Mayor hoping for solutions from provincial politicians

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

August 19, 2009

Mayor Marie Trainer hopes that meetings of the minds with several provincial cabinet ministers will lead to some resolve when it comes to ongoing issues pertaining to Caledonia including smoke shacks and clean-up of the Douglas Creek Estates site.

Last week, Ontario's Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Brad Duguid made a trip to Haldimand and met with municipal officials including Trainer, Haldimand's CAO Don Boyle, and councillors Craig Grice and Lorne Boyko.

"It's always nice when they come to you," Trainer said.

This week, local councillors including Grice, Don Ricker and Tony Dalimonte hope to meet with Duguid again at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in Toronto. They also plan to meet with Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan to discuss tobacco taxation laws.

Several native smoke shacks have been set up within municipal, provincial and federal jurisdictions that are selling tobacco products tax free.

"Everybody realizes that it's illegal," Trainer told The Regional News. "We just keep reiterating the same issues, but yet we hope that maybe there will be some movement."

At a recent council meeting Coun. Buck Sloat said that attending the AMO gathering was a waste of taxpayers' money if councillors weren't going to talk about the issues pertaining to Six Nations, namely the smoke shack debacle.

Sloat said that these issues as well as the cleanup of the Douglas Creek Estates need to be reiterated over and over again.

Local businesses are concerned about the smoke shacks and the unsightly condition of the provincially owned DCE site. The Chamber of Commerce wants the issues addressed, said Grice.

He suggested that councillors could present the ministers with a gift from one of their own smoke shacks off Highway 6.

"There's the trespassing issue and there's also the signage that not even tobacco companies can have on number 6 Highway," Trainer said.

"The weeks and the DCE site, we talked about that with the minister quite a bit, including the burned-out trailer. If it was anyone else we'd send them a note saying 'Those weeks are kind of long, get them cut because if the county has to come in we'll put it on your tax bill.' There are different rules in a way and it should be looked after with the same rules that would be enforced on you and I."

Duguid also met with Caledonia residents and Haldimand-Norfolk Federal Liberal Candidate, Bob Speller who pressed the minister about ongoing issues in Caledonia such as smoke shacks , the illegal tobacco trade, the clean-up of the Douglas Creek site, and law and order.

"It' is encouraging that Brad Duguid, the Ontario minister, is willing to listen," said Speller in a press release.

The former MP accused Haldimand-Norfolk MP Diane Finley and Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl of being disengaged from the issues. He pointed out that Strahl has yet to meet with Haldimand County officials.

"The problems associated with Caledonia will never be solved as long as Finley gets away with failing to deal with them," Speller stated.

Speller said he has a good track record of meeting with Six Nations about issues relating to economic development and would consider implementing a panel of judges to deal with land claims.

"I would be giving the Prime Minister a call," he told The Regional News.

"I think it's important enough for the Prime Minister to be involved."

Finley was unavailable to be interviewed last week, but her press secretary issued a statement on her behalf.

"I believe that the rule of law should be enforced and I continue to push for a resolution in the Caledonia dispute," Finley stated. "Our Conservative government will not take lectures from Liberals like Bob Speller whose Liberal government had a dismal record on native issues."

For now, Trainer said the ball has been left in Duguid's court at the provincial level.

"There certainly was a concern there and he too wants to work on clean-up of the site," she said. "I gave him my ideas of what I'm hearing about what to do on the site (DCE), but that is something has to be agreed to by everybody."