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.