Abbotsford eyes new relationship with sister city

Scrutiny over politicians’ trips leads mayors to propose revision to agreement

Abbotsford's sister city: Fukagawa

Abbotsford's sister city: Fukagawa

Politicians from Abbotsford and its Japanese sister city may no longer visit each others’ communities in light of continual scrutiny over such trips.

Council directed staff Monday to revisit the agreement between itself and the City of Fukagawa. The two municipalities have been sister cities since 1998. The relationship has seen Fukagawa politicians travel to Abbotsford six times, while their Canadian counterparts have headed east four times.

Most recently, Mayor Henry Braun travelled to Japan in late August for a week-long stay. He was accompanied by his wife Velma, Deputy Mayor Patricia Ross, city manager George Murray, Chamber of Commerce president Josh Bach, city clerk Bill Flitton and Aird Flavelle, the vice-president of the Canada Japan Friendship Association of the Fraser Valley.

While the delegation focused on business opportunities, Braun also had a conversation with Fukagawan counterpart, Mayor Takefumi Yamashita.

“The mayor and I had a very good discussion and he faces the same challenges that we face citizens looking at the cost of trips like this as a way for elected officials to have a vacation,” he said. “I can assure you this was no vacation, we worked very hard from morning to night.”

Braun said he and Yamashita agreed the relationship between the cities should focus less on governmental exchanges and more on community interactions. A staff report said a new approach would try to establish stronger ties between school districts, community groups, health authorities and the cities’ local universities.

Council endorsed the change, with Coun. Sandy Blue noting that economic development staff are increasingly focusing on groups from around the world, rather than specific cities.