It is fascinating that the people who run this town brag about how their affordable housing policies protect taxpayers while at the same time throw away taxpayer dollars on junkets masquerading as trade missions. The most recent one that seems particularly unnecessary is the 12 day trip the Mayor, five councillors and eight city staff made to Hwaseong, Korea and Kushiro, Japan a year ago. If you weren’t aware of this trip, it is understandable. It received little or no media attention locally.

 

According to the City’s Statement of Financial Information or SOFI, the Mayor and Councillors Calendino, Johnston, McDonell, Wang and Kang expensed nearly $60,000. It can be concluded that, in total, the entire trip for fourteen people cost roughly $150,000. Four senior staff including now retired City Manager Bob Moncur, Deputy City Manager Lambert Chu, Director Planning and Building Lou Pelletier, Director Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services David Ellenwood, and four administrative support staff accompanied the delegation.

On the same trip were representatives from Tourism Burnaby. Tourism Burnaby is a non-profit society whose purpose is to support tourism promotional activities to increase visitation to the City.  Tourism Burnaby is made up of hotel representatives, a Burnaby Board of Trade nominee and two members appointed by Burnaby City Council. It is funded by a provincially authorized room tax currently at 2 percent. In 2015, Tourism Burnaby netted $993,113 according to the Burnaby Now, a 40 percent increase over 2014. Essentially, those working for Tourism Burnaby are also taxpayer funded City employees.

 

As far as I can see, the only documented benefit of this trip might be winning the bid for the 2016 WTF WORLD TAEKWONDO JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS to be held over 5 days in Burnaby. It is expected to draw more than 800 athletes ages 14 to 17 from 100 countries, organizers say. The estimated economic impact for the province in accommodations for athletes and spectators, food services and other related spending is $4 million, says the executive director of Tourism Burnaby. “We were on a visit to Hwaseong [Aug 28 – Sep 08, 2015], and they arranged it so that we were able to meet with the Taekwondo Federation,” the executive director said.

 

This would be great, but it appears that the actual bid was made months later. On April 12, 2016, the World Taekwando Federation reported on their website, Councillor McDonell, along with Tourism Burnaby Executive Director Nancy Small and Managing Director of the Korean Cultural Heritage Society of BC Michael Suk, who are both members of the local organizing committee, travelled to Mexico City in early December [2015] to successfully bid for the World Taekwondo Junior Championships in a formal presentation to the World Taekwondo Federation.

 

So, I have a few questions. Aside from a friendly conversation with the WTF, what did this delegation actually accomplish for Burnaby over those twelve days last summer in Asia? Was the trip to Japan and Korea a farewell tour for the retiring City Manager? Did we need fifteen plus people to do whatever needed to be done? And, how much did the follow-up trip to Mexico cost taxpayers?

 

Tourism Burnaby is paying for the championship’s estimated cost of $1.3 million, and there will be certainly be other costs incurred by the City. Meanwhile, as the City continues to allow the demovictions of its most vulnerable residents in Metrotown, it subsidizes its friends in the hotel industry with its secret and increasingly expensive trips.

 

According to the City’s Statement of Financial Information or SOFI, the Mayor and Councillors Calendino, Johnston, McDonell, Wang and Kang expensed nearly $60,000. It can be concluded that, in total, the entire trip for fourteen people cost roughly $150,000. Four senior staff including now retired City Manager Bob Moncur, Deputy City Manager Lambert Chu, Director Planning and Building Lou Pelletier, Director Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services David Ellenwood, and four administrative support staff accompanied the delegation.

 

On the same trip were representatives from Tourism Burnaby. Tourism Burnaby is a non-profit society whose purpose is to support tourism promotional activities to increase visitation to the City.  Tourism Burnaby is made up of hotel representatives, a Burnaby Board of Trade nominee and two members appointed by Burnaby City Council. It is funded by a provincially authorized room tax currently at 2 percent. In 2015, Tourism Burnaby netted $993,113 according to the Burnaby Now, a 40 percent increase over 2014. Essentially, those working for Tourism Burnaby are also taxpayer funded City employees.

 

As far as I can see, the only documented benefit of this trip might be winning the bid for the 2016 WTF WORLD TAEKWONDO JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS to be held over 5 days in Burnaby. It is expected to draw more than 800 athletes ages 14 to 17 from 100 countries, organizers say. The estimated economic impact for the province in accommodations for athletes and spectators, food services and other related spending is $4 million, says the executive director of Tourism Burnaby. “We were on a visit to Hwaseong [Aug 28 – Sep 08, 2015], and they arranged it so that we were able to meet with the Taekwondo Federation,” the executive director said.

 

This would be great, but it appears that the actual bid was made months later. On April 12, 2016, the World Taekwando Federation reported on their website, Councillor McDonell, along with Tourism Burnaby Executive Director Nancy Small and Managing Director of the Korean Cultural Heritage Society of BC Michael Suk, who are both members of the local organizing committee, travelled to Mexico City in early December [2015] to successfully bid for the World Taekwondo Junior Championships in a formal presentation to the World Taekwondo Federation.

 

So, I have a few questions. Aside from a friendly conversation with the WTF, what did this delegation actually accomplish for Burnaby over those twelve days last summer in Asia? Was the trip to Japan and Korea a farewell tour for the retiring City Manager? Did we need fifteen plus people to do whatever needed to be done? And, how much did the follow-up trip to Mexico cost taxpayers?

 

Tourism Burnaby is paying for the championship’s estimated cost of $1.3 million, and there will be certainly be other costs incurred by the City. Meanwhile, as the City continues to allow the demovictions of its most vulnerable residents in Metrotown, it subsidizes its friends in the hotel industry with its secret and increasingly expensive trips.

 

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