An Armchair Mayor editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THERE’S A SENSE of nervous anticipation these days with respect to the Ajax proposal, much as there is when a jury is in the final stages of deliberation at a big trial.
In fact, that’s a pretty apt comparison. In the six years since the proposal surfaced, Ajax has gone through several phases of the decision-making process as the pros and cons have been argued.
The clock is now ticking on the final steps. Never has a decision been of more importance to Kamloops and the surrounding region.
Tonight, Monday, June 19, the City will host a town hall meeting at which the public can hear presentations from SLR Consulting and Interior Health on reviews of the Ajax application.
“Town hall” is a misnomer. A true town hall meeting is a community forum, and a forum is an opportunity for dialogue, for engagement, for interaction, discussion.
City Hall has made it clear it doesn’t want the meeting to be a forum but, rather, an evening of presentations and straight-forward questions and answers. The format is well-intentioned — the City doesn’t want a raucous debate of pros and cons; it wants to let people ask questions, to receive answers, and that’s it.
As Acting Mayor Arjun Singh puts it, “I don’t want any cheering and booing.”
So, anyone expecting a lively back-and-forth on the merits of the open-pit mine will be disappointed. The agenda calls first for a short presentation from Interior Health, including medical health officer Dr. Kamran Golmohammadi, and Ivor Norlin, manager of infrastructure programs, health protection.
That will be followed by the main course, a presentation by SLR Consulting on the independent review of the mine application it carried out on behalf of the City. The meeting promises, quite frankly, to be a snoozer in terms of live action, though full of important technical stuff. The 70-page report has already been on the City’s website for a week, so anyone with a deep-dish interest in the project will have had a good chance to go over it.
Patience will be required. The question period isn’t scheduled until three hours into the evening, after which members of the public will be allowed three minutes apiece to ask questions.
Nevertheless, it’s an important opportunity to find out more about the independent review.
On Thursday, it will be City council’s turn to ask questions, at a special council meeting with SLR reps. And then, on July 17, council will vote on its official response. Again, no questions from the public will be allowed at either meeting.
It’s been repeated ad nauseam over the past couple of years that City council has no direct authority over the ultimate disposition of this project, that it’s up to those at the provincial and federal levels.
But that has always been an under-estimation of the moral suasion of local government in such matters. Council’s job is to represent the best interests of its citizens, and its opinions will surely have influence.
While the process still has several weeks to run, the imminent vote by council is part of what makes the whole thing seem so close to ultimate resolution. More importantly, though, the narrative has long been that we all need to wait until all the facts are in before rendering judgment.
The upcoming meetings signify that those facts are now before us.
Tonight’s meeting is scheduled for 6-10 p.m. at the Coast Hotel and Conference Centre, 1250 Rogers Way. It will also be streamed live on the City’s website.