Let's get one thing out of the way immediately.
We all know that the People's Republic of China has an abysmal human rights record.
Anyone who doesn't realize that can read Amnesty International's most recent country report on China, which chronicles a litany of outrages.
They include torture, concealing the extent of the use of the death penalty, appalling repression of dissidents, repression of religious activities outside state-sanctioned churches, and severe repression in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and Tibet.
Several Canadians are being detained in China in addition to diplomat on leave Michael Kovrig and tourism entrepreneur Michael Spavor. These two appear to have been kidnapped by the Chinese government in retaliation for Canada's arrest of a Huawei executive on a provisional U.S. warrant issued for the purpose of extradition.
China's recent activities led to a demonstration this evening at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver.
That's because some local residents disagree with the UBCM allowing the Chinese government to host a reception at the event in return for a sponsorship fee.
This became a public issue when Port Coquitlam mayor Brad West registered his objections.
West even delivered Tim Hortons doughnuts to the UBCM reception room, along with photos of Kovrig and Spavor.
West has been on Steelworkers' payroll
West, who comes across as a progressive populist, periodically appears in the media to condemn China's human rights record.
And whenever he does this, he's invariably described as the mayor of Port Coquitlam. He was elected last October to replace Greg Moore.
Many might think that being mayor of Port Coquitlam is a full-time job.
For this position, West is paid $125,211 per annum and receives a transportation allowance of $7,761. Not bad for a guy who chairs council meetings in a community with a population of 58,612, according to the 2016 census.
As a member of the TransLink Mayors' Council, West receives an additional $575 per meeting. Ten are scheduled this year.
On top of that, he's a director of Metro Vancouver, for which he receives $397 per board or committee meeting lasting less than four hours. He collects $794 for any of these meetings lasting more than four hours. West is vice chair of Metro Vancouver's Industrial Lands Strategy Task Force.
That would seem like a full plate to anyone, especially someone with a young family.
West is also listed as the communications and political-action coordinator with the United Steelworkers District 3 office in Burnaby, according to the union website.
In an interview with Shane Woodford five months ago on CHNL Radio in Kamloops, West was identified as a spokesperson for the United Steelworkers.
"Do you need a second job or what's going on here?" Woodford asked.
West replied that he was discussing a campaign for workers' safety that predated his time as mayor. This issue, he added, was "near and dear to my heart". So he was helping out the Steelworkers.
There was no suggestion by West that he was speaking to Woodford as a paid employee of the union, nor did Woodford pursue this.
I left a message over Twitter asking West if he still has his position as the union's communications and political action coordinator. As of this writing, I haven't received an answer.
Union opposes "unfair trading practices"
Two weeks before the 2018 election, the Tri-City News reported that the United Steelworkers "have given West the OK to return as their communications rep", presumably after his term as mayor expires.
Even if West is not collecting a salary right now from the Steelworkers—and that has not been established—he has an undertaking from the union to hire him back.
Keep in mind that his union work has been well compensated in the past.
This was revealed in the Steelworkers' Form LM-2 Labor Organization Annual Report, which was filed with the U.S. Department of Labor on March 28. It covers the period from January 1 to December 31, 2018.
Over that period, West was paid $113,009 and received $19,641 in disbursements. He collected more than $100,000 per year in several other years.
The United Steelworkers is on the record opposing free trade with China. It's fair to say that the union has huge problems with that country.
In a 2017 submission to Global Affairs Canada, the United Steelworkers not only cited human rights concerns, but also expressed opposition to China's "unfair trading practices".
"In steel, Chinese over-production, itself a result of state-led direction and policies meant to drive China's overheated economy to full employment, has depressed prices globally," the union stated. "But China continues to build its productive capacity in steel and other sectors and illegally dumps these products in other markets, including Canada."
As a result, the union claimed, "dumping has displaced Canadian steel in the crucial NAFTA market and Canadian steel exports to the US have decreased by 16% since 2008, representing a total loss to producers of $966 million."
This was linked to a loss of Canadian employment in manufacturing. The union also cited concerns about Chinese workers coming to Canada to work on Chinese-financed investments.
The union submission specifically cites the way President Xi Jinping is ruling the country.
The natural conclusion is that the actions of China are undermining employment for Canadian steelworkers.
The corollary is that this would mean fewer dues flowing into the union to pay the salaries of its staffers.
Yet when West is quoted in the B.C. media raising concerns about China, he's invariably described as the mayor of Port Coquitlam and not as past communications and political action coordinator with the United Steelworkers or a possible future employee of the union.
This is notwithstanding the staff list on the union website.
This may not seem like a big deal to some people, particularly those who agree with West's comments.
But it raises an interesting question.
What's going to happen if the interests of the City of Port Coquitlam or Metro Vancouver in attracting investment were to collide with the interests of the United Steelworkers in opposing investment from China in Canada?
Would West absent himself from discussions in the media, given his pre-election revelation that he's been promised a job with the union after his term as mayor expires?
Would the media even report his past and possibly future connection to the union?
Or would it all be brushed under the table because slamming the authoritarian regime of China trumps any interest in dissecting where West's role as mayor or Metro Vancouver director ends and where his role as a past and possibly future union official begins?