We were promised town hall meetings on Ajax. The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office said we’d get them.
Instead, the company holds splashy open houses, high on style, low on news. KGHM has hired new clout to spread its message, and the heavy guns of the mining industry tout the community benefits of open-pit mining.
Mayor and council, meanwhile, are displaying the backbone of a crustacean. It’s baffling.
After the parkade-at-the-park fiasco, in which they tried hard to ignore what the public was saying (never ask a question if you aren’t going to listen to the answer) and got smacked down with a resounding counter petition, the lesson has been taken to heart.
When David Trawin — who played an integral role in the parkade story — took over as chief administrative officer, he pledged to run an accountable administration. In just the past few weeks, there have been three highly informative and successful public budget forums, a well-attended round table on a performing arts centre and, just two evenings ago, a lively confab on downtown parking.
The City is to be commended for taking this roundabout on public engagement, for all those issues are important. But none, arguably, as important as Ajax.
On the most contentious issue of all, Mayor Peter Milobar and his council have nothing to say, except that they’ll wait and see.
Whether you think this mine will sink Kamloops into a slough of despond or elevate it to Eden makes no difference. The point here isn’t which is closer to the truth, but the leadership we all need to get there.
The hunger in the community for a proper conclave on Ajax is palpable. Neither federal nor provincial politicians or bureaucrats, nor KGHM, are providing it. There’s only one place left it can come from — City Hall.
City politicians who claim they have no say in the outcome, but might say something anyway “once the reports are in” should be embarrassed. They crouch behind a technicality; even KGHM has said City Hall would have serious sway if it took sides.
But, never mind, let’s talk no more about that. Let them stay out of that fight. How, though, can they not step forward and give their citizens the forum they so badly want?
If this council were to hold a town hall meeting at an appropriate venue, and invite KGHM — along with spokespersons with other views — to come and talk, how could they refuse? How could Yves Lacasse, who says his new job is all about getting good information to the public, say no to that?
No tightly controlled and narrowly messaged open house. A real, honest-to-goodness chance to talk and to question, to champion or to vent. I guarantee the place would be filled to the rafters with citizens thankful they picked the right mayor and council after all.
Donovan Cavers and Tina Lange, the only two councillors who have expressed any real opinion on Ajax, should give notice of motion at the next opportunity that council lead instead of hesitate, arbitrate instead of procrastinate, and convene a meeting of citizens to talk about the most important decision facing their community since Kamloops became a city 120 years ago.
No member of council could quarrel with such a motion.