While most citizens of Kamloops are interested in the proposed mine, many of us are sitting on the sidelines, waiting for that crucial bit of information that will tip the balance for or against.
Perhaps it will be new data about arsenic in our groundwater, or maybe, on the pro side, a revolutionary noise and dust free method of extracting the ore. City Council, our MP and our MLAs all seem to be following the same pattern of waiting. Is quietly waiting for new data a useful tactic?
Last week, I went to The Daily News building to look at the models. Perhaps these would present me with a new insight. Apart from the local model being far superior to the model produced by KPMG, I only saw what I already knew. The mine is too big and too close. No amount of new data will change these two factors.
I wonder why our council members, with the proximity of the mine staring them in the face, would still be waiting to render an opinion. What new information could possibly move the mine or reduce its size?
That got me thinking about how Kamloops has grown since I first came here in 1970. At that time, Kamloops was, to be kind, a dusty, smelly cow town. We were envious of our neighbours, Kelowna and Vernon, for their relatively quiet charm.
I wonder how many of us envy either of those towns now. Kamloops has become the place we could only dream of in those dusty days. How did we get here?
This wasn’t just a result of good luck. It took leadership and a willingness to take risks.
Much of our growth is the direct result of decisions made by past councils. I’d like to point out a few. We have outstanding sports facilities, which must be envied by our neighbours. The Tournament Capital motto was an inspired initiative, and we have extended its success by staging numerous provincial and national events. No matter what sport you follow, our facilities are plentiful and top-class. Thanks, past councils.
We have a Sagebrush Theatre because of the willingness of a past council to partner with our school board and build a joint facility, at a time when a stand-alone arts centre was beyond our means. I am confident that a future council will build an arts building and continue to provide for our arts community.
I mentioned that Kamloops used to be dusty. It was also a drab place. Not so now. As new malls have moved much retail commerce out of town, the city centre has re-invented itself, and is now a vital, attractive downtown. North Kamloops has begun the same process, thanks, in part, to the new library. Locating a new arts centre in North Kamloops would be a huge boost.
If someone had suggested to me 30 years ago that Kamloops would win international and national awards for the beauty of its landscapes and gardens, I would have been rendered speechless. The jewel of this beautification process is Riverside Park. We no longer envy our southern neighbours their lakeside locations, as we have a gem equal to any of their parks right downtown.
Take a drive through all of the Kamloops regions: this is a blooming, lovely place. A previous council began this process by recognizing homes, businesses and institutions for creating landscaping that contributed to the attractiveness of the city. These awards must have seemed to be a touch of whimsy, at the time.
Kamloops may still derive much of its prosperity from resource extraction, but there is no doubt, in my mind, that our single biggest asset is TRU. We have a world class university rapidly evolving up on McGill. As TRU develops, the rich cultural life that always accompanies such an institution will grow and thrive around it. City planners and councils have been key participants in the establishment and growth of our university.
We are still developing the cycle paths around Kamloops. The River Trail was a great initiative, but we didn’t stop there. Council continues to plan improvements to make Kamloops a more cycle friendly city: greener and more accessible from all of the areas around it. Our new Valleyview interchange project is just the latest step in this process. These are only a few examples of how the decisions of past councils have shaped our town. There are many others, library, art gallery, clean water. Here’s a suggestion. Take a few minutes to pause here and make your own list of all of those I have forgotten.
For all of these developments, we have past councils and their partners to thank. The movement to a better, more livable and more attractive city has been both ongoing and farsighted.
Virtually every councilor, over the last 40 years, has contributed in some way to the change from the unattractive town that I moved to in 1970, to the Kamloops of today. This is now a very good place to live and we all know it.
So, here is my question: Why is our City Council staying out of the debate over the mine above Aberdeen? If the mine goes ahead, much of the work done by its predecessors will be tarnished or reversed. We will be at risk of becoming, once again, a dusty, noisy and, probably, smelly resource town. I suggest that councilors take a good look at Kamloops as it is today, thank the councils of yesterday, and take a stand to keep Kamloops the wonderful town it has become.
Does Council need to wait until all the facts are in? Nope. Ajax is just way too big and way too close. That’s all they really need to know. Of course, taking a stand may not stop the mine, but we’ll know you tried. And, I would hope, that your effort would also seek the support of our MLAs and MP.
You are our political leaders. We need you now. Lead.