Trying to figure out what enviro minister said

Ajax-dangeropenpitSaying nothing while using a lot of words isn’t new for politicians. However, when I made a motion several weeks ago that the TNRD ask for a federal panel review of the Ajax project I was hoping there would be either a yes answer, or at least an explanation if the answer was no.

Instead, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna gave no answer at all. Or maybe the answer was no, without using the actual word. Or was it maybe?

Her letter, dated June 9, to TNRD Chair John Ranta is a masterful exercise in fuzzy-worded avoidance. It does include some bafflegab about comprehensiveness of the current federal-provincial process but makes no attempt to answer the actual question that we asked.

I’d hoped this government might be different but I guess not.

If any mine project deserves to be referred to a federal review panel, it’s this one.

The main criteria for such a review, which includes a comprehensive process carried out by a panel of experts as well as full-fledged public hearings, are that the project involves significant environmental impact and public concern.

This is the second time the TNRD has stated its preference for a federal review panel. The City of Kamloops has also asked twice.

What does it take to convince Ottawa of the necessity of the most stringent review process possible? What does it take to even get a straight answer?

Here’s the text of the letter from McKenna:

Dear Mr. Ranta:

Thank you for your correspondence of March 24, 2016, concerning the adverse effects of the Ajax Mine Project proposed by KGHM Ajax Mining Incorporated (the proponent) and your request that the Project be assessed by a review panel.

I appreciate you sharing your views regarding our Government’s approach in environmental assessment and the potential environmental effects of the Project. The Project is subject to a federal comprehensive study environmental assessment under the former Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (the Agency) and British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Office are carrying out a cooperative environmental assessment process. They completed a joint 75-day public comment period on the proponent’s detailed Environmental Impact Statement on April 11, 2016. The Agency is currently conducting an in-depth review of the public comments. I have provided your submission to my officials at the Agency so that it may be taken into account as part of this review.

I look forward to you continued participation in the environmental assessment of the Project.


The Honourable Catherine McKenna, P.C., M.P.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change.


One thought on “Trying to figure out what enviro minister said

  1. It is without question that the Ajax mine proposal meets all of the criteria for a federal panel review.

    It is also a fact that the current Ajax Application is so full of errors, miscalculations, omissions and deficiencies that the environmental assessment has been suspended for at least 6 months for the Applicant to address this deficiencies.

    What is bizarre about the Ajax assessment is that the Application was submitted to the assessment agencies and the Technical Working Group in September 2015 for a 30 day screening to determine if the Application contained all the necessary information to proceed to the 180 review period. This 30 day screening actually stretched into 4 months until the Application was deemed ready by the government agencies for the review period.

    But when this review period began the Application was soon roundly criticized by consultants hired by the City, First Nations, and community groups, and some of the very government agencies that participated in the 30 day screening period for being incomplete, poorly organized and full of errors. How the Application was approved by these same government agencies during the screening period as being complete should be the subject of a provincial audit.

    A revised Application is now set to be completed for this October. Many members of the Community Advisory Group asked the federal and provincial Environment Ministers for a second public comment period once the revised Application is released, pointing out that a second, or more, public comment periods can be established as provided by Section 16.2 of the Section 11 Order that established the Ajax assessment.

    The provincial Environmental Assessment Office turned down this request, citing that the concerns raised by the public will be addressed by the Technical Working Group, the same group that allowed an incomplete Application to be sent to the now suspended 180 day review period.

    It is now clear that the rigorous, comprehensive and transparent environmental assessment process that we were promised is a shambles, which is all the more reason for a federal panel review. If we can’t trust the current environmental assessment process to do a good job, why should we trust that the terms, commitments and promises that will be established if the Ajax mine is approved and developed will be honoured and enforced?


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