Council should just say no to Ajax, period

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
July 15, 2017 - 5:00am

Kamloops City council has a big decision to make Monday, and it’s not as cut and dried as it seems.

True, the council will vote no on Ajax, because at least four out of the six members — Denis Walsh, Dieter Dudy, Tina Lange and Donovan Cavers — oppose the mine. Pat Wallace and Arjun Singh are question marks.

After that, it gets more complicated. It will be tempting to ask for conditions on the mine if the province and feds approve it despite council’s opposition.

The final report from SLR Consulting, which was hired by the City for half a million dollars to study the KGHM Ajax application, made several recommendations on that, especially to do with monitoring.

On top of that, a City committee has been negotiating a compensation agreement with KGHM on the assumption the mine gets the green light. The contents of that agreement haven’t been shared with the public because they haven’t been finalized, at least to now.

It’s likely, however, that council will at least discuss them at an in-camera meeting Monday and, if the agreement is ready, might talk about it at the public meeting as well.

All of which will make what could have been a short special meeting into a very long one, though the timeline for the discussion appears set for only an hour and a half (the original 9 a.m. start time has been changed to 10:30).

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced council needs to keep it simple. Just say no. No ifs, ands or buts. Tell the province and the feds this thing needs to die. No amount of monitoring or compensation (a figure of $4 million has been tossed about as a number) can make this mine acceptable.

Saying, “We really don’t want it but if it’s approved here’s what we’d like” might seem like the safe way to go, but that’s just CYA stuff. Trying to cover all bases with elaborate equivocation can backfire. As soon as you add the “but” word to “no,” you’re giving up. Appeasement didn’t work for Neville Chamberlain, and it won’t work for Kamloops.

Attaching conditions suggests acquiescence; this is not the time for that.

The City’s position on the mine can be stated in a word. In the case of the compensation agreement, it should simply be tabled, and talks with KGHM suspended.

As for Coun. Denis Walsh’s request that the permitting process for Ajax be put on hold pending a judicial review of B.C.’s mining practices and regulations, uh, no again. The idea is well intended, but the time has come for a decision, and council’s part in that decision should be a firm rejection, now.

If there are any thoughts that council’s vote on Ajax lacks legitimacy because council is down to six members, well, resignations were tendered by three members of council for three different reasons and it is what it is.

And if either Wallace of Singh votes no on Ajax, that would assure there would have been a majority against it even if all nine council members were still on board.

Then, of course, there’s Ken Christian, who could have waited until after Monday’s meeting before submitting his resignation, in which case he would have been part of the discussion and vote.

Those who are left have been elected to take a stand for their city, and the answer must be no. Period.