Editorial: Trade mission needs trade-off

Taxpayers expect – and deserve – something tangible when we foot the bill for this sort of travel.

The mayor’s mission to China needs to be a fair trade.

Mayor Bill McKay, as well as Andre Sullivan, chairman of the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation, are heading to three Chinese cities next week to participate in a trade mission led by B.C. Premier Christy Clark and the province’s Ministry of International Trade.

It’s an opportunity for the mayor to take care of some business that had been put off earlier this year, when he cancelled a planned trip to China to meet with potential Hilton hotel investors.

In addition to that meeting, McKay will have a chance to co-operate with the next level of government in attempting to attract further investment in sectors such as liquefied natural gas.

Perhaps just as importantly, our mayor has an opportunity to strengthen Nanaimo’s relationship with the premier and the province and raise the city’s profile, something that can only be beneficial.

It might be unreasonable to expect the Nanaimo contingent to be able to close business deals on this hastily planned trip, and that’s problematic, because taxpayers expect – and deserve – something tangible when we foot the bill for this sort of travel. The NEDC will report on the trade mission when McKay and Sullivan return, so there will be some record of the trip’s success or lack thereof, whatever the case may be. This measure of accountability should always exist in municipal government and its bureaucracy. Networking conferences and professional development training, for example, probably cost the city more than we’d expect, and these expenses should be regularly scrutinized.

We should expect a trade-off, at some point, from this trade mission to China. We’re hopeful that by paying this visit now, we will see visitors – and investors – reciprocate that visit tenfold, one hundredfold, or even more.

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