Niagara At Large Doesn’t Do ‘Grip And Grin Photo Opportunities – Especially Where There Is “No Media Interview Availability – When There Are Serious Issues In This Region We Need You And Your Government To Be Addressed
A Commentary by Niagara At Large publisher Doug Draper
Posted January 12th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
Just an hour or so before nightfall this January 12th, what newsrooms are left across the greater Niagara region where emailed the following advisory from communication officers for Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Brock University in St. Catharines, Niagara –
“Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne will visit Brock University Friday, Jan. 13,” the advisory said. “The Premier’s visit and tour will begin at 9:15 a.m. at Inniskillin Hall, home to Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute.
“Media interested in attending the tour are asked to arrive no later than 9:15 a.m. A photo opportunity will take place at 10 a.m. on the third floor of the Brock University Students’ Union building.
There will be no media interview availability.”
Thanks for the photo opportunity Madam Premier, but no thanks!
I’m sure there will be members of the mainstream media there, taking photos they can plug into space on their pages or screens between the advertising, and that any area members of your party accompanying you can use in their next riding or election brochures.
But you see Madam Premier, there are serious questions in this region that members of the media should be asking you like why (just as a few examples) you aren’t doing more to push politicians in Niagara to establish the same kind of affordable and convenient to use regional transit system that regions like Waterloo have had for more than a decade now, or why you won’t say yes to a call by three MPPs in this region, half of Niagara’s municipalities and the City of St. Catharines – not to mention countless numbers of citizens – to launch a thorough forensic, value-for-money audit and investigation of a Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority so many people in the region have lost trust and confidence in?
Madam Premier, I know from numerous reports in the Globe, National and other newspapers that you are now dogged by some of the lowest popularity ratings for any premier in the history of Canadian polling.
Well Madam Premier, it certainly doesn’t help your case in this region of the province when, just a few weeks ago, your Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Kathryn McGarry, answered the call for an audit and an investigation of the NPCA with a letter to area municipal council that if they have concerns with the Conservation Authority, they should go to the individuals that local and regional governments have appointed to the board of the NPCA.
But what your Natural Resources Minister doesn’t know or care to understand is that the majority of the board members are Niagara regional councillors, and that most of them have been complicit – either actively or through their silence or ignorance of what is going on – in the non-disclosure of information about hiring and firing practices, about the awarding of contracts, and about property and other matters. She also doesn’t seem to know or care that at least one citizen who has attempted to get answers to questions and concerns raised by many other Niagara citizens has recently had a lawsuit slapped against him by this body.
McGarry’s response, to date, has been both a slap in the face and an insult to the intelligence of people in this region who have a democratic right to expect accountability and good service from a body that spends millions of their tax dollars each year.
So I won’t be paying the ridiculously high campus parking fees to attend a photo op at Brock University where there is no invitation to ask you some questions on matters of concern to the people of this region Madam Premier.
But there is one photo opportunity that you were part of that often comes to mind these days.
It’s the one of you in China in the fall of 2015 with Mayor Jim Diodati and representatives of the China-founded corporation GR (CAN) Investment Group during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for urban development on lands in the southwest end of Niagara Falls, hosting hundreds of acres of woodland, wetland and savannah that indigenous peoples and many others in this region are fighting to preserve.
A newsletter, put together by the GR corporation with the photo, posted immediately below, showing you sitting next to Mayor Diodati with something looking like a pen in your hand and what also looks like the same document the others are signing on the table in front of you, reads in part; that a Memorandum of Understanding, s “witnessed by Premier Wynne and her delegation, was signed between the City of Niagara Falls, GR (CAN) Investment Group” and at least one other party. During the heartfelt speeches given by the Premier of Ontario, Ms. Wynne and the Mayor of the City of Niagara Falls, Mr. Diodati, the message of welcoming Chinese entrepreneurs to invest in Canada and more particularly in Ontario was conveyed.”
Madam Premier, we still don’t really know whether you signed the Memorandum of Understanding or merely witnessed it because despite a number of requests to the City of Niagara Falls and other parties to make it part of the public record, it has so far not been disclosed.
A motion to do something called “biodiversity offsetting” (code for removing and attempting to grow comparable wetlands somewhere else) on these lands known locally as “Thundering Waters” – a motion that was put before Niagara’s regional council in the spring of 2016 with a reference to you signing the Memorandum of Understanding for the development plans for Thundering Waters. Then Niagara Falls’ mayor and others said, “No,” you didn’t add a signature of approval to it, you just witnessed others adding their signatures of approval to it.
But the public doesn’t know for sure, because we have yet to see this document.
Why hasn’t this Memorandum of Understanding been disclosed? Is there something in it members of the public may find disturbing and take issue with?
By the way, Madam Premier, it’s a little more than interesting that the government body that was pressing in early 2016 to try this biodiversity offsetting scheme on a tract of wetlands identified for protection by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources as provincially significant on the Thundering Waters lands was the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority.
Does that have anything at all to do with the reluctance of your government to audit and investigate this body or better yet, use the powers the province had to order a supervisor to come in and sweep out the current board and managers.
How much more is it going to take before some level of government takes the concerns of the people of this region to heart and take appropriate action?
So you see, Madam Premier, we have lots of questions that we, the people of this region, would like to get answers to from you and others.
Unfortunately, what we mostly seem to be getting so far is stonewalling, excuses, buck passing and a lawsuit a government body has launched against one of Niagara’s citizens that, among other things, is aimed at putting a chill on a a citizen who dares to question and demand accountability from government.
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