Cavers: Will Ajax be lost in election politics?

Kamloops Daily News
January 7, 2013 01:00 AM

The proposed Ajax mine seems to be temporarily drifting from the public eye (if the daily rate of letters to City council is any indication) but it still weighs heavily in my thoughts.

It is now widely known that based on the Environmental Assessment Office timelines, a decision on the proposal will not come for at least six months to a year.

If, as it seems likely, a decision on the Aberdeen mine falls after the provincial election, will it receive the full and thoughtful examination it warrants during the writ period? Or, will brief responses such as, "I can't comment as the process is underway," or "Our party supports the health and prosperity of all Kamloops citizens" and similar "soft" answers echo forum after forum? Perhaps the only firm responses will come from B.C. Conservative candidates cheering the project on, "Full steam ahead!"

This possible scenario deeply disturbs me. The decision on this open-pit mine proposal is arguably the most defining issue to face our community in recent decades, rivaling nothing less than amalgamation and the decision to become Canada's Tournament Capital.

It's not just my personal sentiment that this is a serious issue. Our community-wide triennial citizen satisfaction survey conducted by Ipsos Reid confirmed that the community is extremely concerned about this mine proposal.

Unprompted, a quarter of all randomly selected citizens answered mines/Ajax mine as their first answer when asked the following survey question, "In your view, as a resident of the City of Kamloops, what is the most important issue facing your community?"

(For context, the second most common response to the question was transportation, with one in 10 giving this answer). The full survey can be found here:
Given that the ultimate decision will be made by the provincial government, I've been pondering ways to ensure this issue is not ignored by New Democrat and Liberal candidates.

I've even considered running myself as an independent or Green Party candidate to ensure in-depth debate. I would much prefer to keep my focus on City council, but am quite prepared to throw my hat in the ring if I continue to hear subdued responses.

With topics such as the HST, leadership, pipelines and health care likely to be in the forefront during the election, I can see the mine proposal being pushed to the back-burner.

Our local economy has been shifting to a service-based economy, reliant mainly on being a tourism destination (Canada's Tournament Capital), a university city, and a service centre for health care and other services provided by upper levels of government. Refusing to speak out on an issue, or against an action, is tantamount to endorsing it.

We need to hear some definitive statements from our political candidates. Even making a commitment to modernize the more than 100-year-old provincial Mines Act would be a good start.

Sadly that would likely have little influence on the proposal that currently threatens our community.

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