By David McClung
On Saturday, April 7, seventy-one citizens attended a public information session hosted by concerned citizens at the Cayuga Kinsmen Hall. This number contrasts strongly with the typical attendance at meetings Haldimand County calls to gather public input.
Here are the attendance figures for the public open houses the County held on its plan to construct a new administration building : Hagersville, 7; Cayuga, 5; Dunnville, 14; Caledonia, 2. For their Caledonia-to-Hagersville trail public input meeting at Caledonia, 13. For the public input meetings with regard to their Parks & Recreation Service Plan Update : Cayuga, 15; Dunnville, 13.
The only bright spots in this dismal record are another meeting about the Caledonia-to-Hagersville trail held in Hagersville (40) and the Cayuga meetings about the closing of the Haldimand County Museum & Archives (about 200). The reason for the much better attendance in both cases is that citizens largely took over from County staff the job of publicizing the meetings.
The inescapable conclusion is that Haldimand County does not know how to engage the populace in successful public consultation exercises. These numbers in the teens and single digits for a population of 45,000 do not indicate apathy, nor do they indicate tacit consent. They indicate public consultation exercises that failed.
As a result of all these failed public consultation exercises, Haldimand County Council not only has no electoral mandate for the new administration building, the closing of the Cayuga museum, the Cayuga library rebuild on Highway 3, the Cayuga Bridge Rail Trail, and the Cayuga Parks Landscape Architecture project, it doesn’t even have the results of a credible public consultation process to justify any of these major projects.
If Haldimand County’s government aspires to any democratic legitimacy at all, the only ethical course is for it to delay implementation of these projects until after it obtains an electoral mandate for them, which it can do in only six months.