Twinning relationship struggling to survive

Since the sister city bond was first established in 1983, more than 850 people have crossed the Pacific

The existence of the city’s 32-year exchange program with its Japanese sister city, Ishikari, is being threatened due to a lack of funding.

Mayor Andy Adams, and past president of the Campbell River Twinning Society, said that since the province cut out all gaming funds to the society, it’s been a struggle.

“If future funding cannot be developed, such as provincial gaming funds, then the future of the Twinning Society and all of its programs will be in jeopardy as other community funding is directly tied to an organization’s ability to acquire supplementary funding,” Adams wrote in the society’s 2014 annual report. “Our events, membership and possible future sales of items from the cultural fair and our website will not be able to offset these requirements.”

Since the sister city bond was first established in 1983, more than 850 people have crossed the Pacific as part of the Campbell River/Ishikari exchange program.

Each year, high school students from both cities participate in a year-long exchange and in the spring, the Young Ambassador Program gives students in both elementary and middle school the opportunity to visit Ishikari during a 10-day exchange.

A torii gate (gifted by Ishikari delegates) in Campbell River’s sequoia park and a totem pole, given by Campbell River, outside Ishikari’s city hall are symbolic of the cities’ relationship. But  society president David Armitage said that if the society can’t come up with stable funding, that bond could be threatened.

“If the Campbell River Twinning Society is not able to secure sustaining operational funding, the executive will have no choice but to make the recommendation in 2015 to dissolve the society and turn the management and operations of the sister city relations over to the city,” Armitage wrote in a letter to council.

Armitage is requesting city council consider providing $7,500 to the Twinning Society every year and recognize the sister city relationship as a core service within the legislative services division of city hall.

Armitage is also asking council to think about providing clerical support to the society for administrative functions such as agendas, minutes, filing, insurance and other annual applications and reports.

The society has historically received $2,400 from the city but it was also receiving $5,000 from the province.

However, following changes to the provincial gaming grant criteria in 2011, funding was cut to $3,333, and then $0 in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

“The Campbell River Twinning Society has repeatedly appealed the decision and made amendments to the annual applications to try and meet the criteria, but have not been successful,” Armitage wrote. “We have also appealed to the Ministry of International Affairs responsible for Asia-Pacific Initiatives, but have also not been successful.”

To add insult to injury, Armitage said the province is offering funding to the city to establish a new sister city relationship, but not to support an existing one.

“It is ironic that we are unable to obtain funding to sustain an existing Asia-Pacific program that is so successful and yet Campbell River has received $25,000 from the province to establish a second sister city in China,” Armitage wrote. “Our executive would advise council to not consider creating any further sister city relations without first addressing the one they have.”

Armitage’s requests to council were to go before city council at its Tuesday meeting after the Mirror press time.