This is a guest post by New Westminster city councillor Jaimie McEvoy, in response to a link we shared on Facebook from a Metro Vancouver political blog, City Caucus, about a proposed New West trade junket to Korea. Inaccuracies and assumptions in the City Caucus article revived earlier frustrations about misleading Vancouver reporting on New West issues, so we invited Jaimie to set the record straight.
There has been a wave of coverage about New Westminster by Vancouver media, in each case forming judgements about the city’s actions based on little more than a hunch. And frankly, in each case, the issues in New Westminster pale to similar issues in Vancouver itself.
If a New Westminster story is of enough interest to gain regional coverage, then it is also of enough merit for the media outlet to provide the same background checking and balance in coverage that they do for a Vancouver story.
Here are some of the factual errors in the City Caucus article, all of which could have been prevented with a simple phone call to City Hall:
Council is not going to Korea
Korea is off the table and is not part of the trip, precisely because the return at this time would not be adequate. This was the case since before the article in the Record, which seems to be the article’s only source.
China trip is part of a coordinated provincial strategy
The article says the trip is a waste of time unless it is coordinated with a Metro strategy. In fact, it is part of a coordinated provincial strategy in which municipalities have agreed to participate. That’s why the large majority of the funds have come from the provincial government for other overseas missions. Provincial trade representatives are making many of the overseas arrangements for the delegation. There was absolutely no reason for the writer to incorrectly conclude that the trip is being planned in “a haphazard way” and without coordination with other areas, that was simply an assumption, and an incorrect one.
Personally, I would like to see a development component to the Sister city program. What would be wrong with having, for example, a Sister city in the Punjab, or Southern Sudan, to raise awareness and promote development? These are areas where large numbers of New Westers hail from. Given our multicultural nature, our 100 languages, our high number of refugees and immigrants in the city, the call for a parochial isolationism at the international level hardly reflects our community.
Education & health funding crisis won’t be solved by refusing to participate in foreign trade efforts
Returning the provincial monies for this program would be tantamount to New Westminster withdrawing from foreign trade efforts in partnership with the province.
The idea that funding for health care and education can be funded by withdrawing from trade and economic efforts seems odd to me. And in fact, the crisis in funding for health and education is not caused by the current economic crisis, which has improved significantly since last Fall, but by the decision to give large tax breaks for corporations in the province, to the extent that, for example, higher education now recieves more funding through tuition fees than it does through corporate taxes. The decision by the province to cut in half the industrial school tax throughout the province was particularly harmful to education funding.
‘Back-of-the-napkin’ journalism must end
“I would venture to guess not,” City Caucus’ Daniel Fontaine says at one point in the article. Guessing isn’t journalism. And the revival of journalism has been one of the great things about blogs. At another point, Fontaine writes, “This back-of-napkin economic development planning must end.” As must back-of-napkin journalism.
I am unclear on why the article comes to the conclusions that it does based on guesses and supposition, but it better represents the writers cynicism than it does the process for choosing sites. Potential new Sister cities are identified and developed not by the city on the back of a napkin, but through the work of provincial trade officials. It is a provincially coordinated, trade-based and planned process.
Personally, though, I don’t feel that trade should be the only consideration. Our city has a long historical relationshiops with China for example. The first Japanese in British Columbia arrived at New Westminster. And the city has a large and growing Korean population. For many, the idea of crossing our largest border – the ocean – is a cause for hysteria. But for most of the world, foreign delegations of elected officials are part of the natural engagement with each other, and part of the promotion of cultural and mutual understanding.
Elitist stereotypes about smaller towns like New West breed inaccurate assumptions
The writer calls for more of an economic plan for Metro Vancouver, formerly the GVRD. New Westminster City Council has already issued a similar call.
Rather than stereotyping and incorrectly making assumptions about one of the Lower Mainland’s small towns, the writer would have done well to ask Vancouver, and other Metro Van cities, why there is not more support for New Westminster’s position.
I have seen this more than once. For example, calls from Vancouver for a regional police force when Vancouver is the only police force in the region that does not participate in the existing regional integrated teams. Calls from Vancouver calling for New Westminster to apologize for its treatment of the Chinese, when part of that history was the receiving into New Westminster of large numbers of Chinese refugees from Vancouver’s race riots. Targeting one of the local small towns from Vancouver, without so much as a phone call or a fact check, seems elitist to me. And so it is.
I should add that I like City Caucus and the work that they do. Fair treatment of the other municipalities outside of Vancouver, accuracy, fair comment and modest research will enhance their progressive efforts.