NPCA Chair Showers Praise OnWainfleet Mayor For The Way Her Council Handled Request For Audit Of The Conservation Authority

“I thank Mayor April Jeffs for her leadership in recognizing the proper process to prompt action on this matter by bringing a request directly to the NPCA Board.” – from a letter from Bruce Timms, Chair of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, to Wainfleet Mayor April Jeffs

A News Commentary from Doug Draper followed by a ‘Letter of Thanks’ To Wainfleet’s Mayor from NPCA Chair Bruce Timms

Wainfleet Mayor and Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority board member April Jeffs earns the thanks of NPCA board chair Bruce Timms for directing her council to ask the NPCA to arrange a forensic audit of its operations rather than doing what St. Catharines, Hamilton, Port Colborne and Niagara-on-the-Lake councils have so far done, and called on the provincial government to launch such an audit.

Wainfleet Mayor and Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority board member April Jeffs earns the thanks of NPCA board chair Bruce Timms for directing her township council to ask the NPCA to arrange a forensic audit of its operations rather than doing what St. Catharines, Hamilton, Port Colborne and Niagara-on-the-Lake councils have  done and other municipal councils are planning to do, and called on the provincial government to launch such an audit of a Conservation Authority that growing numbers of citizens across the region have expressed a loss of trust in.

This December has so far proven to be one of the rougher months for Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority board members and administrators who have been dogged all year with growing questions and concerns over the way they use millions of dollars of our tax money to manage their operations.

Since this past December 5th alone, the elected members of councils in three Niagara municipalities, beginning with St. Catharines and continuing with Niagara-on-the-Lake and Port Colborne – overwhelming supported motions, urging the Ontario government to commence a full investigation and forensic and/or value-for-dollars audit of the NPCA’s operations.

Those motions were followed up this past December 15th with one from the council for the City of Hamilton, which has areas of watershed within its municipal boundaries that the NPCA is supposed to show some care for, renewing a call it made to the Ontario government more than a year ago, not only for a full audit, but for a change of management at the Conservation Authority.

And word has it that at least a few more Niagara municipal councils will come forward with motions to the province before the end of this year for an NPCA investigation.

Yet it hasn’t been a completely bumpy ride the NPCA this December.

There have been a few smooth spots on a road where a growing caravan ofcitizens is urging Ontario’s Premier and her government to make this Conservation Authority more open and responsive to their questions and concerns about the way it is hiring and firing staff, tendering contracts and conducting other matters in the name of protecting and preserving our region’s natural heritage.

One of those smooth spots came this December 6th, when April Jeffs, the mayor for Wainfleet and one of 13 Niagara regional councillors sitting on the NPCA’s 15 member board, tabled a motion at her township council, sending a request for an audit, not to the provincial government, but to the NPCA board – a direction Timms tried but failed to get the St. Catharines council to take on December 5th.

When the Wainfleet motion passed, the township issued a media release the following day containing the following words from the mayor – “No one has ever just gone and simply asked the NPCA for an audit,” Jeffs is quoted saying in the release. “They have asked other agencies, but not the NPCA itself.”

That statement remained true until this December 13th when a majority on the Niagara Falls council supported Timms’ call and Wainfleet’s direction as a municipality to ask the NPCA for an audit first.

The Niagara Falls council did so with the city’s mayor and NPCA board member  Jim Diodati remaining engaged in the discussion rather than doing what Niagara-on-the-Lake Lord Mayor Patrick Darte did the night before, when a motion asking the province to launch an investigation and audit came before his council, and stand away from the debate due to the conflict of interest he felt he may have as a member of the NPCA’s board.

Imagine that, Darte went so far as to declare a conflict of interest!

It remains to be seen where that leaves Darte ranking on the list of team players on the NPCA’s board, but speaking of team players, let’s finish here with Timm’s December 8th letter of thanks to Wainfleet Mayor and fellow NPCA board member April Jeffs – a letter that subsequently made its way to Niagara Falls councillors this December 13th, before a majority of them voted “yes” to a motion very similar to the one passed by Jeffs’ council.

Here is the full text of that letter –

December 8,  2016

Mayor Jeffs, Township of Wainfleet

Dear Mayor Jeffs:

We acknowledge receipt of the resolution passed by the Township of Wainfleet Council at its December 6,  2016,  meeting.

Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority chair and St. Catharines regional councilor Bruce Timms wants individuals and groups, including municipal councils, to address their requests for a forensic audit to the NPCA rather than to other bodies.

Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority chair and St. Catharines regional councilor Bruce Timms wants individuals and groups, including municipal councils, to address their requests for a forensic audit to the NPCA rather than to other bodies.

The motion that passed stated: That,  Wainfleet Town Council request the NPCA Board to consider obtaining an independent third party audit,  such as a value- for- money audit and/ or forensic audit,  above and beyond their annual financial audits.”

I thank Mayor April Jeffs for her leadership in recognizing the proper process to prompt action on this matter by bringing a request directly to the NPCA Board.  We, at the Board and staff level,  are all interested in continuous improvement and welcome an open dialogue toward bettering our organization.  I look forward to discussing this matter at our earliest opportunity,  which is our January 18,  2017,  Board of Directors meeting.

I take great pride in the high level of transparency and accountability that has already been achieved by the NPCA.  We believe in fair and reasonable processes that embrace extensive public consultation.

  We have engaged our community in several projects this year,  including; Welland River Flood Plain Mapping,  Living Landscape Policy Review, Cave Springs Management Plan,  and the Lakefront Conservation Areas Master Plan.  We have also made our Audited Financial Statements, Annual Reports, Quarterly Reports,  and Board Meeting videos available on our website.

We remain committed to hearing the concerns of our community.  I believe that consideration of this matter will further our transparency and accountability.

  You may rest assured that the consideration of a third party value- for-money and/ or forensic audit will be addressed by our Board now that a direct request has been received.

Sincerely,

D. Bruce Timms, Chair,  Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority

Niagara At Large will have more news and commentary on the NPCA controversy in the days and weeks ahead. Stay tuned.

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space below the Bernie quote.

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 “A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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5 responses to “NPCA Chair Showers Praise OnWainfleet Mayor For The Way Her Council Handled Request For Audit Of The Conservation Authority

  1. Oh boy. April Jeffs must really think that the Conservative Club is teflon-coated. IMHO, the lady has just committed political suicide. If she’s unaware that Bruce Timms is rapidly becoming a pariah in this region, then she’s really not been paying attention.

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  2. Timms’ letter “Codswallop” gives a whole new dimension of hypocrisy, the only “transparency” was in seeing the rubbish for what it was – congratulating someone for toeing the line and following instructions.

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  3. I’m so old-fashioned that I don’t use any Social Media. However, I did have a letter in this week’s Niagara This Week about the misuse of our publicly funded (our taxpayer money) taking an full page ad by Bruce Timms titled a ‘Special report’ but which was, wait for it, at the end of the page, an ADVERTISEMENT.
    I wonder how Mayor Jeffs feels about that, or Mayor Diodati, for that matter? Open for Business (read development) is their braying cry, but nothing, nothing about the environment, or conservation.
    Do these staunch Conservative mayors think they can spend our money any way they wish? Well, apparently, they do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly, Gail, although Conservatives are the majority on Niagara Regional Council, Jim Diodati is a long-time Liberal, which is probably why he was able to accompany Wynne on the trip to China. Both upper-tier governments cannot do enough to flatter the Chinese, if seems, such is their passion for “foreign direct investment”. When it comes to “open for business like a cheap bordello (Bruce Cockburn), there’s little to choose between the two major parties. Both talk a great game on the environment, but they don’t let it get in the way of “the economy”. We are incredibly poorly served in this country at all levels of government. And it’s our own fault.

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  4. In my opinion Mayor Diodati and Mayor Jeffs, if truth be told, were looking after their own interests and NOT that of the peoples of the area, Peoples who are sincere in their desire to preserve the integrity and the original mission of the NPCA and Yes!! I agree much has happened in the past few years, happenings seems to have “RAN” contrary to the wishes of the peoples and contrary to the original “CONSERVATION AND PROTECTION” mission as initiated by the founding people.
    During the past decade or so I have been witness to actions that seemed to dictate personal agendas rather than fulfill the wants and needs of the people of the Region after open consultation.
    I was totally amazed when the NPCA brought forward in the local media the plan called Bio-Diversity OFF-SETTING and was even more Yes! “Shocked” when I realized the scope and what seemed to be the reasoning and purpose behind this scam. Once again In my opinion it negated the very mission put forth by the original Founders of the NPCA and because of this in my opinion the NPCA ceased to be the environmental protectors of wet lands and environmentally sensitive…So I ask is this NOW a corporate entity looking after Corporate Interests??

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