Mayor's junket to Asia now "pay as you go"

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

7 comments

New Westminster waterfront
This photo has not been edited. Those are real industrial jobs on the Fraser River waterfront in New Westminster. Photo: Vancouver Sun

A few weeks ago, Theresa Mcmanus, the crack city hall reporter in New Westminster wrote a story about how Mayor Wayne Wright was heading off on a costly junket to Asia with a number of civic politicians and staff. Mcmanus has now followed up on her original story by running another front page article on the subject in this week's Royal City Record.

It’s clear from his interview with the Record newspaper that Wright has no concrete deals to sign or plans to expand New Westminster’s economic development. When asked why he was heading out on this multi-country junket, Wright provides a nebulous response. What follows is an excerpt from Mcmanus’ article:

Asked when New Westminster residents may see some concrete economic benefits from the twinning relationships, Wright said he'll have a better sense of that after this trip. Having already established some relationships in China, the city now hopes to take it to the next level.

"I would suggest this is the trip I would be able to give you an answer," he said.

It’s clear that Wright is flying by the seat of his pants and would have preferred much less media scrutiny on his voyage. What else could explain why he clumsily indicates that New Westminster no longer has an industrial base and now solely relies on tourism to fill city coffers:

"We haven't got any industry left," he said. "What we do have is tourism."

Huh? Has the Mayor told that to Scott Paper, one of the largest companies located on New Westminster's waterfront. Has he told the hundreds of other businesses that still call the Fraser River home that he's abandoning the notion of supporting industry in favour of tourism?

As for why we have no industry left, perhaps the three-term mayor could explain to taxpayers why so many major companies have packed up left the Royal City on his watch. What economic strategy has he implemented over the last seven years to stem the tide of industrial exodus from New Westminster? Whatever it was, clearly it's not working.

More importantly, does Wright think that his delegation to Asia is somehow going to encourage average people in Japan or China to pack their bags and come visit New Westminster? Who is he kidding? Wouldn’t he have been better off to stay home and speak directly to the hundreds of thousands of people that are about to descend on Metro Vancouver for the Olympic Games?

If the Mayor would have put his thinking cap on a few years ago, he would have cut a deal with the City of Vancouver to provide some real-estate to set up a New Westminster pavilion near one of the venues. He could have therefore showcased his city to thousands of potential investors who would have only been 30 minutes away if they wanted to take a closer look.

Better yet, perhaps the Mayor could have led the charge to have a Metro Vancouver pavilion showcasing why the region as a whole is a great place to invest. Okay, I know I went to far with that one.

As for the overall cost of the trip, we are now learning that it will likely be below early estimates of $35,000. However, Rick Page, the city's corporate officer, said officials are uncertain as to what the final costs will be:

"We are below that," Page told The Record Friday. "There is still some unknowns. I don't know what it is going to cost in Japan. It is pay as you go. We are at about $18,000 at this time."

The Mayor’s public admission that he has no economic plan and hopes to have answers after he gets back from his visit to Asia is a failure in leadership. Kudos to the Record newspaper for keeping the heat on Wright and for demanding something concrete come out of what is increasingly appearing to be nothing more than a costly junket. Encouraging a few more tourists to snap photos of a hollowed-out industrial waterfront won't be good enough to keep New Westminster's economy afloat.

UPDATE: Since our last post on this subject questioning the merits of the New Westminster delegation going to Korea, they have subsequently taken this country off their official destination list. The delegation is no longer officially planning to visit Korea on this trip.

7 Comments

In the photo of New Westminster river industry, you have pictured industrial zones from Surrey and Coquitlam. Very little of the New West river frontage is pictured. The NW frontage you do show is mostly condos now, illustrating the Mayor's position.

The amount of industry in New Westminster is small fraction of what it once was before containerization shipping in the 60's and 70's and the growth of Mall based commerce in the 80s and 90s. I am one of those that thinks the jobs to court are information technology jobs in the knowledge economy and concrete steps have been taken for this goal in NW. More could be done. One issue is that the central GVRD position (and the river) of the city makes it a good place for federal and provincial agencies to gobble up industrial sites, removing that land from the tax base.

Korea was off the list before your last post, not subsequent to it.

Lastly, while I am a mere city watcher, not a reporter per se, I understand that this trip is a scaled down version of something planned long before and is only a small part of a larger Provincial program of Municipal / Provincial partnerships.

Your article could leave the reader with the false impression that the city is naively pushing ahead alone in the dark on a Quixotic quest to get Japanese tourists to take photos of Columbia Skytrain Station. This is not the case.

Our mayor is sometimes prone to sweeping statements. I'm sure he's not unaware of Scott Paper.

I would also suggest that it's stretching things to say this trip is Wright 'flying by the seat of his pants' with no deals or proposed partnerships at all planned. In fact, if you read to the bottom of the article in the Record, Rick Page says the reason he's going is because he wants to follow through in person on some of the partnerships and initiatives he's been working on. I imagine Wright simply didn't want to respond to a question about "concrete benefits" with an answer that referenced proposed partnerships or in-progress deals that have yet to be finalized.

I guess we'll find out in the coming months what (if anything) this trip accomplished.

Briana says "our mayor is prone to sweeping statements." Isn't that just a euphemism for being full of hot air?

Poster Girl: Not unless you wanted to make a sweeping statement of your own.

I live in New Westminster and I am very familiar with the waterfront illustrated in the picture.

As for it all being turned into condos, I'm unaware of that type of development on this portion of the waterfront? There are condos near the Quay, but the eastern portion of the Fraser River in New Westminster is still home to many industrial jobs.

As for the whole "condo-ization" of NW's industrial waterfront, I suggest the following reading:

http://www.citycaucus.com/2009/02/the-case-for-industrial-land-reserves-in-big-cities

I agree that knowledge jobs are important, however, I don't see the Mayor talking about it? He continues to talk about tourism as the future of the city's economy. Tourism jobs are great, but they won't sustain NW's tax base over the next century.

You also state:

"Korea was off the list before your last post, not subsequent to it."

It was? Then why where both the Record newspaper and this blog unaware that Korea was off the table? When this first broke in the media, Korea was definitely on the table. Are you privy to information that we're not?

"Your article could leave the reader with the false impression that the city is naively pushing ahead alone in the dark on a Quixotic quest to get Japanese tourists to take photos of Columbia Skytrain Station. This is not the case."

I'm curious with this statement. Can you please expand on your thoughts? How is NW Mayor working with other mayors to promote a regional economic development strategy? I'd be interested in more details.


This is the third trip this Mayor has been on. Not one single tangible result. The previous two trips were comprised of political hacks, financial donors and people looking for
appointments, jobs or contracts.
The jobs that have been lost on this Mayor's watch have been numerous.
Industry, hospital, call centers, major stores, all bailed out. On every occasion the Mayor says he was cought by surprise.
Industry and business will not make a comeback in N.W. as long as the taxes are so high.
Look at other nearby cities, density has facilitated major benefits.
Not in New West. All we see is benefits for friends and insiders.

The vague objectives of the mayor's junket to China remind me of the school board's flaky Gong Show business company and their money losing misadventures in China.

The school board's pie in the sky pipe dreams haven't produced anything tangible for New Westminster and the Mayor's "piggies at the trough" junkets won't either.

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