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ROTHENBURGER – Five plus one oppose Ajax – council’s position now clear

City council debates Ajax today. (Image: Mel Rothenburger)

THERE’S NOW no question that the City of Kamloops is officially opposed to Ajax. Had the vote been held three weeks ago, it would have been 6-1 against the mine.

As it was, today’s vote was 4-2 in favour of a modified input letter to federal and provincial environmental officials stating an “unequivocal no” but including a list of concerns.

However, one of the two votes against the motion came from Dieter Dudy, who opposes Ajax but didn’t like the motion. Ken Christian, who resigned at the end of June to run for the vacant mayor’s chair, told me if he’d been in today’s special council meeting, his vote would have been the same as Dudy’s.

As an aside, 20 minutes into the meeting, I saw a theoretical way to get to a flat no.

The known opponents — Tina Lange, Donovan Cavers, Denis Walsh and Dudy — were already lined up but were divided on how to get there.

The first three wanted a flat no but Dudy wanted a no with conditions, basically one of the options presented by staff. In other words, council would officially oppose the mine but add a wish list for consideration if the federal and provincial governments approve it anyway.

Dudy’s caveat still left a path to a flat no even if Acting Mayor Arjun Singh favoured the mine, which seemed unlikely.

All Lange, Cavers or Walsh — or Dudy, for that matter — had to do was make a motion to accept the option opposing the mine but including the wish list of conditions, as Dudy wanted. Then vote against it, creating at least a 3-3 tie even if Singh didn’t jump onside.

That would defeat the motion, leaving the only other option a flat no. Which, of course, would have been a somewhat messy way of doing it, but technically possible. Under Robert’s Rules of order, you can vote against your own motion, as long as you don’t speak against it.

Instead, Lange moved to oppose the mine but to turn the list of conditions into a list of concerns. That’s a semantical change, and it’s a lot better than the letter as drafted, but it’s a compromise. It still weakens council’s position.

After that, Pat Wallace came out in support of the mine. “To me, Ajax is an opportunity to strengthen our economic future,” she said in a prepared statement, adding that seniors want the mine.

Then, Singh, reading off his own script, finally declared himself against Ajax, reasoning that “the positives are far outweighed by the negative health impacts,” and putting much weight on the earlier declaration by Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc Nation (SSN) opposing the mine.

Singh also felt the just-announced community “benefits” agreement between the City and KGHM Ajax (approved in camera by council without public input, and promising $3.8 million a year to the City) would provide many of the same re-assurances as the “conditions” would do if the mine is approved.

Singh also rejected assertions that the City has no influence on the outcome. “I don’t believe they’re saying we’re just going to put your stuff into a garbage can.”

Dudy was steadfast in wanting to add “buts” to the “no.” “I want to protect this community,” he said.

Lange argued back that a conditional no wouldn’t have the same power as an “unequivocal” no with concerns. “I just urge council to go for a clear no.”

(Christian says “the weight of evidence” made up his mind, especially on air quality and the impact on Aberdeen ground water. Though opposing the mine, he helped negotiate the community benefits agreement and would have sided with Dudy on which letter to send.)

In the end, the vote was 4-2 on Lange’s motion, with Dudy voting against it even though he opposes Ajax. That means at least five members of council — a majority — oppose the project (and would have been six if Christian was there), and that would have become council’s official position even if all nine council seats had been occupied.

Just how unequivocal that ‘no’ is, won’t become entirely clear until staff re-writes the letter, which has to be sent off in a few days.

Regardless, though, the City of Kamloops is now officially opposed to Ajax, and nobody can argue the legitimacy of the decision.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops, former school board chair, former editor of The Kamloops Daily News, and a current director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. His editorials are published regularly on CFJC Today and he appears Wednesdays on the CFJC-TV evening news. Contact him at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

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About Mel Rothenburger (4913 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca 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 ArmchairMayor.ca 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.

9 Comments on ROTHENBURGER – Five plus one oppose Ajax – council’s position now clear

  1. R A George // July 19, 2017 at 11:36 AM // Reply

    I have agreed with Pat Wallaces opinions almost all the time but not on this one. With all due respect I think it’s time she retired,

  2. My humble apologies, Mr. Rothenburger

  3. Kevin Krueger // July 17, 2017 at 11:19 PM // Reply

    Look at that, Lawrence Beaton, they DO remain!!

    Mel may be a curmudgeon, (I’m not sure), but I think he works at being FAIR.

  4. I completely disagree with this vote. Not that it matters what I think. Seems to me that that the economy in Kamloops is dying slowly but surely. I wonder how many people in Kamloops are against Ajax really? I really don’t think councilors are really knowing what is wanted in Kamloops.

  5. mel, is there an avenue for that letter, written by staff, to be endorsed or more strongly worded if necessary at the next council meeting? or would that be too late?

    • Mel Rothenburger // July 17, 2017 at 9:29 PM // Reply

      The next council meeting is tomorrow (Tuesday) and after that it’s too late to deal with it formally. Either the re-wording of the letter would have to be completed and agreed upon by tomorrow in a formal vote, or informally after that, but it has to be done by the end of the week. I would expect council will sort out a process at tomorrow’s meeting.

  6. Not all seniors want the mine,Ms Wallace.

  7. Yvonne Hummel // July 17, 2017 at 4:44 PM // Reply

    If ever there was a time to oppose this polluter of a mine, it’s now when we in kamloops and much of the province is encased in smoke. If that mine came in, it would be like this all the time, only toxic dust rather than smoke.

  8. Ah, yes, the decision by city council will certainly go a long way in swaying the opinion of the provincial and federal governments of British Columbia and Canada. The first salvos have been fired and the battle has been joined. Tonight at midnight, we have a new government taking power, and I am sure that they side with those who are opposed to Ajax. I suppose in some ways, the rejection of the mine does a favor for the owners of the project, namely, they can withdraw and save themselves millions of dollars in the process. However, there are much more important things to be concerned about, the big one being, the fact that our brothers, sisters, relatives and friends are suffering from the fires that have hit from the Southern Okanagon all the way up to Takla Lake north west of Prince George. This is much more important than a mine that will never happen. Again as mentioned by our provincial politicians, this is much more important than politics. But hats off to Ministers Rustad and Stone for their great work during the last few days. I will wait with bated breath to see if these comments remain a part of “Leave a Reply.”

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