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UBCM should refuse money from big oil companies, says councillor

When the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers hosts a reception for local politicians at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention this week, at least one councillor says he'll be outside protesting instead.

"I intend to be out in front of the reception brandishing a picket sign with fellow citizens rather than wining and dining on the dime of dirty oil," said Ben Isitt, a Victoria city councillor.

CAPP, which has over 100 oil industry members, is hosting an evening reception Sept. 26 at the Royal BC Museum as part of the UBCM's official program. It is scheduled between receptions hosted by the government of B.C. and the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Motions the UBCM will consider this week include one put forward by Saanich against "projects that would lead to the expansion of oil tanker traffic through BC's coastal waters."

Isitt said organizations like CAPP should feel free to host events that coincide with the convention, but the UBCM should be uninvolved in them.

"If the UBCM convention is the official interface between local government and the provincial government, then I think it's hugely problematic, the degree of corporate influence," he said. "I think it would be proper for UBCM to clean its hands of any taint of corporate involvement."

A call to CAPP was not returned by publication time.

"We don't discriminate between sponsors because we need to make this affordable for all our delegates," said Mary Sjostrom, the UBCM's first vice-president and incoming president. "We lose some sponsors and we gain others."

The convention has a wide range of sponsors and their involvement is agreed upon by the UBCM executive and the convention committee, said Sjostrom, who is the mayor of Quesnel. She also stressed that the UBCM is apolitical and every year different topics come up for debate.

Elected officials are barred from accepting gifts, unless it's part of the social protocol of office, said Isitt, arguing the UBCM is putting delegates in an awkward position.

"The UBCM just has to find a way within its budget, either by reducing costs or by increasing delegate fees, to finance and run the annual convention without the taint of corporate involvement," he said. "Corporations give money to these things because they want something in return."

Other sponsors listed in the UBCM program include Fortis BC, Central 1 Credit Union, Telus, Spectra Energy, Shell Canada, the BCGEU, Pacific Blue Cross and several law firms.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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