(Since DCE began)

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

September 30, 2009

Some say that things are getting back to normal here in Haldimand County.

I'll knock on wood, suffice to say that such an observation depends on where you sit.

People do seem focused less on land claims and protests lately, but economically speaking,, the state of affairs is still pretty bad.

Haldimand and Norfolk are facing one of the highest unemployment rates in Ontario. Compared to the first six months in 2008, the Ontario Works caseload was up 11.6% during the first six months of 2009.

The numbers are mainly a product of a global economy that has suffered during the past two years. It stings a bit more here in Haldimand because the ripple effects haven't been offset much by economic developments at the local level.

Some commercial and residential projects should be running full tilt by now, but Haldimand, and Six Nations especially, have squandered opportunities for economic growth during the past few years.

Of course, the majority of people here cannot always control what's happening in the rest of the country, the U.S. or other parts of the world, but they can play a role in the issues that are on their doorstep.

County council recently decided to send a message to the provincial and federal governments by cutting ties at a liaison table that was set up following the DCE protest in 2006. Instead, councillors want to engage in more direct talks with Six Nations.

This approach hasn't always worked in the past, but it appears to some people as being the only viable way to move forward in the future - what now seems to be the aftermath of a long haul here during the past three-and-a-half years since the DCE occupation began.

The debacle has dragged on with little cooperation from the federal and provincial governments that have let issues linger, while providing little in the way of financial compensation or resolve. A plan for more direct communication with Six Nations shouldn't excuse the ambivalence of government and a lack of law enforcement which continues to this day. These issues should still be addressed, all parties realizing that they play a role in moving forward on even terms. Land claims must also be resolved, or else what many people believe to be at the root of problems will continue to fester.

Yet if Haldimand and Six Nations are to move forward in the future, they're going to have to work together regardless and come up with viable ways to spur the economy as neighbours, so that people can live and prosper here in Haldimand and the surrounding region.

With the economy apparently on an upswing these days, opening communication lines and getting back to work instead of bickering could be a good news story for everyone. But again, you can knock on wood.

Both sides have to be ready to give an inch, not take a mile. This has proved to be difficult for some people and politicians in the past.

If they don't advance the situation in a positive light by bringing economic stimulus to the area, the future will appear much more grim, especially with no end in sight to the U.S. Steel lockout and the looming closure of the Nanticoke coal plant during the next several years.

Economic development has also taken a huge hit in Brantford, Hamilton and outlying areas.

Without any development here, the employment picture for local workers could get worse before it gets better.

In the words of Winston Churchill, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

Whether the story gets better depends on the economy, but also the politicians and people who are in charge at the local level.