By Doug Draper
Posted January 12, 2017 on Niagara At Large
It has been a threat that the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority has held over the head of St. Catharines/Niagara resident Ed Smith since last fall.
Now the NPCA and its former CAO and recently hired CAO for Niagara’s regional government, Carmen D’Angelo,. have followed trough on their threat to sue Smith – a retired Canadian Armed Forces officer and a community leader in calling for a full forensic audit and investigation of the NPCA’s operations – with a defamation suit totallying $200,000.
The move by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and its former CAO is virtually unprecedented in Niagara. It represents the first time in this region of Ontario and Canada that a body funded with public taxdollars, is suing a private citizen who has been pressing it for more accountability and transparency when it comes to growing citizen concerns that have been raised about its hiring and firing practices, its land dealings, how and who it awards contacts to, and other matters.
In a statement circulated to the media at large this January 12th, Smith has this to –
“I was served notice by NPCA legal counsel on November 14th 2016. The letter of notice included a list of demands for my compliance; failure to comply could result in further legal action.
In that letter the demands made by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA), a government agency, can be paraphrased in part as:
- you will deliver a full and unqualified written apology for distributing the report,
- you will deliver a written Undertaking confirming that you will not distribute the document to any other persons and that you will not make similar statements about the NPCA in the future, and
- you will provide the identity of the author(s) of the document.
These were demands made on behalf of a Board comprised of 11 of our Regional Councillors on a citizen of Canada.
I did not agree to the three demands.”
Smith’s statement goes on to conclude –
“On the 22nd of December 2016 the NPCA (our government) along with with Carmen D’Angelo, the now-Chair of the Niagara Region, launched a civil action against me seeking $200,000 for defamation ($100,000 each).
It is my intent to defend myself against this action to the fullest extent. I have said it before and I will say it now, this is Governance run amok. That any government in Canada can sue a citizen for defamation, or even believes that it should, speaks of arrogance and a complete lack of understanding of the true principles of our democracy.
The NPCA is using taxpayer funding to sue a citizen.
I remain steadfast in my pursuit for transparency, accountability and good governance at the NPCA and I will not be intimidated by lawsuits. Let the leadership of the NPCA (our elected Regional Councillors) be held accountable.
Bruce Timms (NPCA’s chair and a St. Catharines regional councillor) claims the NPCA is a model of transparency and accountability. The upcoming court case will certainly cast some light on that.”
This past November, Niagara At Large reported that Welland Riding (provincial) MPP Cindy Forster piublicly joined Smith in calling on the Ontario government to launch a full audit and inviestigation of the NPCA’s operations.
Those calls were followed by similar ones made by the cities of St. Catharines, Port Colborne, Welland, Thorold and Hamilton and the towns of Pelham and Niagara-on-the-Lake – an unprecedented show of non-confidence in a public body by municipal councils representing a major of the people in this region and neighouring Hamilton
So far, Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources, Kathryn McGarry, has said no to the province initiating an audit and investigation – passing the buck to municipal authorities even though the NPCA and its sister agencies across the province are creatures of the Ontario Conservation Act.
Niagara At Large will have far more to say about all of this in news and commentary posted here in the hours and days ahead.
Please stay tuned.
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