by Bill Jackson - Regional News This Week

April 13, 2011

When asked about Julian Fantino's nomination as a federal Conservative candidate in Vaughan by-election, Haldimand-Norfolk Conservative candidate Diane Finley told me that democracy is a tremendous thing. You can say that again.

According to her, Prime Minister Stephen Harper "respected the democratic wishes of the people in Vaughan. They nominated him and the people of Vaughan chose to have him as their representative."

Reading between the lines, one can detect an inference - that she and Harper had nothing to do with Fantino's nomination, as if the Prime Minister of Canada stands idly by while candidates are nominated to run as Conservatives, and does nothing to influence the process.

Those who read newspapers know that Harper came out in support of Fantino, and that said, this was the first time Finley actually spoke to the issue. Repeated attempts by this newspapers to contact her about the matter were initially denied.

Note here that Finley's website was down this week due to what her campaign office called "technical issues," so I'm not sure if there are any recent updates. For now, people are being asked to focus on the Conservative platform on the Party's website while the local issues are addressed.

Finley is the only federal candidate who said she won't be coming before Haldimand Council in Cayuga on April 26, after an invitation was extended last week. Much like the time when she refused to participate in a televised candidates meeting in 2008, Finlay attributes her absence to a personal obligation, mush like Julian Fantino did before debate in Vaughan.

Maybe there's another function at the old folk's home, but regardless, Finley said that she's already spoken with Mayor Ken Hewitt. And just what Haldimand Council hopes to accomplish by having an all candidates meeting is perhaps debatable. However, local politicians and for that matter all people need to hold feet to the five by being outspoken, instead of continuing to wail on about the likes of Gary McHale.

While businesses that bring tourists to Haldimand were rightfully honoured at a business breakfast in Cayuga last week, interlopers were denounced. Mayor Ken Hewitt called on local businesses to spread the message that interlopers are not part of the future here in Haldimand, "so regardless of your agenda stay home." Needless to say, we all know by now who he's referring to. But a few important points need to be made before one can agree with him wholeheartedly. It would be fine if local leaders attacking the actions of so-called "interlopers" called a spade a spade to begin with.

Do I personally believe that the actions of Gary McHale and CANACE supporters, members of the CUPE First Nations Solidarity Working Group, or fanatical Six Nations supporters from other areas of North America bring about positive imagery to Caledonia or Haldimand? No. Do I believe that they are a symptom of a much bigger problem? Most certainly.

In the past, local politicians, citizens and business owners have appealed to upper levels of government to rectify the Douglas Creek Estates dispute and the many offshoot issues. However, the need to continue doing so seems to be falling by the wayside in favour of securing interlopers first and foremost. While some people including Coun. Lorne Boyko believe that 99.9% of the people in the town of Caledonia are now back to normal, I beg to differ.

At a recent council meeting, a townhouse proposal off Orkney Street drew the ire of local residents for various reasons, among them the chance that they could be living next to a future native occupation. Note here that this was the first residential housing development of any significance that has come forth in Caledonia in quite some time. Whether tourism is back to normal is a matter of public perception. What is could be, given the past, is another.

Besides, if Haldimand can reap the rewards of tourism dollars from out of town, it is also responsible to make sure people from outside are safe within its confines. That hasn't always been the case, and millions of dollars of taxpayers' money from across Ontario and for that matter Canada have been squandered here. So, I would argue that outsiders do have a say in some of the affairs.

But what continues to irk is the constant sentiment that people like Gary McHale are at the root of the problem. That's not to say that he doesn't pose a problem. The man knows he does.

McHale has recently launched a campaign as an independent third party in the upcoming federal election, call "Harper Not Here for Democracy" and plans to hand out 250,000 flyers in Haldimand-Norfolk, Vaughan and areas across the GTA. I've said it one and I'll say it again. McHale is a zit on Caledonia. No one likes it when he flares up and spews his dreaded pus upon a quiet Sunday afternoon. And if you think I enjoy covering his rallies all the time, think again.

But you can't knock interlopers without throwing a few swings at many others first. Anyone who has been at McHale's rallies knows they are peaceful and could be classified as community strolls in the park if it weren't for other volatile elements and symptoms that have gone untreated.

What some local politicians fail to realize is that Haldimand needs a vaccine, not an off the shelf band-aid. Much like a dormant virus, the issues facing this area are always prone to return, no matter how good things look on the surface.

At last week's business awards breakfast Hewitt, now in his fifth month as mayor, spoke about issues such as OPG and how Energy Minster Brad Duguid doesn't seem to be on the same page as the county when it comes to the future of power production in Nanticoke, Duguid and countless others in McGuinty's cabinet who served as aboriginal affairs ministers during the past five years did little to help rectify problems in Caledonia. Yet interlopers are apparently the focus here.

Hewitt said that he's encouraged by discussions with Six Nations leaders and council has called on federal candidates to come to an upcoming council meeting prior to the May 2 election to discuss some issues. Meanwhile. Finley has been relatively silent on the Caledonia file while her Party has backed a former commissioner many blame for years of volatility. You can't tell me that Gary McHale is the one hurting business.

While Hewitt has been diligent in taking the OPP to task for the numbers of hours they work under contract, their modes of policing, past and present, have hardly been touched upon by the newly elected council. Councillors will argue they have no control over police operations. But they don't control free speech or wind turbines either, and still manage to put forth opposing viewpoints.

Only when we crawl from the rectum of recourse can we clear our eyes of the crap and hole the right people responsible for the root problems in agree that these so-called interlopers are the people that truly ail us.

Calling them out is trivial. After all, along with free speech there will always be troublemakers. That's what living in a democracy is like, as tremendous and splendid as it is.

In the end, however, it's how people and their issues are dealt with in this country that's most important. And no one is any governing or law enforcement capacity seems to want to address Caledonia issues in a constructive fashion. I for one will not forget, nor let it drop, at the rish of sounding stale or redundant.