Comment - Magical solution to ongoing "antics"

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

July 1, 2009

Issues pertaining to land claims, policing and public protests have been hotly debated issues here in recent times. Sufficed it to say that there isn't one magical solution to deal with all of them at once.

Many people see the issues as somewhat intertwined, but acknowledge difference precedence.

While some people believe that resolving land claims would solve most problems, others believe that restoring law and order is most critical and certainly have different means to achieving such outcomes.

From a corporate standpoint, Haldimand Council has always maintained that it must follow the rules that are set out for it by the province and federal government when it comes to land use planning and other matters within its jurisdiction. It can't solve land claims, it isn't responsible for policing and it cannot control protesters who are the products of the aforementioned paradox.

So it will be interesting to see what kind of discussion hits the floor when council returns to the table in August to address some of the ongoing "antics," as one councillor put it.

Municipalities do have some controls at their disposal. Haldimand has reacted to bylaw infractions in the past and has requested that some people obtain event permits for flag raising events and freedom marches. The City of Brantford has attempted to develop a city-wide bylaw against land claim protests and trespassers which is also a type of tactic that is arguably within the jurisdiction of a municipal corporation.

However, coming up with single-minded stances on "antics," especially those that are lawful, probably won't serve much of a purpose and may make some people question council's motives. Many "antics" have been spurred by land claims and policing (or a lack thereof) that council has consistently argues it has not control over.

Councillor concerns pertaining to "antics" isn't so much borne in resolution as it is public perception. Some councillors believe that the county should speak collectively and think that the mayor does not always articulate the general consensus at the council table.

One could argue, however, that that is true of many decisions pertaining to zoning amendments, arena prioritization  or servicing contracts. Votes inside council chamber aren't always unanimous and each member has their own opinions. Votes on important business decisions are often 4-3, 5-2, or 6-1.

The last council named a spokesperson for issues relating to Douglas Creek Estates, a decision that some people felt muzzled the mayor and stifled communication with the public.

To this day, Trainer still maintains that she speaks for the people - her constituents - as an elected representative. Council speaks through resolution, she argues.

Reaching a consensus about various issues facing Haldimand county and finding ways to react to them as a municipal corporation is responsible government, but speaking with one voice hasn't helped anyone in the past and may only serve to frustrate people more in the future.