Province Should Step In With Special Supervisor NOW And Sweep Out Entire NPCA Board & Administration
A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted just after Midnight on December 13th, 2016 on Niagara At Large
This just recently in.
The council for the City of Port Colborne – as of this evening of Monday, December 12th – has joined the City of St. Catharines and Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake in unanimously supporting a motion calling on the Ontario government to conduct a full investigation and forensic audit of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s operations
..The Niagara-on-the-Lake council approved such a motion earlier on the same Monday evening, and now Port Colborne, with Niagara Falls city council scheduled to consider a similar motion this coming Tuesday, December 13th, and other municipal councils in Niagara, Ontario expected to follow suit before the end of this year.
This unprecedented call by municipalities in Niagara for a forensic audit of a publicly funded body in the region follows in the wake of a call Welland Riding MPP Cindy Forster made to the province this November for an audit of the NPCA, and in the wake of a growing lack of public confidence in those running this Conservation Authority.
It also follows news that the NPCA’s board directed a lawyer to send a letter to St. Catharines citizen Ed Smith – someone who has been asking for a thorough audit of the Conservation Authority’s since this past spring – threatening him with a lawsuit for circulating a report raising questions and concerns about hirings, firings, the tendering of contracts and other matters involving this body and its way of conducting business with millions of dollars of our money.
As Ed Smith, a community volunteer and 25-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, said at a press conference he hosted in St. Catharines following news of the lawsuit -threat, “Those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing.”
“If the NPCA has nothing to hide then let them come public with the documents we have requested, and let them respond directly to the well documented concerns that have occurred since 2013 and continue to this day,” added Smith during the November 30th press conference. “My assertion remains that the NPCA has strayed far from its mandate; it has become an organization encrusted with a sense of impunity and therefore it steadfastly refuses any attempt from citizens for openness, transparency and fairness.”
Michael Welsh, who serves as chair of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s committee of adjustment, but who brought forward a motion to the council of his town as a private citizen this December 12th, told Niagara At Large during an interview earlier in the day that the lawsuit threat against Ed Smith was the “last straw” for him around concerns he already shared with others about the NPCA and the way it does business. A threat like that, stressed Welsh, “is a chill for any citizen” who may wish to exercise their democratic right to question government bodies and how they use our tax dollars.
It is, indeed!
And it is high time that the Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, and the province’s Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Kathryn McGarry, recognize that the growing questions and concerns raised by citizens across this Niagara region and neighbouring Hamilton, and the cascading calls, starting with Hamilton’s city council last year, and continuing with municipalities in Niagara, for a forensic audit and other actions.
It is high time the Premier, the Minister and their government recognize these clarion calls and take the steps necessary to give the public back a Conservation Authority it can respect as the open, response voice for protecting and preserving what is left of our natural heritage that this region needs and deserves.
This should not only include a full forensic, value for dollar audit of the NPCA’s operations but the appointment of a special supervisor under the legislative powers the provincial has to come in and completely sweep out the board and upper management of this body.
A few years ago, I sat at a meeting hosted by the NPCA in Thorold where, shortly after the honchoes running the Conservation Authority fired a group of its field workers, a consultant it hired to work on its strategic plan stood in front of members of the board and members of the community, and used names like “ideologues” and “sandpaper” to describe those employees who were now out of work and looking for another job.
I had never before heard or seen representatives of a public body or anyone working for such a body on contract openly pillory people it had recently let go or fired like that. It was a disgusting display that I witnessed with several others I know would still come forward and vouch for the fact that it happened.
Quite bluntly, I also know that I am far from the only one who believes that some of the real “ideologues” and “sandpaper” are still there, holding board and management positions in this organization, and it is about time the province stepped in and told them to take a hike.
Much better they get the boot than see more NPCA staff – the people doing the good work out in the field -possibly losing their jobs or having breakdowns. .
I encourage everyone across this region who cares about conserving our natural heritage, and about the importance of open, transparent government, and about the right of citizens to ask questions about how our tax money is spent without the fear of being sued, to do a little Google searching on the internet for the contact information for Premier Wynne and the Natural Resources Minister Kathryn McGarry, and urge them to come in and clean up this mess NOW!
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