Ed Smith – Niagara At Large’s Person of the Year for 2016

“In a free and democratic system, every citizen must be guaranteed the right to freedom of expression about issues relating to government as an absolute privilege, without threat of a civil action for defamation being initiated against them by that government.”From a 2014 ruling by Ontario Court Mr. Justice Kenneth E. Pedlar, in favour of a citizen sued by the Township of Montague, Ontario for circulating a letter critical of the Township emergency response operations.

A Commentary by Doug Draper, publisher, Niagara At Large

Posted January 6th, 2017

I began here with a quote from an Ontario court judge who dismissed a defamation suit a municipality filed against Donald Page – a Montague township resident who was exercising his right as a citizen to raise questions and concerns about that municipality – for a reason that every one of us who believes in the democratic right of citizens to speak out and to hold our government to account should take to heart.

Ed Smith, speaking at a news conference in November 2016, after he was threatened by NPCA with a lawsuit. File photo by Doug Draper

Ed Smith, speaking at a news conference in November 2016, after he was threatened by NPCA with a lawsuit. File photo by Doug Draper

I began with this honourable judge’s quote because the legal harassment that was unleashed on Donald Page – quite wrongfully as the judge so eloquently pointed out – could be unleashed on any citizen who exercises their right to hold our government to account.

In fact, this form of legal harassment or thuggery – what has come to be known in the legal game as a “slap suit” designed to make an example of any citizens who dares to raise questions and concerns so that the rest of us know to go home and keep our mouths shut – has been threatened against a Niagara, Ontario  citizen named Ed Smith – a St. Catharines resident 25-year, retired career officer in the Canadian Armed Forces – for raising questions and concerns about hiring and firing practices, about the awarding of contacts, about land deals and a host of other matters involving the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority – a government body run by a board and managers that growing numbers of citizens across Niagara and Hamilton have lost trust in.

Ed Smith was served a letter last November, authored by lawyers for the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA), accusing him of circulating some material around these questions and concerns that was defamatory, and setting a December deadline for him to, among other things, issue a “full unqualified apology” for distrusting the material and turning over to the NPCA the names of any other authors of the material.

To these demands, Smith stood up this past November 30th at a press conference and said the following –

“I wish to respond to this list of demands from the NPCA in the strongest of ways,” he said. “My response is ‘NO’. In fact, I wish to assert loudly the right of any Canadian citizen should expect – the right to challenge my ‘elected taxpayers’ – a term quoted from (NPCA chair) Bruce Timms – and to hold any elected or appointed officials accountable.”

“A robust democracy demands this level of guarantees for all of its citizens,” continued Smith. “I view this letter from the NPCA as a blatant attempt to intimidate and threaten me in order to silence a voice of dissension.”

Ed Smith is right.

Ed Smith urging Niagara's regional council in the spring pf 2016 to support an audit of the NPCA's operation. The council ultimately turned the request for an audit down. More recently Welland Riding MPP Cindy Forster and a number of municipal councils have taken the call for an NPCA audit to the Ontario government. File photo by Doug Draper

Ed Smith urging Niagara’s regional council in the spring pf 2016 to support an audit of the NPCA’s operation. The council ultimately turned the request for an audit down. More recently Welland Riding MPP Cindy Forster and a number of municipal councils have taken the call for an NPCA audit to the Ontario government. File photo by Doug Draper

What the upper managers and the  majority of those sitting on the board of directors of the NPCA (many of them elected members of Niagara municipal councils) are doing with this legal action is an assault on good citizenship and on a system of democracy that countless tens-of-thousands thousands in this country have fought and died for in wars.

It is also an ugly, bullying act and a vulgar misuse of the millions of our tax dollars this Conservation Authority receives each year – tax dollars that should be devoted to programs that protect and preserve what remains of this region’s natural heritage.

We are now waiting for what news Ed Smith receives next in the wake of this lawsuit threat.

In the meantime, Niagara At Large wishes to do something here that Ed Smith would probably not invite and may not welcome because he has always stressed that what he is trying to do around getting answers to questions and concerns over the NPCA’s operations and the abuse he has received in response is not about him – and that is true.

Nevertheless, NAL wishes to pay tribute Ed Smith’s actions by naming him our person of 2016 in Niagara because the questions and concerns he has been raising about the NPCA are shared by growing numbers of us across this region, including six Niagara municipal councils and the council of the City of St. Catharines – all of which have called on the province to launch a forensic and/or value-for-money audit and a full investigation of the NPCA’s operations.

Ed Smith also deserves our recognition and support for the courage he has shown to persevere in the face of legal threats and insults to his character by individuals as high up as Niagara regional chair Al Caslin (through a letter of apology Caslin sent to the NPCA board last spring over a presentation Smith made to regional council last spring, asking for an audit of the NPCA).

“I willfully dedicated 25 years of my professional life fighting for the ‘ideal’ of Canada,” said Smith during that press conference last November 30th .where two Second World War veterans cane out to join those who supported him. “Countless others have sacrificed much more than that, and there is nothing that will divert me from doing right by them.”

I urge each and every one of us to support Ed Smith at a time when the worst of the lot at the NPCA and regional government level in Niagara are doing what they can to break him and make him back down.

If they win, it is not just Ed Smith who loses, but each and every one of us who may one day find ourselves in circumstances where we need to raise questions and concerns about government actions that impact on our lives, as well as the lives of our family, friends and others in our community.

Once again, Ed Smith is right.

This NPCA fight, or whatever one wishes to call it, is not about him. It is about the democratic rights of all of us as Canadian citizens to hold our governments accountable to we, the people.

What the NPCA and its political allies on the Niagara regional council are trying to do to Ed Smith should both anger and inspire all of us to join this fight and to use it as an opportunity to stand up for our rights as citizens.

To learn more about the defamation suit filed against Montague Township resident Donald Page and Mr. Justice Kenneth Pedlar’s ruling in that case, click onhttp://www.cyberlibel.com/?p=1089 .

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

A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.

For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater binational Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .

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

9 responses to “Ed Smith – Niagara At Large’s Person of the Year for 2016

  1. Well said Doug – Ed Smith is the spokesperson for all of us and deserves recognition.

    Ed is absolutely correct. Proper perspective is needed with respect to the recent focus at local Council level, and in the media, regarding the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and the increasing demand for a full, forensic audit. The Niagara Region manages taxpayers’ dollars. We, taxpayers, elect Regional Councillors.

    Additionally, Mayors, elected to Municipal Councils, sit as members of Regional Council. We trust those Councillors to administer our affairs. Members of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority are not directly elected. They are a Board appointed by Regional Council. If we have a complaint about that Board we have every right to take that complaint to those we did elect…our Regional Council. No single person on the NPCA board was selected, chosen, by us the taxpayers. Not one of us said that we entrusted any of those individuals with oversight for conservation or preservation of our most vulnerable resource – the environment.

    They must be made accountable and respond to the people – not each other. I endorse the recommendation that Ed Smith be named Person of the Year for his stand at potential personal cost, against bullies who were not granted such authority or power.


  2. Sheila Krekorian

    A great choice Doug.


  3. We need more people like Ed Smith


  4. It angers me when people appointed as Guardians of our Environmentally Sensitive areas of the Niagara Region THINK their appointment gives them the “RIGHT” to completely distort the original mission of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and come forward with this sham Bio Diversity “Offsetting” – a plan that seems to have been authored in collusion with the “WANTS” of the Regional Developers.
    The NPCA was not meant as a servant of developers but as a protector of the Environmental Areas that enhances the Beauty and mystic of The Niagara Region. Too much is already being paved over JUST to enhance the Bank Accounts of Certain elements without concern for quality of life.


  5. Ed is one of the heroes! Standing for truth and justice against those who have power and wield it for their purposes is courageous. I for one am willing to donate to the cause. Let’s raise money among Niagara At Large readership to help Ed. I will give $100 right now. Just let me know where to send it. Also, I will remember next election whomever is part of the action against Ed. Our votes can put them out of office!
    Thanks Ed for taking a stand at a time when too many don’t want to get involved. Think about it only half of all eligible voters in the U.S. voted in the last Presidential election. How different the outcome could have been if the remaining 50% voted, too.
    We need more Ed Smith’s in our world.


  6. Ed Smith, I fully endorse Doug Draper’s selection for Niagara at Large Person of the Year, 2016.

    For every battle you have bravely won that made it so effortless for me and others to stand up and yell “Keep up the good fight!” I cannot tell you how many times I feared for you, such were the magnitude of the unconscionable and very public threats and criticisms foisted upon you.

    There was little doubt in my mind I would have caved under that pressure (I am not even remotely proud to admit that) yet you grew stronger in resolve, more crystal clear in your message. You are made of strengths and convictions I can only salute with a heart full to overflowing and tears in my eyes.

    You have set the bar extremely high for all of us but most importantly you are well on your way to affecting changes to our political structures that will have ripple effects for decades to come. You have started a revolution and the residents of the Niagara region will one day be beneficiaries in terms of political accountability and transparency, landowners’ rights, fiscal responsibility, environmental stewardship, and the list goes on and on.

    Ed Smith, thank you.


  7. Gail Benjafield

    I concur wholeheartedly with all of the above comments.
    I know Ed Smith personally. He is a quiet, gentle man, a True Gentleman. His sincere, quiet work on conserving a beautiful part of St. Catharines is unknown to many Niagarans, outside of this city, but those of us who have been at meetings with him know well this is not about Ed at all, but about our Niagara community at large.
    Thank you Niagara At Large, and Ed Smith for all that you do..


  8. Desmond Sequeira

    Without a doubt, Ed Smith is the perfect choice for Niagara at Large, Niagara Region’s and Democracy’s PERSON OF THE YEAR. The NPCA should be ashamed of its callous, intimidating tactics, immediately withdraw its futile lawsuit and issue an unequivocal apology to Ed Smith and to all citizens in Niagara and Canada.


  9. Ed Smith is the poster boy for a democratic society which is constantly on attack by our elected elites who no longer serve the people who elected them as they are too busy serving themselves. I too will donate to his defense fund. Please advise where to send it. Bruce Timms should put his money where his mouth is and support Ed now or forever be ashamed of himself!


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