If history teaches us anything, it’s that it likes to repeat. Time and again, we see and hear the same themes discussed.
And once an issue is concluded it is forgotten, despite the fact we could learn much if only we remembered just a little bit.
The debate raging around the proposed Ajax mine is a good example. While city residents have not had this kind of industrial project to contemplate, we have had other controversial developments to ponder. There are lessons we can glean from past battles.
Let’s wander back to 1998, when the debate over the Real Canadian Superstore was in full swing. At the time, it was as controversial as the Ajax mine is today. Opponents predicted all kinds of social ills would befall us if the store opened, from wholesale loss of good-paying union jobs to Summit Drive traffic jams that would ensnare us for days. Proponents hotly argued we couldn’t live without the chain’s paycheques and the cheaper groceries the big-box retailer would bring.
Fifteen years later, I bet those in both camps would sheepishly admit their rants were misplaced. Kamloops with Superstore is different than it might have been without it, but it’s not better or worse.
Let’s not forget Tobiano, another big commercial project we fretted about. We pushed hard to have Six Mile Ranch excluded from the Agricultural Land Reserve, convinced the proposed golf-resort community would be a pillar of our region’s economic future. We got what we wanted and what has history revealed? Yawn. Tobiano’s benefits are not what we expected.
Which brings us back to the Ajax mine. Listen to its opponents and you’d think KGHM wants to dig the very gates to hell on our doorstep from which minions of the devil will pour to consume our flesh. All manner of environmental catastrophe has been predicted, largely based on speculation and conjecture mixed in with a little unreliable anecdote for good measure.
We have little science yet upon which to base a rational discussion about risks. The time will come to talk about dust and winds and water and fish, but it’s not yet. Let’s wait for our government’s scientists to weigh in before we reach for the pitchforks, torches and holy water and march to Jacko Lake with expulsion of Polish demons in mind.
Likewise, proponents of the mine promise us perpetual economic sunshine, bunnies and happy flowers if Ajax comes to town, again, based on assumptions and projections that live in concept. There is no doubt there will be economic benefit for some if the mine goes ahead, but not for all. We don’t need Ajax for our survival.
The fact is, there are no truths — for or against — that can be stated yet about the Ajax mine. There is little point in arguing half-truths and theories.
Instead, let’s look back across our history and gain some perspective. Past controversies show us much of what is predicted in the heat of debate never comes to pass. Risks and benefits don’t materialize or go unnoticed as they are absorbed by the rush of life passing.
History supports the notion Kamloops will not be made or broken by one project, even a big one. Whether Ajax passes or not, this city will continue in grand fashion.