I'll venture a wild guess here and say few people anticipated Thursday's announcement from Kamloops RCMP Supt. Yves Lacasse that he will leave the force and join KGHM-Ajax.
I know I was shocked to hear the news. And it's big news too. The kind of news with the potential to shift the direction of what has become the most controversial project in our city's history.
Why? Because Lacasse is jumping into the forefront of the Ajax debate at a time when we most need someone trustworthy to be there. And on the trustworthiness front, I don't know it would be possible to find anyone better. Eight years in the top ranks of the RCMP in Kamloops have given him that; his credibility is unshakable.
From KGHM's perspective, this must have been an easy decision, Lacasse has many useful skills to offer the Ajax venture. He doesn't know much about mining, he readily admits that, but he does know a lot about building community, about speaking to people, about building confidence and fighting fear. Those skills will likely prove more useful than whether he can tell copper ore from granite.
Some are already questioning Lacasse and his motives. One commenter on our website suggested he "sold out his community for cash." It's a silly exercise, attempting to discredit Lacasse or his decision in such a fashion.
Lacasse's reputation for integrity, honesty, accountability, community leadership and vision is solid. He is a hardworking officer who has demonstrated time and again he cares about Kamloops. It is apparent he believes he is doing the right thing with this move, for his family and the community at large.
The comments, however, show how hot Lacasse's new seat is likely to be. Is he ready for it? We'll see. Yes, being an RCMP officer - especially through a time when the force has taken a forceful public beating - is not an easy task. But being the visible face of the Ajax Mine proposal could prove to be tougher yet. Many people deeply mistrust KGHM and fear the Ajax mine would destroy Kamloops and our enviable lifestyle should it go ahead. There is much anxiety and not much solid information. Lacasse won't have an easy ride. As another commenter suggested, every word he says now will be subject to a great deal of scrutiny.
It will take more than stellar reputation to bridge the deep divide, bring people together and enable a debate in which residents can have reasonable discussions about possible futures. I don't doubt Lacasse believes everything he is already saying about the Ajax Mine. Whether he will be able to make the city and its residents believe it is another question. It will all come down to trust.
In this Lacasse has the ability to do Kamloops his greatest service. He is an honest man, one we can trust, one who has shown he cares about Kamloops. An assurance from him at this early stage of his transformation from public servant to corporate leader - a promise that he will always act with the city's best interests at heart - will mean a lot as we hear more from him about the kind of project Ajax wants to become.
If we know he would just as quickly walk away from a project headed the wrong direction as he would champion the right one, we - and KGHM - will have gained a great amount.
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