RE: City of Kamloops Ajax Compensation Agreement
Recently on Radio NL Councilor Pat Wallace commented that Council may soon be voting on the compensation agreement, that the City’s Industrial Tax Base Task Force has been negotiating with KGHM Ajax. I believe that this agreement should be presented publicly first and openly discussed. It has been common practice in other communities that these agreements have been brought forward for public input. While this may not be desired by some staff or Council members, it is a critical component of a transparent and open City Council. Already the Industrial Tax Base Task Force committee has been called to task for not even sharing details of the draft agreement with their fellow Councillors.(1) This further calls into question the process that is being followed in development of this agreement.
In addition, if this agreement moves ahead without public input, one will be left to assume that Council has decided to focus only on compensation measures that protects City assets and the residents of Kamloops may be left to their own devices in an effort to seek appropriate mitigation measures to protect against any adverse effects. Specifically, for residents of Aberdeen this is a considerable disservice, as they will be left exposed to considerable risks and uncertainty involving their property. This will manifest itself not only in financial impacts associated with reduced property values, but also exposes them to increase risk of slope stability and water issues. The City is well aware of these concerns and if they have been unable to secure the appropriate mitigation measures then they should not support a deal that leaves residents at risk. If the Council had included these items in the agreement they should come forward now to reassure the residents that they have protected them from key risks.
Finally, almost a year ago Bill Bennett originally pointed out that the initial dollar value was $4 million. Given that Domtar pays over $6 million annually in property tax, it would be assumed that the City would have negotiated for at least this same amount, at a minimum.(2) With SSN firmly rejecting the KGHM Ajax project and not accepting any cash incentive offer, there should be a lot more money to address the compensation/mitigation issues than what was previously reported by Bill Bennett a year ago. Council will need to clearly rationalize why an agreement that will harm the health of residents and create hardships for specific neigbhourhoods is being so readily embraced.
It is important that there should be no deal unless it provides the desired protections and mitigation to ensure the security of all residents. I believe no deal and a strong no vote to the Ajax project sends a much clearer message on what is expected of senior government and the proponent than simply accepting what you can get. We have time, there is no need to rush. Make sure that you are fully aware of any adverse effects that may occur down the road.
- CFJC Today. November 22, 2016. Mayor should be more transparent on Ajax Agreement. Available at: http://cfjctoday.com/column/549480/mayor‐should‐be‐more‐transparent‐ajax‐agreement. Accessed July 11, 2017.
- Bill Bennett comments upon reviewing the draft agreement: http://www.kamloopsthisweek.com/mines‐minister‐agreement‐between‐kghm‐ajax‐and‐city‐of‐ kamloops‐could‐be‐worth‐4‐million‐annually/. Accessed July 11, 2017.
Editor’s Note: Randy Sunderman is a director with the Aberdeen Neighbourhood Association.