City council has been criticized by a former council candidate for the sale of approximately half of its Skeena Industrial Development Park to Chinese industrial interests.
Chris Gee, an unsuccessful candidate in the 2011 municipal elections, said China has a poor human rights record and questionable environmental standards.
“I am here to remind you that this deal is your legacy. Your names will be forever associated with the outcome of this endeavour,” Gee told council when it met Oct. 14.
Gee said he has an intimate knowledge of Chinese ideology from his father who lived in China for a number of years and from his stepmother who is from Shanghai.
The city’s sale of more than 1,000 acres of the industrial park to the agency which operates a special economic development zone in and around the Chinese city of Qinhuangdao earlier this year was hailed by council as a way to increase the city’s industrial tax base and provide stable employment. Gee argued that democracy-promoting novelists have been jailed in China and quoted major Canadian political and policy figures who argue that close ties with foreign countries are not in Canada’s best interests.
Gee even quoted Mao Zedong, the principal founder of the Chinese Communist Party, which runs the country: “If the US monopoly capitalist groups persist in pushing their policies of aggression and war the day is bound to come when the people of the whole world will hang them. The same fate awaits the accomplices of the United States.”
Gee said he was confident the city had spoken with experts in pursuing its business deal.
“I am confident you sought the council of the best trade lawyers in Canada. I am confident you asked for the opinions of experts in the field of human rights. I am confident you took council from specialists in the field of air and water pollution. I am confident the opinion of these experts will be reflected in the final contract. I am confident you were dazzled by your hosts when you visited China. I am confident that you undertook these negotiations in a manner akin to a man in a room with an unchained tiger. I am confident that Terrace will be forever changed by this,” he said.
Councillor Brian Downie, who was filling in for Dave Pernarowski as mayor that evening, and councillor James Cordeiro spoke against Gee’s opinion, though Cordeiro said he respected Gee’s reasoning and Downie said his points were “noted”.
The sale of the industrial park land has yet to officially close but one of the projects being first talked about is a plant to extract protein from alfalfa and ship the commodity to China where it is in short supply.
The city is to receive $11.8 million for the industrial park land.
Gee had also been asked to be placed on the agenda so he could talk about the closure of his non-profit Skeena Bicycle Service. The service offered instruction in bicycle repairs and maintenance.