Petition calls for council to take a stand against Ajax
When he set up the Change.org petition calling for Kamloops city council to take a stand against the proposed Ajax mine, Steve Knudson wasn't expecting it to generate quite so much momentum immediately.
But, within 48 hours of its creation, more than 650 people signed on — and the names keep being added.
"Please represent this city and oppose the development of the Ajax mine," the online petition reads.
"It is essential for the lives of children and families that you take every option available to stop its development."
Knudson, a retired civil servant, said he's concerned about the health and environmental impacts of the copper and gold mine KGHM Ajax wants to build south of Aberdeen.
"I'm not sure what the benefit to Kamloops is," Knudson said.
"I'm at a loss to know what the cost-benefit analysis is, compared to the air pollution, the water pollution, the destruction that this mine will create.
"I think it's a travesty and I don't think it should go in."
Only two city councillors, Donovan Cavers and Tina Lange, have taken a public position on the mine.
They are both opposed.
Coun. Nancy Bepple, who owns mining shares, recuses herself from all debates about Ajax.
The other six councillors have taken a wait-and-see approach to Ajax.
"City council's sitting on the fence," Knudson said.
"And I'm quite concerned that people like Ken Christian, who worked for a huge number of years for the Ministry of Health, isn't prepared to make a decision or take a position."
Mayor Peter Milobar said council does plan to take a position on the mine at some point, but is waiting until there is hard data on the effect the mine will have on the city.
"We're not trying to hide from this," Milobar said. "We're collecting people's input. Obviously with the petition, they're giving us the feedback they don't want it. We hear that loud and clear. We're waiting for the technical data to come in to add that to the conversation."
Knudson doesn't buy that argument.
"I think the issue's irrelevant to what the studies say. One just has to look at the topography, look at the environment and visualize this monstrosity being created," he said.
"If the studies come in saying it's a lovely mine, I'm still completely opposed to it."
If council comes out against the mine, Knudson thinks it will make it difficult for the provincial government to sign off on Ajax, but Milobar isn't so sure.
He pointed to the controversial plan by the Aboriginal Co-generation Corporation's rail-tie incineration plant proposal as an example of how much clout the city sometimes has in the environmental-approval process.
"Council was unanimously opposed to it when we had to submit our comments and ACC wound up with a permit through the same basic process we're in right now," Milobar said.
In the end, ACC's proposal never reached fruition.
Milobar said people have a right to lobby city hall to take a stand, but noted the powers-that-be that will eventually make the decision are in Victoria and Ottawa.
"It seems to be an inordinate amount of pressure is being put on a city council and not on the levels of government that are actually making the decision," he said.
WHY THEY SIGNED:
A collection of signatures and reasons from the petition:
• "I don't want Kamloops to be known as "the city with the mine". I want it to be known as "the city that had the courage to say no to development that was not in the best interest of it's citizens"." —Cathie Levin, Kamloops
• "I think it is about time that the city council listened to the residents of kamloops, not what they think is right, just like the "parkade" if they had asked US if we wanted, how many hundreds of thousands would have been saved. its time for city council to LISTEN and DO what we WANT." —Rod Krakoy, Kamloops
• "I have children. I care for their health and well being as should every parent." —Bianca Manderscheid, Kamloops
• "It's kinda close by. Next valley or two over, maybe it'd be OK, but... here? No." —David Roberts
• "I am strongly considering moving to Kamloops. The pollution, noise, and unsightliness of this mine would be a very strong deterrent. The long term health consequences just wouldn't be worth it." —Cameron Wallace, Montreal, Quebec