The future of sponsorships – including a controversial People’s Republic of China reception – will be put to a poll Wednesday at this week’s meeting of the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM).
The UBCM decided earlier this year to continue to take Chinese government money, but organizers have said they’re going to review how the annual convention is financed. The Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China in Vancouver has been a major reception sponsor for the annual convention for years.
A sponsorship review backgrounder distributed to delegates September 23 as the annual meeting got underway in Vancouver said the overarching policy in accepting sponsorships was to minimize members’ registration costs.
“Ensuring the broadest possible participation of the membership in the policy formulation process is essential for the credibility and broad applicability of the positions endorsed by delegates.”
The Chinese sponsorship in particular, though, had come under fire. And whether to allow sponsorship by foreign governments or not will be among questions put to delegates.
Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West in July asked the UBCM to stop taking the reception funding, with China holding two Canadians and two others facing death penalties in the wake the arrest of the chief financial officer of China-based telecom giant Huawei.
West has argued some of China’s actions are hostile to Canada and that taking the consular money reflects poorly on the organization. He called the review “an embarrassment and patent cop-out and an attempt to make the issue go away and kick it down the road.”
He said municipal politicians should realize China is not sponsoring events “out of the kindness of their hearts.” Rather, he said, it’s a slow and methodical form of gaining influence.
The backgrounder said the convention relies on sponsorships and a trade show to keep fees down. It said sponsorships contribute about 20% of revenues needed to provide delegate services such as wi-fi, food and a business centre.
“UBCM sponsorship policy is to permit businesses, associations or governmental organizations that wish to build relations with or engage the membership on matters of local government to sponsor elements of the convention,” the backgrounder said.
The review panel said changes in one revenue stream would require modifications to the other two or finding new sources of revenue.
“policies that restrict participation need to take into account the diversity amongst UBCM’s membership and the need for broad agreement to restrict specific sectors or groups,” the backgrounder said.
For the 2018 Whistler convention, sponsorships contributed $250,800 while there was no trade show revenue. Registration made up $994,255 of the $1.29 million costs of the 2018 event.
In Vancouver in 2017, sponsorships came in at $344,250 with the trade show providing $291,430. That year, registrations covered $1. million of the $1.77-million tab.