Although there may be some entertainment value in watching the ongoing KGHM Ajax debate, I believe it is critical for Kamloops residents to recognize how the mine controversy has become a distraction from a much greater threat to our common interests.
While we are busy arguing among ourselves about the advantages and disadvantages of the mine, the provincial and federal governments are free to quietly advance their own agendas.
We do not, in fact, have influence about whether or not the mine is approved, and the prevailing “political negligence” by our provincial and federal representatives is ensuring that local residents have no influence about if, when and how resources are extracted from their community.
This political negligence becomes very apparent when local politicians are asked to take a stand about the proposed mine.
The usual response is some variation on the theme of not being able to comment because more information is needed.
Those of us who have made a point of following the Ajax discussions know there is plenty of relevant information readily available. Many residents have taken the time to investigate the potential impact of the Ajax mine on our community.
They have presented fact-based arguments and engaged in efforts to educate their fellow citizens. Most have done so on a voluntary basis, driven by genuine concern for our community.
Of greater concern is the failure of local provincial and federal politicians to identify the specific information needed that would enable them to take a stand on behalf of their constituents.
What level of harm is tolerable? How will KGHM be held accountable and make compensation for harm resulting from its activities?
Instead, there is silence and naïve confidence in the environmental assessment process.
Not many of us would buy a used car simply because the salesman said it was a good deal.
We typically ask relevant questions and do our own research before making an important decision. The passive attitude shown by our MLAs and MP allow them to appear impartial while in fact they are evading responsibility to us, their constituents.
Local groups opposed to the mine will continue to educate their neighbours about the negative impacts associated with having an open pit mine so close to our city.
KGHM Ajax will continue to show its earnest attempts to engage the community with soothing words and assurances that the negative impacts will be “mitigated.”
All the while, our local MLAs and MP will allow the mine to inch closer towards becoming a reality because that is what our provincial and federal governments want. (In her recent visit to Kamloops, Premier Christy Clark openly expressed her support of the Ajax mine.)
Local communities and First Nations must have the statutory right to decide if, when and how resources are extracted from their territory. They must have the ability to reject any project that threatens their well-being or the environment upon which they depend.
These rights must be enshrined in provincial and federal legislation. We require elected officials who are prepared to act on behalf of their constituents in these matters and promote positive change.
In the meantime, we must take care to not be so occupied with debating an issue that we fail to recognize political negligence when it is staring us in the face.