Chinese reception to go ahead at UBCM convention

Richmond Coun. Linda McPhail said she understands both sides of the argument around the reception.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities will go ahead with a reception hosted by the Chinese government at its September convention despite opposition from some Lower Mainland politicians.

Richmond Coun. Linda McPhail said the UBCM executive, which she sits on and who met on Friday, have been listening to the pros and cons of the issue. But rather than cancelling the event, they are setting up a review panel to look at all sponsorships of the annual convention.

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“It was the consensus of the executive to go ahead (with the reception),” she said.

Whether McPhail herself will attend the Chinese reception will depend on her schedule at the convention. She said the days are full of workshops and clinics and meetings with MLAs, and sometimes she’s too tired to attend evening events.

“For me, it’s usually a last-minute thing,” she said.

The UBCM executive decided on Friday to appoint a panel to review the financing of its annual convention. It will ask for input from local governments across the province and also see how other local governments in other jurisdictions deal with such issues.

While there have been opinions about the Chinese-hosted event bandied about, McPhail said the executive wants to give the opportunity for all 1,100 elected officials in B.C. to voice their opinion.

“We wanted the whole UBCM membership to have a say and that hasn’t happened yet – we’ve heard from some individuals,” she said.

Tension has been rising between Canada and China after Canada arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in December as she was wanted in the U.S. on charges of circumventing sanctions against Iran. Since then, China has arrested two Canadians on charges of espionage and has blocked some Canadian agricultural products.

“Everybody in B.C. and Canada is concerned about the fate of the two men,” McPhail said. “I think that the federal government is working through all the proper channels and I support the federal government in that.”

McPhail said she has spoken to people on for and against holding the Chinese reception and she understands both sides of the argument.

But, she added, this is a good opportunity to review the sponsorship program and come up with best practices. The feedback will go back to the executive in order to make any changes for next year’s convention.

In a press release on Friday, UBCM clarified that the sponsorship program offsets costs to host the convention to keep it accessible for delegates.

The review panel will make recommendations on finance policies and practices on governance, transparency, affordability and accountability for the annual convention, according to the press release.

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