“The issues (dogging the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority) need to be addressed by the province in the most effective, efficient and credible way possible. The OPP in my mind would meet these criteria.” – Welland Mayor Frank Campion and NPCA board member Frank Campion
A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted December 23rd, 2016 on Niagara At Large
Welland/Niagara, Ontario – This December 20th, the council for the City of Welland joined councils for the Niagara municipalities of St. Catharines, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Port Colborne, Pelham and Thorold, and the council for the City of Hamilton in joining Welland Riding MPP Cindy Forster and many citizens across the region in calling on Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and her government to launch a forensic and/or value-for-money audit, and a full investigation of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s operations.
The Welland council motion, tabled by the city’s Mayor Frank Campion who also happens to be one of 11 municipal politicians in the region sitting on the 15-member NPCA board, goes a step further than those passed by other councils by asking the Wynne government to consider involving the Ontario Provincial Police in an investigation of the NPCA.
The motion passed by the Welland council this December 20th, on the same night Thorold council passed one of its own, reads as follows –
THAT THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF WELLAND requests Premier Kathleen Wynne direct the appropriate Ontario Provincial body to determine and fund the action required to determine if any inappropriate or illegal activity has occurred at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA); and
THAT the required actions could include, but are not limited to, a forensic audit, value-for-money audit, or Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) investigation; and further
THAT all municipalities within the NPCA catchment area, local MPPs, NPCA Board, be advised by the Province, what actions the Province proposes to take, reasoning, and cost to the Provincial taxpayer.
On calling for the possible involvement of the Ontario Provincial Police in a probe of questions and concerns about NPCA operations that include its hiring and firing practices, the awarding of contracts to outside businesses, land deals and other matters, Mayor Campion offered the following words to Niagara At Large in an email –
“Your impression that I would support an OPP investigation is correct, but qualified,” said the mayor. “My position is that the provincial government and Premier Wynne need to deal with the questions surrounding the NPCA and that they should determine the appropriate method, (and) explain why they have chosen that method, up to and including an OPP investigation.”
“I believe that the OPP is likely the most experienced provincial investigative authority,” added Campion. “The issues (related to NPCA operations) need to be addressed by the province in the most effective, efficient and credible way possible. The OPP in my mind would meet these criteria.”
On the matter of the OPP, there is already reason to believe the province’s police force is taking an interest in issues surrounding the NPCA. At a news conference this past November, St. Catharines resident Ed Smith said he had been contacted by the OPP for a possible interview about information he has gathered in his efforts to get answers to how the Conservation Authority is spending millions of tax dollars it gets annually from municipalities in Niagara, Hamilton and Haldimand County.
As a final footnote – The councils for the Niagara municipalities of Wainfleet and Niagara Falls have also passed motions this December for a forensic audit of the NPCA, but those motions ask the NPCA itself, rather than the province, to arrange the audit.
Stay tune to Niagara At Large in the days and weeks ahead for much more on this ongoing story.
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