Our response to Daniel Fontaine’s press release regarding the Mayor's COP28 attendance
As promised in our election platform, Community First councillors have built climate action into every aspect of our city’s work. Meanwhile, the New Westminster Progressives have sought to undermine the Climate Action Levy and other efforts to meet our climate goals. Despite this, community members continued voicing their support for climate action, telling council this work is important. We listened. And we are proud that New Westminster is recognized as a leader on climate action.
Globally recognized leadership:
That’s why New Westminster was invited to the first Local Climate Action Summit at COP28 (link here), a groundbreaking international gathering of local governments leading on climate action. The internationally respected non-profits C40 Cities (link here) sponsored attendance for more than 100 cities (including New Westminster, Yellowknife, Halifax, and Guelph), covering the cost for a Mayor and a senior staff member working on climate action to attend and participate in the summit. Participants shared learnings from around the world about local government climate action. It is an honour for New Westminster to be invited and recognized globally for our leadership on the most pressing problem of our time.
Everything about this conference was transparent. Appropriate notice was provided to the Acting Mayor and the Chief Administrative Officer prior to travel, completely consistent with both established policy and previous practice involving council travel. Mayor Johnstone posted extensively about the conference on his blog: https://www.patrickjohnstone.ca/blog
Benefits to New Westminster:
City Staff have prepared a report (included with the January 8th meeting agenda) for Council that outlines why they went and how the experience will further their work under Council’s direction. Attendance was paid for by a third-party organization, and all local government staff in attendance were provided this same sponsorship.
It is disingenuous for Councillor Fontaine to issue a press release a month later and claim to be surprised about the City’s participation in the conference. We note that he timed his press release for the week when the Mayor was out of town on a personal family vacation, limiting the Mayor's ability to respond.
Councillor Fontaine had full access to the staff report for the January 8th meeting, outlining details of the trip, yet he chose to engage in meaningless speculation and accusatory suggestions to media outlets. It is simply dishonest for Fontaine to claim he does not know who paid for the trip when both the Mayor and staff have clearly disclosed the funding sources and provided links to the funder’s website, which lists all sponsors. All of this was done prior to Councillor Fontaine’s press release.
No such rules:
Fontaine further suggested he should have been consulted prior to the conference when it has never been a practice or policy in the City of New Westminster for Council to approve the Mayor’s attendance at conferences. No such policy exists, and Councillor Fontaine knows this.
The last word:
It is clear what the Mayor was doing at COP28 and the Local Climate Action Summit. He was doing his job, representing New Westminster and working with local governments around the world to share and build capacity to address climate change while supporting local staff to develop stronger climate policies. Our Mayor was showing the leadership he was elected to perform. He did so in a transparent way, following City policies and the rules set out in the Community Charter.
Local residents deserve better:
This kind of political mud-slinging is new to New Westminster, and our city deserves better. However, it is important to set the record straight when one of our elected representatives is being wrongly disparaged for doing the job entrusted to him by the voters of New Westminster. Our community is better than this, and we ask the New West Progressives (NWP) to request that their Councillor act more responsibly with the trust the community has placed in him.