I am so looking forward to the release of the studies that will make up the Ajax mine application for environmental and other necessary permits. I know this stack of studies will likely stand taller than I do, but I am more than willing to try to understand and evaluate them. Right now, about Ajax, I feel like I'm shadow boxing or trying to find my way in a room with very little or no light.
I know a lot of people in town have already made up their minds pro or con. Many emails have been sent to City council imploring us to "do the right thing" and "take a stand."
Doing the right thing means different things to different people.
For me, on the Ajax file, it means waiting for those studies and evaluating them carefully before making up my mind one way or the other.
Many people feel like they already have enough information. I don't, and I would like to explain why. When I ran for council last year, I promised I would take a balanced approach and thoroughly research issues before making decisions.
As I campaigned, I met people both very much against and very much for Ajax. If I were to survey my core supporters in the election, I would guess that they would also be very divided.
Based on these facts and assumptions, I strongly feel a need to tread carefully. It is important to know exactly what the mine proponent is actually proposing and how the proponent has responded to strong, heartfelt and genuine concerns about the mine's potential impacts. All this information should be had in the mine's final application for permits.
The simple fact is, when I take a position, some people will be very happy with me and others will be very upset. I want to have the best and most comprehensive information on which to base my position and I want to be able to explain my rationale clearly.
I still have many questions about the assessment undertaken by the provincial and federal government of the mine's studies. How will the studies and the application for permits be made as clear and easy to understand as possible? What measures will be taken to make sure that, if the mine is approved, it will live up to all its commitments?
City council has been very active in trying to help the environmental assessment proposal be as strong and comprehensive as possible. City Hall has 11 pages of questions that have been submitted for response.
Whatever information is currently available, we have tried to help get that information out into the community.
In September, we met face to face with both Minister of Environment Terry Lake and the Minister of Energy and Mines Rich Coleman. In those conversations, I thought Mayor Peter Milobar was spot on.
He said if the mine is denied, there should be a clear and thorough explanation of the reasons why. And, if the mine is approved, he said there should be a very large list of conditions on the permit.
The Mayor's thinking, in my view, speaks to the idea that solid information and good process will help see us through.
Arjun Singh is a City councllor. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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