Local activists seek council seats

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

Sept. 15, 2010

Two local figureheads well-known for addressing native-related debacles the past four years have entered the political fray as municipal election candidates, hoping to wind some clout.

Caledonia resident Merlyn Kinrade has entered his name in ward two, hoping to represent residents of Cayuga, South Cayuga, Rainham and ports of North Cayuga, conceding that the catchment is likely his likely his best shot at becoming an influential member of county council.

Gary McHale previously announced his candidacy in ward three (Caledonia) and likely has the best shot at winning the post, Kinrade believes.

At 75, Kinrade knows that some people might question his age and his ability to fulfill a term of office. But he pointed out that he's much younger than 89-year-old Hazel McCallion who plans to seek another mandate as the mayor of Mississauga. And no less feisty.

Kinrade has stood by groups of local activists that opposed illegal land occupations throughout Haldimand County. He led numerous rallies decrying "Twp-tiered justice" when the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) wouldn't allow citizens to hand Canadian flags across from Douglas Creek Estates. And he continues to be a staunch supporter of McHale and the Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality - an organization both scorned and lauded for its efforts.

"People understood what we were all about when we went after Floyd and Ruby (Montour)," said Kinrade, referring to the couple from Six Nations that halted development at numerous construction sites, including a townhouse development in Cayuga.

"Those who decided they are running (in the election) had the opportunity to make a difference long ago," he contends. "Now with a payday they believe they can do something great. Why would their perspective change as a municipal official?"

While other election candidates proclaim their involvement in minor sports and local business, Kinrade argues that such experience does not qualify them to run a municipal corporation.

A husband, father and grandfather, Kinrade operated several businesses in order to make a living, coaching and sponsoring local sports teams along the way. He was a self-employed plumber, owned the former Riverview Dairy and ran concession stands at the old arena and Kinsmen Park.

I've made money on my own and the key is not blowing it on frivolity," he said, charging the past councils have overspent and underachieved.

"I have no doubt I can do a better job. What council has allowed over the past three to four years is atrocious."

Kinrade feels that county council should have held Premier Dalton McGuinty and former OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino responsible for overstepping their authority, failing to uphold laws and police Haldimand County.

"The county should have demanded policing. What would have been wrong with that?" Kinrade asks rhetorically. "Not a thing."

He said that council is in place to set policy, not to allow "mandarins" total control. Because it has failed to take constructive action, citizens have attempted to take matters into their own hands.

Doug Fleming has also entered his name as a municipal election candidate.

Fleming, 48, is known to many as the founder of a controversial militia, later dubbed a peacekeeping group, that aimed to thwart the proprietors of illegal native smoke shacks.

Fleming admits that the group has waned due to a lack of time and underwhelming support.

"Like it or not, some of us have to go to work and have things to do," he said.

Such intervention including peaceful public protests requires public participation, Fleming emphasized.

"Personally I thought it was a good idea... People don't understand that it's not up to Ontario to take an interest in Haldimand."

Developers are still insecure about doing business in Haldimand and Ontario couldn't care less, as long as they arent' going outside the province, Fleming said.

"Binbrook is booming."

Although Fleming is perhaps best known for his involvement with 'Caledonia issues,' he is a fourth-generation resident of Haldimand and has registered in ward four, an "enormous tract" which encompasses Hagersville, parts of Oneida, Seneca, North Cayuga and Walpole, and his current residence on River Road.

"Driving around the perimeter of ward four is like driving around the perimeter of Ontario," he said. "Even though Hagersville is the biggest population centre in the ward, it starts on the south side of Sixth Line and a good portion of the lawlessness takes place in ward four. No one in an official position has been vocal about such issues.:

Fleming is self-employed and words in the swimming pool business from spring until fall. He works in construction and chops wood in the off-season. He is unmarried and has no children.

"I have no previous political experience," he admits. "What I have is a genuine concern for the county and a nasty tendency to do and say what I think is right without worrying about what others think of me... I can't ever imagine washing my hands of the place and believe I can contribute more as a big mouth councillor than a big mouth citizen."