The growing dissent “just shows that we were ahead of the curve.” – Hamilton City Councillor Sam Merulla of the number of citizens and municipal councils demanding a provincial investigation.
A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted December 14, 2016 on Niagara At Large
The City Council for Hamilton is once again calling on the Ontario government to launch a forensic audit and investigation of a Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority that a growing numbers of Niagara and Hamilton area citizens have lost trust in.
The Hamilton council’s vote for an investigation – the second it has made to Premier Kathleen Wynne and her government in the past two years – follows similar recent calls on the province to thoroughly probe the NPCA made by Welland Riding MPP Cindy Forster and the councils for the Niagara municipalities of Port Colborne, Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catharines.
Councils for two other Niagara municipalities – both with mayors who sit on the NPCA’s board of directors – passed motions to send an audit request to the Conservation Authority – motions that many local councillors and citizens feel are at least naïve and, at worst, calculated to let the NPCA control the audit process with an eye to getting results that show its operations in the best possible light.
Niagara Falls City Councillor Carolynn Ioannani had been planning for days to table a motion calling on the province to begin an audit and investigation, but at the city’s December 13th council meeting, Mayor Jim Diodati first called on another councillor, Joyce Morocco, who tabled a motion calling on the NPCA to arrange an audit of its operations.
A follow-up request by Ioannani, to let MPP Forster and Ed Smith, a Niagara area citizen who has been pushing for an audit since last spring and has recently faced legal threats from the NPCA.
Unlike Niagara-on-the-Lake Lord Mayor Patrick Darte, who is also on the NPCA board and who stood down, declaring he had a conflict of interest, when a motion for an audit of the Conservation Authority was discussed and ultimately approved by his council on December 12th, Diodati remained fully engaged during his council’s discussion on the motion. No conflict of interest was declared on his part.
Forster and Smith were also allowed an opportunity to speak at the Niagara-on-the-Lake council meeting, just as they were on December 5th, at St. Catharines council.
More on the so obviously staged, bait-and-switch games played at the Niagara Falls council later, and what else is there to say about Wainfleet’s April Jeffs, who joined a majority of other regional councillors this past October, including councillors who sit on the NPCA board, in supporting the hiring of former Conservation Authority CAO Carmen D’Angelo to his new job as CAO for the entire Niagara Region.
The motions that matter are those passed so far by the cities of St. Catharines, Port Colborne and now Hamilton, and the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake this December 12th, calling on Premier Wynne and her government to launch a forensic and/or value for dollar audit and investigation of the NPCA’s operations.
It is also hoped, by at least some of us across the region, that Wynne’s government go to the lengths to hire a special supervisor and sweep the entire board of directors and upper management of the NPCA out the door.
The current board and managers of this body have become the subject of more than enough questions and concerns over how they go about firing and hiring staff, tendering contracts, brokering land deals and a host of other matters.
We need to get back to having a Conservation Authority that is truly focused on investing its time and our money in the protection and preservation of what is left of this region’s natural heritage.
For more on the City of Hamilton’s motion and the ongoing NPCA controversy, click on the following stories posted this December 14th by the CBC and Hamilton Spectator –
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