The City of Williams Lake is hoping to gain interested party status for the environmental panel review of the New Prosperity Mine project.
Having missed the Sept. 28 deadline for applying, the city applied to the Canada Environmental Assessment Agency on Jan. 29 for consideration.
At the committee of the whole meeting Jan. 29, acting chief administrative officer Geoff Goodall said Mayor Kerry Cook will have an opportunity at the panel hearings to welcome the panel.
The city, however, does not feel that five minutes will be “long enough or suitable,” so it has made an application to be a presenter.
“We’re hoping we are going to be successful. We haven’t indicated at all what we’re presenting. We just want a slot,” Goodall said.
During the last review, Cook wrote a lengthy presentation.
“I said the city is walking a very fine line of respecting and building working relationships with First Nations as well as being aware of socio-economic indicators. I talked about where we were as a community and why we were supporting the project,” she recalled.
At the meeting, council received letters from the Tsilhqot’in National Government and the Fish Lake Alliance, requesting the city not to seek interested party status and to refrain from stating its support of the mine.
The letters reminded mayor and council that in its own resolution, council said it would support the project if it met provincial and federal environmental standards and if First Nations had been adequately consulted.
Council is elected to speak on all issues, said Coun. Sue Zacharias.
“We have to think about what is best for the economy of our city and our citizens and it does affect the whole region. I don’t know why we wouldn’t support something of this nature when we’re already supporting other resource-based industries. I feel quite confident in the respect of relationship building. We’ve made tremendous progress with our First Nations neighbours.”
Coun. Ivan Bonnell suggested council needs to be clear.
“There were two tests that we said were conditional to our support. The environmental one will be done independently, council will not be able to answer that question.
“When it comes to the level of consultation and the effect for First Nations, it would be very appropriate for council to ask the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs what steps have they taken to ensure there’s been adequate consultation.”
Whether council will be happy with the answers, Bonnell said he didn’t know.
“When we get to it, we can determine our steps from there.”
Coun. Laurie Walters asked if council was answering the questions posed by the TNG and Fish Lake Alliance in the letters.
“The big part of this is they are wanting us to change our original support for the project. We’re kind of doing a dance, it’s not properly addressing it. We might still have to come with another follow up to this because I think now of a few times where they’ve come right out and said ‘can you’ change your support?”
Cook said in a meeting with the TNG and during the council meeting in December where the TNG made a presentation, council said it is not changing its original position.
“We’re just getting more information, which is consistent with our resolution,” Cook said.
Appearing by speaker phone, Coun. Geoff Bourdon said if council seeks information from the proponent it needs to get information from the TNG as well.
“If we’re going into it saying that we need to listen to both sides and that’s important to us, then we cannot just say there’s adequate consultation without making sure there’s adequate consultation.”