Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ajax Mine - Kamloops Have Courage & Prosper

Written In Response to Dennis Walsh's OPED in Kamloops this Week.  

The Ajax project has promise and can be managed in a positive way if we take a proactive and positive approach – that’s my assertion. The “no side” has another view, the view that holds stagnation and the willingness to let good opportunities fall by the wayside as being okay, we've have seen this many times in the past.

Mr. Walsh suggests that the 43 individuals that stated publically they support  Ajax “took it upon themselves to speak on behalf of the community”, if this is true, then it’s true the 60 odd medical personnel who published jointly against Ajax “took upon themselves to speak on behalf of the community”. I welcome people speaking on behalf of their position, as I have done.

The question as to whether the Kamloops economy is good or not has little relevance to the debate save, that despite Kamloops’ generally good and balanced economic circumstance, we as a community are grossly under performing in generating accessible good paying jobs. Many of our young people have gone elsewhere for employment, Alberta mainly, and that opportunity is waning. It is incumbent on us to provide opportunities in our region for good paying employment. In large measure the NIMBYism is coming from people who are well established, there are many young families who would benefit greatly from the employment the mine would provide. I know Mr. Walsh is sensitive to this reality; however, many in his camp are just being a little selfish.
The arguments directed to economic gloom and doom due to Kamloops being perceived as an industrial town; resulting in all the decline and fall of tourism, and somehow the University ending up less viable, are all red herrings. Visual quality issues and other externalities are readily be mitigated, providing of course, that our City leadership are as aggressive in forging a long term operating agreement with Ajax, as some are being at chasing away opportunity. I share Mr. Walsh’s concerns regarding having a healthy city. The issue of dust is wildly over stated, Kamloops has a mass of base data regarding air quality as the Ministry of Environment has been tracking air quality here more or less over the life of the pulp mill. In negotiations with interested parties the City of Kamloops can stipulate operational expectations, the key is to be in the process early, and have our interests strongly represented. As environmental concerns are valid, they are manageable – the inflammatory rhetoric deployed by some self-professed “professionals” on the “no side” has been as negligent as it has been inflated.  

Mr. Walsh’s assertion with respect to the mine arresting the utilization of South West Sector of the City is pure speculation; there is no reason to believe this would be the case. The North Shore has been expanding already, we’ve built the Halston Bridge. The assertions related to infrastructure costs and magnitude are both overstated and mischaracterized, if it were the case we needed some new infrastructure, it would occur against the back drop of an expanding tax base – as opposed to a stagnant or declining tax base – the infrastructure would be considered “spin off” and an economic stimulating event, generally considered a good thing. Further, if we develop the proper Long Term Operating agreement with Ajax and the Province, we can garner a greater portion of the $950 million directly to the city – that is where our focus should be. There is no valid economic argument against the mine, tax revenues are only a small part of the overall economic benefit.  

I commend the 43 business owners for having the courage to speak out in support of the mine. Mr. Walsh reports there are 1000 other businesses unrepresented, there may be a silent majority of those muted by concern of negative impacts on their business by the “no side’s” distain for the project and fear their business would be negatively impacted. It is valid to point out here, that it is only a small portion of the city’s population lobbying against the mine. It is as valid for Ajax to lobby on behalf of their project to the city, the no side is certainly pulling out the stops. Of course they are meeting with people to support their project, they are invested in it. To characterize this as being “a concern” is just a ploy, rather than offering valid leadership, we need less politics and more objective assessment.

The stakes are high, high for the people who want to be as fortunate as Mr. Walsh and other’s on the “no side”, people who want to have prosperous lives. Mr. Walsh states ”It’s too big. It’s too close. It’s simply too risky.”, there are valid concerns certainly that need to be managed and they can be. Tell the Kamloops diaspora about Canada consisting of our young people who have gone elsewhere for opportunity, “It’s too big, It’s Too close, It’s simply too risky”, they want to come home to a viable community. I think Mr. Walsh and others need to exercise a little fortitude in action and think a little more positively about how to extract all the benefit we can from the mine itself and in engineering an asset at the close of operations. We need a little “can do spirit”, a little adventurism and the confidence that we can manage things, we need leadership – all I am hearing from the “no side” is defeatist chit chat and scare tactics. Like everyone else, I want to make Kamloops a good place, and attractive place and a prosperous place – I am confident we can do that if we are proactive and positive.  

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