We haven't written much about Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan since we first launched this site about six weeks ago. In fact, this is the first time. But there's nothing like a junket to China by Metro Vancouver's most outspoken Mayor to get our CityCaucus.com investigative team into full swing.
As we reported here earlier Metro Vancouver is the only major metropolitan area in Canada without a regional economic strategy. So when we heard that his worship was leading a delegation to Guandong province in May to help promote Burnaby's economic development, we couldn't help but be a little cynical. Especially when you consider the last trip he took to Kushiro Japan cost an estimated $45K tax dollars, "including airfare, accommodation, transportation, interpretive and travel services and the requisite diplomatic giftware".
In fairness, these business trips can help to foster better relations with foreign governments, but whether they actually help Burnaby's economy is questionable. Especially when you consider that unlike Montreal or Toronto, Metro Vancouver's delegations normally consist of 22 separate mayors pitching very different messages to foreign investors.
Corrigan tells the Burnaby Now that a few city staff and councillors are expected to join him on his trip to China. He indicates the Province of BC has provided Burnaby with $50K to help foster better relationships with sister cities.
So how does Corrigan justify spending all this time in China, rather than spending the equivalent amount of time sitting down with his Metro Vancouver colleagues and hammering out a regional economic strategy? Here is what he told the Now:
One of the things they're importing is knowledge, and one of the things we're exporting is knowledge. Every time we're over there, we're on a big sales pitch, not only for Burnaby, but for Canada."
Wow. Now he's claiming to not only represent Metro Vancouver, he's representing Canada. We trust he is coordinating his trip with the department of Foreign Affairs?
One would have thought that a global economic recession might have been the spark to encourage local politicians to act quickly to support Metro Vancouver's slowing economy. It doesn't appear so.
These types of one-off trips by a single mayor and his staff are simply a waste of time and money unless they are part of a larger, more cohesive and coordinated plan to help diversify the region's economy. Once Corrigan gets over his jet lag, let's hope he places regional economic development at the top of his agenda.