Clockwise from left, White Rock Couns. David Chesney, Helen Fathers, Megan Knight, Lynne Sinclair, Grant Meyer and Bill Lawrence.

Councillors divided over White Rock mayor’s letter to prime minister

Sinclair, Meyer say letter shouldn’t have been sent; Knight says Baldwin had ‘every right’

The letter that Mayor Wayne Baldwin sent to the prime minister last month – and that was subsequently leaked to Peace Arch News this week – drew a mixed reaction from his colleagues on White Rock council.

Contacted Thursday, Coun. Lynne Sinclair confirmed she did not have input on the letter. Sinclair said she only saw it after it had been sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the prime minister’s office and Liberal Party of Canada.

In the 1,100-word, four-page letter, Baldwin took issue with the prime minister’s staff and security using White Rock City Hall without notifying the city of Trudeau’s Nov. 15 visit to the Five Corners neighbourhood. He wrote that he “cannot imagine” that the prime minister would “approve and be in support of such disrespectful behaviour towards a local government, its civic leaders, and city staff.”

“I wish it hadn’t been sent,” Sinclair told PAN, adding that South Surrey-White Rock Liberal candidate Gordie Hogg called every member of council and mayor to apologize following a Nov. 20 council meeting where Baldwin said the lack of notification was “extremely disappointing, disrespectful and a total breach of protocol.”

“I don’t know what else (Hogg) could have done,” Sinclair said. “He phoned each and every one of us… I understand that he reached out to the mayor again and apologized not only once, but twice, and offered him a chance to meet the prime minister when he came out again (Dec. 2).”

Sinclair said the letter wasn’t a good way to build relationships with the federal level of government.

Coun. Grant Meyer took issue that the letter “kind of alluded” to being sent on behalf of council.

“I don’t really like things being sent out with that implication. I wouldn’t have sent it,” Meyer said.

The letter was sent with an official “Office of the Mayor” letterhead, and included a graphic that outlined Trudeau’s walking route through Five Corners and highlighted city hall as a “marshalling” area.

“It was funny because I saw the mayor’s comment on Facebook saying ‘not a big deal, it’s a misunderstanding and done with.’ And then, here’s a giant letter with a diagram, or a picture, and this or that. I was kind of shocked,” Meyer said.

Coun. Helen Fathers said Trudeau’s visits to the city were not official.

“I think the mayor is really the only one out of all members of council actually not to go to the first event or the second event,” Fathers said, noting she thinks Baldwin was “genuinely upset” and that “he genuinely felt that there should have been an official invite.”

“I think it would have served the mayor well to just… let sleeping dogs lie,” Fathers said.

Coun. Megan Knight said the issue is “just getting blown into this big proportion,” and that she “can see why Wayne was upset, not being included.”

“He has every right to state his opinion, so if he wants to write a letter by himself as Mayor of White Rock, then that’s his choice,” Knight said.

Coun. Bill Lawrence told PAN Monday that council’s focus should be building relationships with the federal government, and that he would not have sent the letter.

“He did not consult with council, at least he did not consult with myself. I didn’t have any input in the document,” Lawrence said. “And plus, the nature of the visit wasn’t an official visit to White Rock.”

PAN was unable to reach Coun. David Chesney.

Baldwin said Friday that he doesn’t know who leaked a copy of the letter, but that it “was a dumb thing to do.”

“That was a stupid thing to have done. It doesn’t need to go out during an election, it could have waited until after the election, which is what I wanted. I would have not allowed it to go before the election, if I had any choice in the matter,” the mayor told PAN.

Baldwin said that he spoke to “other mayors” about his letter.

“The reaction from every one of them that I talked to was, ‘Yeah, I would have done the same thing. I would have been outraged, too,’” Baldwin said. “I don’t think it was wrong. I think it was a mistake on part of the campaign team.”

Baldwin said that if the prime minister’s campaign team staged at an area other than city hall, it would have been a non-issue.

“When they’re in front of city hall and when they come into city hall, then it does become an issue. That’s really the biggest part of the problem,” Baldwin said.

“That’s the whole thing.”

In an emailed statement, Hogg noted he invited Baldwin to the second rally – at Semiahmoo Secondary – and that the mayor declined.

“But I’m grateful that (Surrey) Mayor (Linda) Hepner accepted that invitation along with City Councillors from both White Rock and Surrey,” Hogg said.

“I enjoyed hearing their ideas about our community’s priorities for the federal government.”

Baldwin confirmed he was invited to the Semiahmoo meet-and-greet, but elected not to go because “I knew that it was just going to be a mob scene.”

“I’m not one that goes out and looks for selfies with people…,” Baldwin said.

“I wasn’t too terribly worried about going out there and being in a crowd of 1,400. If it had been to have a conversation with the prime minister, that would have been worthwhile doing. And if I could have gotten something in on the city’s issues, that would have been worth doing.

“Just to go and get my picture taken? No, I’m not going to do that.”

Baldwin said he would like to see the prime minister return to take a look at the city’s new water-treatment system once it’s complete.

“I think that would be really cool.”

Before receiving a leaked copy of the letter, PAN contacted the prime minister’s office, Liberal Party of Canada and City of White Rock requesting a copy. Neither the PMO nor the party would release the letter, and the city first said it would be released Dec. 4, but then dealt with the matter as a freedom-of-information request, which can take at least a month for a response.

Below is a copy of the letter.

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