Canadian Mayor draws flak for Sri Lanka ‘sister-city’ move

The Mayor of Brampton in Canada, has drawn flak for a proposal to enter a ‘sister city’ agreement with a Sri Lankan municipality without council approval.

Linda Jeffrey’s foray into foreign affairs has managed to sour relations at home after councillors voiced concerns that the mayor is moving ahead with the plans, the Brampton Guardian reported.

“I don’t believe the mayor has the authority to bypass council and she would be foolish doing so,” said Regional Coun. John Sprovieri, reacting to a recent announcement from the mayor stating her intention to formalize relations with Vavuniya, a community of about 70,000 inhabitants in northern Sri Lanka.

At the December 7 Economic Development Committee meeting, councillors debated a request that would link Brampton and Vavuniya via a ‘friendship relationship agreement’.

Although several councillors expressed some skepticism about the benefits of such an agreement, committee members agreed to wait on a staff report before making a decision.

However, in a move that has irked many of her colleagues on council, Jeffrey issued a media release in late December announcing she would meet with Sri Lankan dignitaries in Brampton this month to formalize a sister city agreement with Vavuniya.

On January 11, members of Brampton’s Tamil community held a reception at Brampton city hall that also hosted C.V. Wigneswaran, chief minister of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province.

Brampton’s Tamil community numbers approximately 20,000 people.

The mayor, who has been largely at odds with her council colleagues, is on vacation and did not attend the ceremony. However, local politicians were disturbed that the mayor opted to act without council’s blessing.

The mayor’s camp was quick to put water onto the flames Tuesday, stating that such an agreement is still in its infancy and that council would ultimately make the final decision.

“We acknowledge there may have been some confusion — there are many steps prior to any agreement being signed,” said Jaskaran Singh Sandhu, the mayor’s new press secretary.

This, despite a December 20 media release that clearly describes Jeffrey’s plans to sign an agreement that “would strengthen existing economic and cultural ties while encouraging commerce and the exchange of goods and services between Brampton, the Greater Toronto Area and Vavuniya.”

Brampton has formal relationships with several cities and international organizations around the globe, including the Chinese city of Xuzhou, Plano Tex., Miami Beach Fla., and Brampton, Cumbria, England.

Last October, Jeffrey signed an agreement to initiate the process to formalize economic, social or cultural relations with the Portuguese city of Ribeira Grande.

Martin Medeiros, the councillor who spurred on that process, said the Vavuniya agreement would follow along the same lines as the arrangement with Ribeira Grande.

However, some councillors said they were caught off guard by the mayor’s announcement, and wonder how the initiative escalated to talk of sister-city status without a formal report detailing potential benefits.

“I am concerned that it appears that council direction is being ignored,” said Coun. Grant Gibson.

Sandhu said staff is working on a report for council to consider.

“It is our hope, after all due diligence has been completed, that we are able to explore economic development opportunities between our communities.” (Colombo Gazette)


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