ACC president Kim Sigurdson at public forum. (Daily News file photo)
UPDATE: There’s been some back and forth on this blog during the past couple of hours that deserves to be reported.
Terry Lake responded by tweeting that he “did not say I set it up but pressured proponent to have public forum based on ICE fund rules.”
He then also tweeted that his reference was to the Ministry of Small Business and Innovation, and further that he had met with then-minister Iian Black, rather than Ministry of Environment. He didn’t say this during the forum but I appreciate the clarification, though the debate was in the context of environment matters.
I noted in a return tweet that the Kamloops Daily News live forum blog quoted him as saying during the debate that “I got the ministry to force the proponent to have a public meeting.” That’s in agreement with my own memory of the comment.
So the ministry involved is clarified. Fact remains, it was through the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce that a forum was held.
Original blog follows:
In the heat of an election campaign, history has a way of being re-written. I suppose candidates can be forgiven once in awhile for exaggerating or making an honest mistake.
In this campaign, there’s been a fair amount of it as the NDP and Liberals battle to convince us who deserves to form the next government.
A small example of that occurred at last Thursday’s KDN-CBC-sponsored candidates’ forum at the Kamloops Convention Centre.
The environment was a major topic at the forum, maybe in part because the environment minister in the last Liberal administration, Terry Lake, was on the stage.
In this context, the issue of the Aboriginal Cogeneration Corp. gasification plant was raised. Those who were around in 2009 and 2010 know that this became a major cause célèbre with local environmentalists who claimed the plant would, as Ruth Madsen put it, “pollute our children and many generations to come and destroy our wonderful city.”
The ACC plan met all the requirements of the Environment Ministry for a discharge permit, got a clean bill of health from the IHA, and was also approved for a development grant from the provincial Innovative Clean Energy fund to help it get established. But it hit the fan as public fears were whipped up about the impact of the project, and MLAs Lake and Kevin Krueger suddenly had a big problem on their hands.
At last Thursday’s forum, Lake told the crowd he had gotten the Environment Ministry to force ACC to hold a public forum on the project, leaving the impression the problem was thus solved.
That’s not how it happened, and Lake is mistaken in his description of how the forum came about. I know this, because I was involved.
Lake and Krueger were in a tough spot and couldn’t overtly criticize ministry staff or tell them to reverse their approval. Instead, they began suggesting that the ICE funding — even though the fund was supposed to be free of political influence — might be withdrawn based on what they said was inadequate consultation.
For months ACC president Kim Sigurdson had refused any meaningful public consultation because he had, technically, met the requirements of his environmental permits and simply wanted to get on with it.
I supported the science of the project, which was meant to solve a major environmental problem with the disposal of used railway ties but, like many others, I felt Sigurdson needed to consult with Kamloops residents.
Early in 2010, I proposed to Sigurdson that he come back to Kamloops and face the music at a public forum. He was concerned about whether such a forum would be conducted in a fair manner by a neutral party. I suggested that the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce might be interested and that the chamber would be a credible, neutral host as it hadn’t taken a position on the proposal.
I then talked with chamber president Leslie Bruchu and she agreed to pitch it to the chamber board, of which I was a director. With the board in agreement, I contacted the local Environment Ministry office, which agreed to send a representative to sit on the panel.
It was the chamber that arranged for the venue, the panel, the moderator (Murray Young of TRU) and the format. Neither Terry Lake nor Kevin Krueger had anything to do with initiating it or setting it up, and the Ministry was a willing participant, not an overseer.
A few days after the packed forum, which was more like a town hall meeting, Sigurdson and his shareholders decided not to proceed with the project.
So, while Lake and Krueger were certainly players, and put some pressure on Sigurdson via the ICE grant, Lake’s statement that the Environment Ministry ordered up a public forum misses the mark.