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 email@example.com.