The 2018 Union of B.C. Municipalities. (UBCM)

Chinese-sponsored reception at annual B.C. mayors’ convention under scrutiny

Port Coquitlam, Delta mayors opposed in light of recent events

The organization that represents B.C.’s municipalities is facing increasing scrutiny over its annual Chinese-sponsored reception, as relations between Canada and China deteriorate.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities hosts a Chinese diplomat at its convention each September.

This year, Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West said he will not be going to the reception, in protest of the two Canadians being held in China. Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have been detained in China for more than 200 days.

On social media, West said even if he overlooked China’s “hostile actions,” he still believes that taking money from a foreign government is wrong.

Delta Mayor George Harvie spoke out as well, saying he will attend the convention but not the consulate reception.

“The issue of UBCM having a sponsorship agreement with the Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China is concerning and I am opposed to foreign influence in our local affairs,” Harvie said in a statement.

“I will be discussing this matter with Metro Vancouver mayors at our next committee meeting and taking steps to avoid any perception of foreign influence in my work at the UBCM convention in September.”

Not all mayors agreed.

“China and Canada have a very strong and long relationship. Like all relationships, sometimes there are challenges,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps posted on social media.

“UBCM always has a reception hosted by the Chinese consul and unless Ottawa directs, I think it should continue this year.”

The Chinese government pays the UBCM $6,000 to host the reception, which provides food and drinks for the politicians and the media attending to cover the convention, as well as the Chinese guests. It has been an annual event since 2013.

Convention spokesperson Paul Taylor said the organization would discuss the issue at its meeting next month.

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