What a day Kamloops council members had at the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual convention in Victoria Thursday.
The morning began with B.C. Environment Minister and Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake stretching his UBCM meeting agenda when he met with the delegation from his home town.
Ministerial meetings at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention usually last 15 minutes — it’s like speed dating for civic and provincial politicians.
Lake gave the Kamloops group about 25 minutes to talk about the proposed Ajax mine on the edge of town.
Coun. Marg Spina said the pros and cons that have been circulating around the Ajax issue were discussed with the minister and his staff, as well as the point that the mine has polarized the community.
“We asked for (an approval) process that our citizens can understand, can look at, can understand why decisions are made,” she said.
“He told us it would be a very rigorous review, and probably more rigorous because it’s a mine within city limits.”
Mayor Peter Milobar said the meetings are also about the senior staff who are with the minister.
“At these meetings, they have staff you wouldn’t normally talk with. They’re hearing the message, too,” he said.
He expected it will be at least February of 2013 before Ajax proponent KGHM actually submits an application to be adjudicated, and some time after that before all pertinent information is sifted through toward an answer.
Coun. Ken Christian said he asked for assurance that with two provincial ministries involved in the mine’s approval, someone would take responsibility for negative impacts, such as dust.
Coun. Arjun Singh said the province and the City seemed to be in agreement that they wanted to be sure the review process is thorough.
“The province keeps on emphasizing to us that this is a process plus, in a sense. There’s never been a mining proposal so close to a community, I don’t think. It’s a unique situation so they’re allocating more resources to it.”
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Mayor Peter Milobar got to pick up some hardware on the City’s behalf in between speeches and resolution votes at the UBCM Thursday.
For the second consecutive year, Kamloops won an award for the most small-business friendly community in the Thompson-Okanagan.
The City should take pride in the double win, especially since the awards just began last year, he said.
“It just adds to the recognitions we’ve already received in the last few years around competitiveness and being business friendly. It shows the steps we’re taking are recognized,” he said.
“Usually they don’t repeat these awards.”
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Coun. Marg Spina’s cell phone battery was causing communication difficulties Wednesday but the Daily News did get her on the line Thursday to discuss her vote on the previous day’s marijuana decriminalization debate.
“I voted in favour because I was not aware of all the violence attributable to marijuana in our province. I was horrified at the high, high cost of enforcing simple possession and low to moderate drug infractions,” she said.
While it’s up to Ottawa to take steps to decriminalize marijuana, the UBCM resolution — which did pass — represents a public policy push by municipal politicians, she said.
“The grow-ops have been pushed out to the rural regions and it’s creating problems,” said Spina.
Information presented by a pro-decriminalization group at a workshop earlier in the convention mapped out the huge court and other legal system costs involved with marijuana prosecutions.
Spina and four of the other five Kamloops civic leaders at UBCM voted in favour of the resolution: Donovan Cavers, Ken Christian, Nancy Bepple and Arjun Singh. Mayor Peter Milobar alone voted against.
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NDP Leader Adrian Dix called for all of B.C.’s provincial party leaders to take the high road in the upcoming spring election. He made the request during his speech to the Union of B.C. Municipalities Thursday morning.
Coun. Arjun Singh was impressed by the step.
“I was pleased with Mr. Dix’s call for us to elevate the tenor of our debate and discussion and not get personal around politics. He complimented every other political provincial leader. I haven’t seen that before,” he said.
Dix told the delegates among the changes he’s considering if he’s elected premier is to toss out the balanced budget legislation in favour of just trying to balance the books year by year.
He appealed to his audience by saying municipalities should have more control over development of resorts and local private-public partnerships.