decision, West was dismissive of their choice to appoint a panel to look at changes for future years.

"It shouldn't take a panel of a bunch of politicians and ex-politicians to advise some other politicians that taking money from a hostile foreign government is wrong. That is obvious I think to almost everyone, but apparently they need a panel to let them know that," he said. 

"It's just, I think, a complete embarrassment and a cop-out, and it shows a real lack of leadership."

About the Author

Justin McElroy

@j_mcelroy

Justin is the Municipal Affairs Reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering local political stories throughout British Columbia.

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