Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell will not be reimbursed for the $4,535.99 that he spent this summer on a trip to Japan as part of efforts to strike a sister-city relationship with Hatsukaichi City near Hiroshima. Submitted.

Saanich won’t be big in Japan; council rejects potential sister-city relationship

Council also refuses to reimburse former mayor Richard Atwell

Saanich won’t reimburse former mayor Richard Atwell for his trip to Japan and council effectively ended his efforts to form a sister-city relationship Hatsukaichi City near Hiroshima.

Council first unanimously rejected Atwell’s request for the reimbursement of $4,535.99 for his trip Hatsukaichi City earlier this summer, after Saanich had hosted a delegation from that city in April.

The public heard from chief administrative officer Paul Thorkelsson that he told Atwell to seek prior approval for the trip from council, something Atwell failed to do.

According to Thorkelsson, Atwell was preparing to submit his reimbursement request to council in October before the municipal election, but did not do so until Nov. 2 — so after the last council meeting before the election and three days before the new council assumed office.

Coun. Ned Taylor acknowledged this aspects, but added that politics of Atwell’s request overshadowed the potential benefits of a future relationship with Hatsukaichi City.

So he asked council to consider a potential sister-city relationship with Hatsukaichi City, because it could benefit Saanich by virtue of Japan’s status as a technologically advanced country, especially around transportation issues. He also cited Saanich’s work against the proliferation of nuclear weapons as Hatsukaichi City lies near the first city subject to a nuclear attack.

RELATED: Former Saanich mayor wants municipality to reimburse him for trip to Japan

But several councillors questioned the idea and Taylor appeared surprised by their response.

“It was not my intent to throw council off guard, so I apologize if that was the case,” he said. “I can understand the concerns that this [motion] is perhaps too specific.” 

But the motion remained on the floor, despite attempts by Taylor to make replace it with a less specific motion, failing 8-1.

Perhaps the most vocal critic of the idea was Mayor Fred Haynes, who has lived and worked in Japan for several years in 1980s and 1990s.

“I’m very troubled by the idea of picking one specific city and twinning it,” said Haynes, in questioning the very idea of sister-city relationships. While the idea might have been popular in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s when international travel and exchanges of various sorts were less frequent, the idea has run its course.

“I don’t see the added value of the municipality getting involved, particularly with a single city or a single agency,” he said. Multiple organizations have already and continue to foster relations with other countries, including Japan, he said. “What would they say if the municipality was getting in the way of their good work, giving one particular group attention?” he asked.

RELATED: Sights of Saanich bring smiles to Japanese delegation

The consensus within the economic development community also considers the idea “old hat,” said Haynes. “Economic development is far bigger than this now,” he said.

He also questioned the argument Saanich and Hatsukaichi City should strike a relationship around their shared opposition against nuclear weapons. Haynes said Saanich has had a long history of opposing nuclear weapons, adding Saanich is currently preparing a related motion for the 2019 Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference.

“This is far more meaningful than having a sister-city relationship with a city that has been affected by Hiroshima,” he said. “I have been to Hiroshima many times. The skin in the game, if we want to work on nuclear disarmament, is the [United Nations] treaty on abolishing the nuclear bomb.”

Overall, Haynes said he sees “zero value” in any sister-city relationship. “Sorry to speak so harshly, but that is how I see it.”

The Saanich News has reached to Atwell for comment.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

UVic president offers condolences after two students killed in bus crash

‘We also grieve with those closest to these members of our campus community,’ Cassels says

Colwood square dancing open house to welcome in new dancers

“It’s therapy,” said long-time square dancer Linda Townsend

Green candidate expects a tight race in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke

David Merner says Green Party would act as “strong moral conscience” in a minority Parliament

Tour Government House and other homes, enjoy art along the way

The Art Gallery’s 66th annual House Tour features artists at work, artistic floral displays

Christian bookstore’s Victoria location marks 80 years in business

The store opened on corner of Douglas Street, View Street in 1939

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

Coming Home: B.C. fire chief and disaster dog return from hurricane-ravaged Bahamas

The pair spent roughly one week on Great Abaco Island assisting in relief efforts

Newcomer Ferland lines up with sniper Pettersson as Vancouver Canucks camp opens

Ferland provides more depth and a scoring threat up front, Pettersson says

Intelligence official charged seemed to be ‘exemplar of discretion’: UBC professor

Professor Paul Evans says he served on Cameron Ortis’s doctoral dissertation committee

B.C. police watchdog to investigate man’s head injury during RCMP arrest

Suspect fled on a bicycle and fell off when an officer attempted to stop him

Nanaimo company gets licence to test psychedelic drugs for therapy treatment

Salvation Botanicals interested in manufacturing, testing and research and development

‘A real shame’: B.C. MLA says factors behind Tolko mill closing should have been caught

Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson said the industry is in bad shape across the province

VIDEO: Seniors at B.C. assisted living facility shocked by Oct. 1 eviction notice

Building owners terminate lease for McGuire Lake Congregate Living in Salmon Arm

‘How does it even happen?’: Bear locks itself inside vehicle in Port Moody

It was apparent the suspect had gained entry with his ‘bear’ hands

Most Read