News Local

Surrey mayor flies first class

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts. (FILE PHOTO/24 HOURS)

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts. (FILE PHOTO/24 HOURS)

A taxpayer-funded trip to Zhuhai, China for the mayor of Surrey and four others was made in part because the Asian sister city felt “offended” the south Fraser municipality wasn’t doing enough to cultivate the relationship, says a councillor who took part.

According to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, both Mayor Dianne Watts and Coun. Judy Villeneuve flew first class to Asia in November 2012 for a trip to celebrate the 25th “sister city” anniversary with Zhuhai.

Three others — Coun. Tom Gill, economic development manager Donna Jones and mayor’s assistant Jagit Mann — also attended but flew economy class.

Christine Tian of the Canadian Consulate General in Guangzhou questioned the delegation’s attendance at the Zhuhai airshow in an October 2012 email.

“We do appreciate Mayor Watts’ support, but it might not be (appropriate) for government officials who is not in aerospace industry to attend.”

Additionally, an attempt by Jones to get the Zhuhai Flight Training Centre to ship Canadian-built flight simulators from Fraser Surrey Docks — instead of Prince Rupert — was unsuccessful, according to the documents.

Jones said in a statement Surrey is home to 26 manufacturing companies that produce materials used in aerospace manufacturing.

“Exploring the opportunities for these companies was an important part of the city’s agenda,” she said.

Villeneuve told 24 hours the trip was worth it — the delegation spent two days each in Zhuhai, Tien, Beijing and Shanghai.

Donations of two replica Terra Cotta warriors are now on display at Surrey’s City Centre Library.

She said Zhuhai was picked as sister city because of its status as an “economic development zone,” and the relationship hasn’t been “cultivated” over time.

“They were fairly offended by that,” she said.

The documents showed Watts and Villeneuve each spent $4,350 for first-class seats, compared to $1,225 for economy tickets.

Villeneuve said she needed the upgrade because she needed surgery on an injured wrist before the trip.

Watts suffered a serious injury about a year before the trip due to a fall from a horse — but wasn’t immediately available for comment.


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