By George Naylor
I’ve written this in response to Chris Pickup’s editorial of April 17th asking, “What Exactly Constitutes a Newspaper?” My experience confirms Chris’ opinions, but I’ll ask a different question:
“WHERE is the News!”
If you look at the world, I’ve been wondering if we are heading down a road we may one day regret. I’ve been trying to make sense of what’s happened in the United States with the election of Trump, but there are signs of like problems in other countries. Brexit in Great Britain; far-right candidate a serious threat in France. Perhaps we’re heading toward the same problem in Ontario this next election? The list goes on.
I’ve heard various opinions this past year in comments and editorials;
“No one reads anymore!”
“No one wants reasoned, informed debate!”
“The world is suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder! People are only interested in 20 second sound bites!”
“The world is dividing into tribes, with each tribe in its own information bubble.”
Are cell phones and computers making things worse? Instead of having a world of accurate information at our fingertips, are we getting disinformation? Are we suffering from information fatigue? Or is it that we just don’t care?
It’s happening in our own little world in Haldimand County too.
There is a news vacuum in Haldimand, and present council takes advantage of that fact. The towns in Haldimand are for the most part bedroom communities, and it seems that most residents get their news, and their impressions of local happenings, from outside the county.
As far as local news sources, there is the Sachem and Haldimand Press. I believe that the majority of Haldimand residents get their news from the Hamilton Spectator, or other outside television and radio sources, which doesn’t amount to much.
The local papers don’t seem inclined to challenge Haldimand Council’s actions meaningfully. Again, Haldimand County elected officials and department bureaucrats willingly slip into this information blindspot to manipulate opinion and foster their agenda, which is decidedly pro-development.
Thank goodness for outlets like the Regional News Forum. At least this forum gives an honest reporting of the facts.
When we moved to Caledonia, I pretty quickly got involved in the debate surrounding the fate of the historic Caledonia Flour Mill, on the south bank of the Grand River. I went to a couple of public information sessions organized by Riverside Properties, and councillor Craig Grice. It was pretty evident that Grice was unequivocally in favour of this development.
I spoke at two council meetings, objecting to the plan for the mill, and sadly realized that council was just meeting their legal obligation by having these meetings. Their decision was already made. I don’t believe there was a thing that anyone could have said that would change the outcome of this question. I felt I was being humoured and tolerated, rather than listened to, and my opinions respected.
Because I live close to the mill, I was one of the residents who received official notice in the mail, notifying us of the intended destruction of the mill, and the construction of the mill-looking office building that was to replace it. This letter also detailed the numerous zoning and master plan changes that would be required to make this happen, as well as the flood-plain and parkland variances covered by GRCA and Haldimand County regulations.
Want proof of council trying to keep a lid on this plan, and keep Caledonia and Haldimand County residents in the dark? This same legal notice required that a sign be erected on the mill property, to properly inform the public of the planned development, and the regulation and zoning changes required to make it happen.
I live right across from the mill, and I can tell you that this sign was NEVER erected.
A petition with 200 names was generated from residents in the immediate area of the mill. Council’s reaction to this petition?Nothing! Didn’t matter! Starting to sound familiar?
I spoke at the citizens meeting held on April 7th in Cayuga. The main subject was the actions of Haldimand Council in respect to the ownership of the Village Green property, and council’s approval of a plan that would move the new library to a high traffic location right on Hwy 3!
I see a lot of similarity between council’s actions in regard to the library and museum question, and their actions in respect to the Old Mill. Our politicians don’t care about history, they don’t care about legality, they only care about spending money and encouraging development.
My message at the Saturday meeting expressed my shock at learning how few Caledonia residents had any idea about what was happening with the mill, and I fear the same process is happening with the library and museum.
We have a council with an agenda that disregards the wishes of their residents, and that agenda is aided by the news vacuum in our county. The antidote exists for this vacuum.
Talk to your neighbours, voice your objections to council’s actions through any available means, and lastly, get out and vote this fall. Lack of knowledge and complacency is the fuel for the success of this behaviour by our elected officials, and the administration that is paid by, and works for US!