Thursday April 17, 2014

Mine debate hits the road

Ajax stickers draw friendly waves, raised fingers
photo collage

Sahali resident Elaine Sedgman, left, and businessman Duane Svendson

The heyday of the bumper sticker — “Honk if you’re horny” or “Mother of an honour student” — peaked two or three decades ago.

But KGHM-Ajax’s proposed open pit mine within the city’s boundaries has spawned a return to the past.

Long before social media, drivers used their rear bumpers to send a message to the world — political affiliations, causes or just to add a bit of humour to a dreary drive.

Surveys have shown a decisive split in opinion on the proposed mine — and it’s showing up on vehicles.

Duane Svendson, business development manager at Trout Creek Enterprises, came up with the I Support Ajax sticker “out of frustration.”

He designed the sticker himself and had a first run of 200 done about a year and a half ago, something Svendson said he did without even talking to KGHM-Ajax.

“I just did it. I wrote it down on a piece of paper, emailed it to a printing company and said, ‘Can I have $500 worth?’” he said in an interview.

Around the same time, volunteers with Kamloops Area Preservation Association, concerned about the proposed open pit mine’s impact on the city, decided they needed to get their message out through a bumper sticker.

“I think they (Svendson’s stickers) may have been out first,” conceded KAPA director John Schleiermacher.

“Someone brought up a motion. We printed out 500, ran out and printed 500 more and just have a few left.”

Claudette Kelly was one of the early adopters and sports the Stop Ajax Mine sticker on her bumper.

“Silence is not an option for me,” said the retired TRU nursing instructor.

“If we can’t have a conversation about that, we can’t have a conversation about anything.”

Elaine Sedgman, who also opposes the mine location, said she was hesitant at first to show her stripes with the Stop Ajax Mine sticker.

“We were a bit concerned. But then we decided, no — we have to take a stand.”

Bob MacIntosh, who operates a small service business in the city, sports an I Support Ajax sticker on his work van. He attended an Ajax open house and a friend handed him the sticker.

“I think it’s a good thing,” MacIntosh said of the proposed open pit mine.

“Let me qualify that: I support the mine in principle. I think it’s a good deal for Kamloops. But my final thoughts are, let’s see what the environmental assessment says.”

MacIntosh said the sticker brings some good-natured ribbing from friends, but no bad feelings directed toward him on the road.

Drivers on each side, however, have stories about reaction from the other side.

Svendson recalls once giving out a sticker to a customer who asked for one. When he next saw him, the customer joked, “ ‘You didn’t tell me these stickers came with (raised middle) fingers,’ ” Svendson said.

“It’s not as much anymore because they’re all over the place.”

Sedgman, who operated a bookstore in Salmon Arm before moving here, said she was on the receiving end of a message on one day.

“Someone gave me the finger as I came on the freeway.”

One driver, however, had second thoughts — a reservation that can be seen in the scarred-up Stop Ajax Mine sticker on her bumper.

Tamara Vukusic said her change of heart didn’t stem from the “friendly heckling” she’d get from other parents at Aberdeen elementary who sported I Support Ajax stickers.

Instead, Vukusic met another mother at the school whose husband works at an Alberta mine — far away from home and children.

She recalls watching his daughter sprint across the field when he got back into town following a long stint away, wrapping the miner in a full-body hug.

“That’s when I felt sheepish about the sticker,” said Vukusic.

She went home, found a paint scraper and went to work on her bumper, with limited success.

“People now ask me if it was vandalized,” she laughed.

Vukusic remains supportive of the efforts of Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment to get more facts about the mine and to push for greater health-related studies. But she believes Ajax stickers are drawing lines and dividing people.

“We need to add some compassion to our side, pro or against.”

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