Just after he retired looking to lead a quiet life with his wife, Vicky, Cayuga resident David McClung found himself flung headlong into local politics.
In June of 2017 one of Haldimand’s very involved citizens asked him for help in opposing the current County council’s plan to empty out the Haldimand County Museum & Archives, demolish the building, move away the log cabin, and then sell the Court House Grounds stripped of its public buildings to a condominium developer.
“Astounded at the magnitude of the council’s contempt for community values,” he says, “I went into high gear, applying the skills gained over a lifetime—researching, advertising, writing, publishing, strategizing, planning, organizing, managing, communicating and working harmoniously with others—to the issue of the the Court House Grounds, and to the many other issues that I became aware of while working on that one.
“After fourteen months of close observation, the only conclusion I can possibly come to is that Haldimand County is desperately in need of better governance.
“Cozy relationships between members of council, businessmen and developers are clouding judgement and leading to tens of millions of dollars of questionable spending.
“When staff reports are riddled with errors, nobody does anything about it, not even after the errors are pointed out. Public input is solicited in a half-hearted way, then steadfastly ignored if it conflicts with the interests of the big players.
“Meanwhile traffic worsens, small businesses go under, and seniors’ needs go unmet.”
“Running for mayor of Haldimand County is not something I ever foresaw myself doing,” McClung muses, “but now I realize that I’m actually pretty well qualified for the position, and I have the energy and the ethics to work hard for the general good.
“The more people I meet while I’m out campaigning, and the more I learn about their problems and their dreams, the more I look forward to serving.”
If elected, McClung has several priorities.
“I will begin by insisting on ethical behaviour from all members of council. If I think a member has an undeclared conflict of interest, I won’t wait for someone else to lay a complaint, I’ll do it myself.
“Next, I will not ignore errors in staff reports. I will insist on corrections, and if the errors happen too frequently, I will suggest the staff member consider a career change.
“I will work at developing business and industry in Haldimand to balance the unbridled residential development of the past few years.
“I will vigorously pursue cost-effective ways of untangling and calming the traffic in Caledonia and elsewhere. The enhancement of Haldimand’s waterfront areas will be another priority, along with affordable and accessible housing for seniors and others.
“However, no matter which issue the council, staff and I will be working on, another thing I will insist on is greatly improved communication. Haldimand County needs to get a lot better at letting its citizens know what is going on, and Haldimand County has to get a lot better at listening to feedback from its citizens and taking it into account in its projects and policies.”
McClung’s credentials for the job are invaluable. Growing up on a family farm at Long Beach just east of Lowbanks at the east end of Haldimand County, he worked hard to put himself though university where he studied languages at the University of Toronto in 1975.
That led to work in research, publishing and advertising for Asian and European employers for several years. During that time and in later travels, through talking to people from wide-ranging backgrounds, he became aware of a very broad range of approaches to dealing with the typical problems of community life.
But eventually the call of home – “somehow I missed the cornfields and blizzards of southern Ontario’ – combined with his grandmother’s plea for him to buy the property she had grown up on just outside Cayuga, brought him back to Canada.
“I took the bait and haven’t regretted it for one minute in the past 35 years,” he said. He and his wife Vicky settled down in Cayuga for good in 1988.
McClung commuted to Guelph and Toronto for work, while Vicky worked at starting their young family. However, eventually the constant commuting palled and he went back to school to retrain as a planner.
During the five years he worked as a consulting planner doing special projects for municipalities throughout southwestern Ontario, he reached a personal epiphany.
“I got sick of working with politicians. It seemed pointless to do such careful research and formulate such well-thought-out recommendations when in the end the politicians just did what suited their friends’ financial interests, anyway.”
So in 1996 he went into working with children at the Haldimand Board of Education, where he and his wife spent 20 years teaching in three of the four high schools.
You can reach McClung at mcclungformayor.ca