Welland Riding MPP Cindy Forster “stated that she has “heard from board members who say, ‘We’ve gone in a new direction to balance conservation with the economy.'”
“I believe it is irresponsible for a member of the provincial legislature to marginalize the voices of other stakeholders. There are carpenters and trades people employed in the home building industry, skilled workers in manufacturing whose plant can’t expand, and farmers looking to maximize yields through expanding their land use.”
“MPP Forster is choosing to ignore their concerns and appears to listen only to those with an apparent singular agenda. In effect, she seems to be pandering to one special interest group, and only one. The NPCA will not do that.” – from a statement bye NPCA’s new Chair, Sandy Annunziata
A Statement fromSandy Annunziata, Fort Erie regional councillor and new chair of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority
Released by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and posted by Niagara At Large this January 23rd, 2017
Welland, Ontario – I will always appreciate the opportunity to engage in thoughtful discussion with our partners.
We have many partners, and in my capacity as Chair of the NPCA, I will ensure their voices are heard.
The NPCA Board is composed of 15 members; six members are Mayors. I am proud of the work the Board and the insight all members bring. I am particularly proud to have Member Kaspersetz acclaimed as Vice-Chair. As a citizen appointee with a substantial background in Environmental Science, he will be a stalwart advocate for our Agricultural partners.
Advocacy is important. It is the hallmark of political action, and I respect that. There will always be a degree of advocacy for projects, initiatives, and policy interpretation on behalf of the members of the Board. After all, that is the job of elected Municipal leaders – to push forward the issues that matter most to the communities they represent.
Advocacy does not translate into bypassing provincial policy, nor does it prevent oversight agencies like the NPCA from carrying out its mandate as conferred by provincial legislation.
Advocacy will continue to be an important democratic right that all members of the NPCA use to bring issues of concern to the Board table from their respective municipalities. This allows us to engage our partners in thoughtful, respectful discussion to find common ground and solutions.
Advocacy also means that we recognize that provincial policy is not always perfect. That is why there are debates in councils and legislatures across this great country.
There are times when circumstances will occur where local municipal leaders take issue with either federal, provincial, or regional policy. Part of the reason the province conducts policy reviews is to give stakeholders and commenting agencies with recognized status the opportunity to affect positive changes within the Acts. It is municipal partners that lead this charge on behalf of the citizens they represent.
To be certain, the NPCA Board will continue to provide thoughtful responses to the province, and we will wait in anticipation what new changes, if any, will be a part of the Conservation Authorities Act. How these potential changes will impact our programs, budget, and mandate speak to our ability to adapt and evolve.
Some have called for the Board to step down and be replaced by appointees confirmed by what appears to be someone else’s idea of better representation, rather than duly elected officials. I will not discuss the merits of those proposals.
If the Province of Ontario provides specific direction through policy changes about how Boards of Conservation Authorities are populated, then we’ll certainly respect that and abide by them. Until then, we will not fall prey to ideological arguments which contradict the Act.
Furthermore, we strive to achieve balance by listening to all voices. However, at this time, one group appears to be drowning out all others. We must ensure balance, and in my capacity, I will be steadfast in that goal – to bring fairness to and for everyone.
MPP Forster stated that she has “heard from board members who say, ‘We’ve gone in a new direction to balance conservation with the economy.'” I believe it is irresponsible for a member of the provincial legislature to marginalize the voices of other stakeholders.
There are carpenters and trades people employed in the home building industry, skilled workers in manufacturing whose plant can’t expand, and farmers looking to maximize yields through expanding their land use. MPP Forster is choosing to ignore their concerns and appears to listen only to those with an apparent singular agenda.
In effect, she seems to be pandering to one special interest group, and only one. The NPCA will not do that.
I have continually expressed my desire to bring balance to our many partners. I stand by my conviction to listen to all their voices. My first act as Chair was to oversee the process that allowed MPP Forster an opportunity to speak.
I’m grateful the Board saw value in that decision. Every voice should be heard. At my very first opportunity in a very public forum, I extended my right as the Chair to work cooperatively with MPP Forster and all MPPs in the watershed.
My first piece of legislative business was to vote in favour and ratify as Chair, a vote to conduct an independent, Phase 1 operational review and performance assessment from 2011-2016.
I was disappointed that despite my efforts to enable more transparency, Ms. Forster chose to criticize that openly. For the record, in my new role as Chair, and with all my leadership instincts, I am compelled to address that.
However, I would rather rise above the divisiveness that continues to come from this particular partisan MPP’s office and reemphasize my commitment to working with all our partners. To that end, we will continue to listen, be responsive, and advocate on behalf of the residents, landowners, farmers, municipalities, conservationists, environmentalists, volunteers, home builders and every single group that endorses, questions or is affected by our policies.
We will manage those voices and expectations exclusively within the language of the Conservation Authorities Act.
“To ensure a stable and prosperous economy, the government acknowledges that wetland conservation must be balanced with the environmental, economic & social needs of Ontario communities.” – Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) [Wetland Conservation in Ontario: A Discussion Paper- July 2016 (Pg. 3, 1.0 Introduction.)]
It is clear; we have important work to do.”
– Sandy Annunziata, Regional Councilor, and NPCA Chair
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