In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin wrote that he “cannot imagine” that the prime minister “would approve and be in support of such disrespectful behaviour towards a local government, its elected civic leaders, and City staff.”
The 1,100-word, four-page letter – complete with a graphic showing a map of Trudeau’s Nov. 15 walking route through the Five Corners area – was sent to three staffers at the prime minister’s office, the president of the Liberal Party of Canada, White Rock council and city staffers CAO Dan Bottrill and communications manager Farnaz Farrokhi.
As of Peace Arch News press time Thursday, the letter was not officially released by any of the offices. However, PAN obtained a copy independently.
The prime minister’s office confirmed Nov. 30 that the letter had been received, but said it would not be made public through them.
“As you know, the prime minister’s brief visit to White Rock was in his capacity as leader of the Liberal Party, and so I would refer you to Braeden Caley (Liberal Party of Canada director of communications) for further questions,” PMO press secretary Eleanore Catenaro told PAN Nov. 30.
Caley told PAN the next day that the Liberal party does not provide copies of correspondence received without the sender’s permission, and “it would be best for you to reach out to Mayor Wayne Baldwin if you are following up on statements he has made.”
Contacted last week, Baldwin told PAN he would release the letter, and that he asked City of White Rock communications manager Farnaz Farrokhi to email it.
Farrokhi told PAN she would send a copy of the letter the following Monday morning.
Monday, the City of White Rock said they would “expedite” a freedom-of-information (FOI) request. As of press time, it was not formally received.
After posting an article online Wednesday about attempts to have the letter released, PAN received a leaked copy.
The letter gives reasoning of why Baldwin thought the prime minister’s visit did not follow “proper protocols and procedures.”
It says Liberal South Surrey-White Rock candidate Gordie Hogg – whom it describes as “a seasoned politician” – appeared to have invited a “select group” of individuals to welcome the prime minister “right in front of our City Hall.” It made note that some of the invited individuals “do not live in White Rock.”
The letter says that while Baldwin understands a rally may not be an official visit, “when a City Hall is the marshalling point and its front lobby is used for a refuge, the situation changes.”
The graphic provides details of what took place at city hall before the prime minister toured Five Corners, in the lead-up to the Dec. 11 federal byelection.
“Lobby used by Prime Minister’s security detail, other staff related to the visit, and the Federal Liberal candidate for South Surrey-White Rock, including his guests, media, and members of his campaign team. They used City Hall’s location as Marshalling point to assess Prime Minister’s tour route and as their refuge for over 30 minutes. Mayor, White Rock City Council, and City staff not notified of details of the visit…” the map notes.
Baldwin wrote that it would have been a “wonderful opportunity and honour for Council and City staff” to have been made aware, adding that he would have excused himself from a three-day Union of BC Municipalities meeting to welcome Trudeau.
Baldwin thanked Trudeau for visiting the city, and “I hope you can accept my sincere apology for writing you under such circumstances, but I felt it was important that you knew the reasons as to why the elected civic leaders of White Rock, especially me as the Mayor of White Rock, were not there to formally welcome you to our spectacular City by the Sea.”
Baldwin noted that if White Rock council had been notified of the visit, city staff would have set aside space in city hall to accommodate the prime minister’s staff, minimized potential customer service interruptions and addressed any pedestrian and vehicle-safety concerns.
Baldwin expressed his gratitude to Trudeau and minister of infrastructure and communities Amarjeet Sohi for the $11.8 million grant the city received through the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund to address “naturally occurring arsenic and manganese in our water.”
“Our water does meet Health Canada’s Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality; however, the arsenic levels in some of the wells peaked above the Maximum Allowable Concentration levels at times.”
Baldwin said it would “be a privilege” to meet the prime minister to discuss White Rock’s needs, give the prime minister a tour of the community and show him the progress the city has made on its water treatment processes and how the research technologies can benefit other communities, “including First Nation communities.”
“I humbly ask that your team at the PMO coordinates this meeting through my office.”