Comment - Throwing good money after bad ideas

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

Dec. 2, 2009

A meeting between Mayor Marie Trainer and Federal Minister of Indian Affairs, Chuck Strahl proved that the government is planning to throw more of our good money after bad ideas instead of getting at the root of a problem here in Haldimand.

According to Trainer, the feds are considering joint programs with the province to address the contraband issue, such as signage along the corridor that would inform people of the penalties for buying illegal tobacco.

Firstly, this idea has been discussed for months now. How long does it take to make up some signs that will likely e defaced inside of a week? Secondly, this might be an educational experience for some people, but does anyone think it will be enough to deter headstrong native business people who are openly flouting laws with no repercussions?

Another idea, apparently, is to create tamper proof packages so that people can more easily identify contraband products. Detect sarcasm in the sentiment that says this is a sure fire way of solving what ails us.

Meanwhile, Strahl apparently said he understands Haldimand's frustration regarding the loss of its tax base as a result of additions to nearby Indian Reserves. No solution here, we presume.

He also welcomes the idea of Haldimand and Six Nations working on joint initiatives. None of us really know what these will be, but surely they will work given the stellar record of cooperation that Six Nations and Haldimand exude. Again, no thanks to the federal government.

Unless there are some top secrets hidden away in the mayor's filing cabinet at 45 Munsee Street, which is doubtful, this meeting sounds like it achieved absolutely nothing, except that Strahl now knows Haldimand is in Southern Ontario, not the Australian Outback.

It's a wonder whether meetings between Haldimand politicians and senior government officials have achieved anything during the last four years.

In all actuality, the provincial and federal governments have done nothing to help the people most victimized by problems here during the past four years, and suffice it to say that their lip-service mitigation measures to curtail contraband tobacco and other related issues serve only to patronize people here.

According to a news report last week in the Brantford Expositor, Brantford MP Phil McColeman believes that help for areas affected by land claims has come in the form of economic stimulus. It's probable that MP Diane Finley would say the same thing in relation to Haldimand's arena funding, except for the fact that there are hundreds of communities that shared in stimulus grants and none of the money given to Haldimand has helped the people who are most affected by land claims.

If the federal government really wanted to do something about the tobacco problem, they'd send in the RCMP, do a 1-2 day sweep of the Highway 6 corridor, and be done with it.

The province's meagre attempt to enforce tobacco laws has done nothing to change the situation here thus far. However, for a long time we've given the federal government a pass on the Caledonia file due to the fact most problems with law enforcement fell under Ontario's jurisdiction.

Contraband tobacco is a federal matter. Additions to Indian Reserves are a federal matter. Native land claims - which continue to go unresolved - are also federal matters.

Still, the Federal Minister of Indian Affairs hasn't come to Caledonia during the last four years. In fact, it was Trainer who went to visit him in Ottawa after numerous requests for a meeting ehre were denied. Strahl has also refused to meet with Six Nations.

This is an area of Ontario that has been stricken with problems related to the Six Nations Reserve - Canada's largest Indian Reserve - since 2006.

As local Liberal candidate Bob Speller asked: Why is Strahl so afraid to come here?

After all, there are issues that the federal Conservatives can address much more fulsomely, but choose to sidestep, just like the provincial Liberals do.

That might not be news to most people, but it must be put on the record for people to ponder.

The federal government has ignored some issues and any of its intervention has been unsuccessful, getting Caledonia and Haldimand absolutely nowhere in this debacle that has gone on almost four years.