EDITORIAL – Ajax isn’t a conversation, it’s an argument

Ajax brochure invites us to talk about science and fact.

Ajax brochure invited us to have a conversation about science and fact.

EDITORIAL — KGHM is trying to have conversations again.

In a letter to City council this week, the company said it will produce “plain language” summaries of the studies that will be part of its application for an environmental permit. It will hold open houses, set up some other unspecified public events, and will print another booklet for distribution to residents.

“We are excited to have a conversation with the community that is based on facts and science,” the letter, written by Ajax spokesman Yves Lacasse, says.

Another letter making the rounds, this one to members of the business community, includes an invitation to breakfast or lunch to talk about the importance of the project. “As a member of the business community and leader in Kamloops, I know you understand the importance of transparent conversations as we make important decisions such as the Ajax Project,” it begins.

Again, there’s mention of science, but with a call for common sense thrown in: “KGHM invests in opportunities in places where science and common sense define the decision-making process.”

A year ago, of course, there was the well-known ‘The Conversation’ video. “The sun will shine; there will be snow in winter, and hockey’s our game,” it said. “And the rest is up for conversation.”

And even before that, there was the brochure with the front cover that said, ‘Ajax: A conversation led by science and informed by fact.” Just as the letter to businesses claims mining is “in our DNA,” the brochure talked of “building on Kamloops’ rich history of mining and environmental stewardship.”

As if a project so close to town, and so much bigger than anything ever done here before, is simply carrying on a mining tradition. KGHM has been repeating the facts-and-conversation stuff for so long it obviously believes it’s effective.

A conversation is an informal exchange of ideas. “Conversation” sounds so friendly, so non-threatening, no winners or losers. Yet KGHM has avoided a town hall meeting where a true “conversation” can be held, opting instead for easily managed open houses and meetings by invitation. It isn’t interested in a formal public debate where people could compare the pros and the cons, the proponents and opponents.

The KGHM idea of a conversation is creating opportunities to get its message across, to promote its own position. This is not surprising, and certainly not bad business. It’s marketing, and businesses need to market themselves.

But it isn’t a conversation. The Ajax debate is an argument. As TRU Prof. Michael Mehta said recently in a public presentation about the potential social impacts of Ajax, the mine proposal has divided the community into friend and foe, has “polarized and disrupted” Kamloops.

The “science” very much depends on which side you’re on. One side claiming it has the monopoly on facts, science and common sense doesn’t make it so.

And the debate — divisive, emotional, polarizing, at times loud — will go on until the decision is made and long after. “Conversation” isn’t a word that applies.




About Mel Rothenburger (8669 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

6 Comments on EDITORIAL – Ajax isn’t a conversation, it’s an argument

  1. If Kitimat can vote against Northern Gateway in a non-binding plebiscite, why can Kamloops not have a referendum on the proposed mine? Mayor Milobar says that it would divide the community. As far as I am concerned, that is a non-answer. It may be uncomfortable but we need to decide what we want for the the future of our city.

  2. Robert Koopmans was on CBC Radio this morning claiming KGHM Ajax is transparent. Really? If this is the case why haven’t they released assay data for over 4 years of drilling. What have they got to hide?

  3. I think the comment that the mine proposal is dividing the community into friend and foe is seriously overstating it.. There is a very vocal “no” side, and a not quite as vocal “yes” side and a huge whack of people in between that are not vocal at all..It seems to me that the people suggesting that it is polarizing the community are the “no” side, which just amounts to more fear mongering

  4. lee kenney // April 29, 2015 at 9:58 AM // Reply

    No one seems to care, science and facts in Canada have been dictated by the Federal government by cut-backs and muzzles . This fall election will be a very interesting election , to see which candidates get hugs ? Wheres Cathy ?

  5. The proponent is the wrong person to be leading a “conversation.” From their point of view – the only acceptable outcome is for the project to proceed. Of course, the conversation I want to have is not about how to “get to yes.” It is how to decide what is truly right for the people of Kamloops – including the kids and families in Aberdeen and Sahali.

    If it doesn’t align with what is right for KGHM – the project should not proceed. And KGHM is not the right person to be leading that discussion.

    Our government has resisted taking any kind of an active role. Those of us who are not willing to help the proponent improve their application have been left out. We have no venue and no recourse and no one in the government really seems to care, except maybe Donovan Cavers and Dennis Walsh. Where the heck is Todd Stone on this issue? Where is the leadership? What is wrong with Peter Milobar?

  6. Pierre Filisetti // April 29, 2015 at 6:58 AM // Reply

    The whole “marketing” effort from KGHM is just plain disgusting IMHO. However that pales in comparison to the opportunistic position taken by many prominent Kamloopsians not to speak up for fear of “loss of business” or to jeopardize “connections”. Honesty should be valued and encouraged. Can the conversation start with that?

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