ARMCHAIR MAYOR SAYS — While KGHM International is urging everyone to “be patient” and wait until it can provide more answers on the impact of the Ajax mine project, it doesn’t look to me as though people are waiting.
A look at several public opinion polls confirms this. (Admittedly, pollsters have had a bad run lately in the last B.C. and Alberta elections, but the wisdom is that issues polling tends to be more stable than election polling.)
Between September 2011 and October 2013, five sets of numbers have been released, at least ones that I’ve seen.
The first came from KGHM itself, which commissioned surveys September 2011 and April 2012 from NRG Research Group, with similar results. The first indicated 50 per cent of respondents had positive feelings for Ajax, while the second rose to 52 percent.
The rest had a negative response, except for two percent that answered “Don’t know” or refused to answer at all.
Roundabout Communications was reported last March as having done a poll in which 74 per cent were opposed to Ajax, and 26 per cent in favour. But Chad Moates of Roundabout tells me that was the decided vote only.
Out of the total respondents, 61.8 per cent would vote no in a referendum, 18.6 yes, while 17.1 per cent were undecided and the rest didn’t participate.
When The Kamloops Daily News commissioned a poll from Oracle in April, it split the results into the North and South Thompson areas, finding that 43 per cent in the North favoured Ajax, 42 per cent in the South.
Twenty-five per cent were undecided, the highest number in any of the polls.
The Kamloops Voters Society poll, the most recent one, found 56.8 per cent no, 37.3 per cent yes, and 5.9 per cent didn’t know.
Apples-to-apples comparisons are tough, since the polls used different methodologies (two were online while two were phone polls), different sample sizes and different questions.
For example, NRG Research asked for a range of responses on a scale of one to seven, with “Completely disapprove” being one, and “Completely Approve” being seven, then grouped the sevens, sixes and fives together to determine the positive response.
Roundabout Communications, on the other hand, framed its question around voting in a referendum.
These differences would also likely affect somewhat the number of undecided votes in each poll. Nevertheless, the numbers are quite low — even the 25 per cent number in the KDN poll isn’t unusual. It can be that high even within a few days of an election. (In such cases, the undecideds usually distribute their votes similar to the decideds.)
A median of the for-and-against results indicates a close split over Ajax. The undecideds, overall, suggest that most people have made up their minds without waiting for more reports, studies and open houses. They’re simply looking for more information.
In other words, the great silent, undecided majority is a myth. Whether this is good or bad news for either side is open to interpretation and speculation. On the one hand, it shows there’s a strong core of opposition. On the other, it could give politicians the courage to support the project after the application is filed, given that the political risk is about 50-50.
Bottom line, though, is that people are ready to take a stand on the basic issue of jobs vs. impact on quality of life, and the argument that we must wait for all the environmental studies to be done doesn’t hold up.
The fundamental issue is ready for public debate right now.