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

Oak Bay win first Bridgman Cup since 1973

Annual UVic event is an indicator for coming South Island finals, Island finals and provincials

For Central Saanich couple, fight against MS is a matter of family

Altenkirks sell greeting cards and wooden bowls to raise money for MS Society

Saanich residents planning Halloween fireworks displays must plan ahead

Folks are required to attend one of three safety courses, buy a permit

Victoria feels the pinch at the pump as gas prices jump 18 cents

Gas up to 157.9 cents per litre at some stations

‘Panda’ Goodlife runner searches for his head

Facebook post for help leads to ‘unconfirmed panda head sightings’

WATCH: Greater Victoria’s top stories of the day

A round-up of the day’s top stories

POLL: Do you think the day of the federal election should be a statutory holiday?

Increasing voter turnout has long been a goal of officials across the… Continue reading

Potent power play paces Canucks to 5-1 win over Detroit

Miller nets a pair as Vancouver wins third straight

UPDATE: British couple vacationing in Vancouver detained in U.S. after crossing border

CBP claims individuals were denied travel authorization, crossing was deliberate

After losing two baby boys, B.C. parents hope to cut through the taboo of infant death

Oct. 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in B.C.

Cheating husband sues mistress for gifted ring after wife learns about affair

The husband gave his mistress $1,000 to buy herself a ring in December 2017

B.C. massage therapist reprimanded, fined for exposing patients’ breasts

Registered massage therapist admits professional misconduct

B.C. boosts legal aid funding in new payment contract

‘Duty counsel’ service restored in some communities, David Eby says

VIDEO: Bear spies on cyclists riding by on Campbell River street

Riders seem unaware the bruin is mere feet away on the side of the road

Most Read