Planet Earth to NPCA – Niagara Needs a Conservation Authority That is a Voice for Conservation!

The late Niagara MPP and conservationist Mel Swart “would surely be rolling in his grave to learn the NPCA has officially gone Rogue.”

An Open Letter to NPCA Chair Sandy Annunziataand others unfamiliar with Ontario’s Conservation Authorities Act

From Niagara, Ontario citizen Derek Jones

Posted January 25th, 2017 on Niagara At Large

Dear Sandy,

Your January 23rd “Statement” to the community – posted on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s website – ends by quoting a “discussion paper” as if it were policy.

One of the many signs citizens held up this January during a meeting of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority's board of directors. File photo by Doug Draper

One of the many signs citizens held up this January during a meeting of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s board of directors. File photo by Doug Draper

Seriously?

As the new Chair of the NPCA, please read, understand, and appreciate
the actual current policy, the Conservation Authorities Act. The mandate
for all Conservation Authorities in Ontario, is clear and consistent.

As NPCA Chair, you should be intimately familiar with this by now. Be
careful not to misinterpret the Act, or your own mandate. Be careful not
to misrepresent or manipulate the Act, to suit or support any deviant
political agendas.

The NPCA is, by it’s very nature, a Conservation Authority, not the opposite.

Despite your worst intentions, and morally repugnant misunderstanding of the Conservation Authorities Act, the NPCA is, and always will be, a Conservation Authority. You are bound by a mandate and ruled by specific policies that do not waver between individual CAs.

Conservation Authorities Mandate, from your own website
( https://npca.ca/about )

“The legislative mandate of the Conservation Authority, as set out in
Section 20 of The Conservation Authorities Act, is to establish and
undertake programs designed to further the conservation, restoration,
development and management of natural resources. The NPCA fulfils this
mandate by implementing programs that:

  • Improve the quality of lands and waters
    – Contribute to public safety from flooding and erosion
    – Provide for the acquisition of conservation and hazard     lands
    – Enhance the quality of life in its watershed by using its lands for
    recreation, heritage preservation and conservation education

Please notice how “Economic Development” is completely absent from your
mandate. Or, if your own mandate is not familiar to you, you may choose
to read directly from the Act:

  • “The objects of an authority are to establish and undertake, in the area over which it has jurisdiction, a program designed to further the conservation, development and management of natural resources other than
    gas, oil, coal and minerals.” R.S.O. 1990, c.C.27 s.20
  • “Development” as stated in this very clear policy, explicitly refers to
    natural development and management of natural resources, in the clearcontext of Environmental “Conservation”.

To state otherwise, is illegal, in clear contravention and violation of
the Act, and an affront to what the founders of the Conservation
Authority envisioned and intended. Mel Swart would surely be rolling in
his grave to learn the NPCA has officially gone Rogue.

npca-balls-falls-signs

Stop creating artificial, expensive mandates, for which you have no
legal authority. You do not legislate Provincial policy, you only
enforce it. There is no other business that a Conservation Authority is
responsible for, beyond conserving our natural resources.

Let’s also talk about public relations, and your incorrect perception of
what we keep seeing the NPCA refer to as, the “Group”.

I’m not sure who you hired for a PR firm (at additional unnecessary cost
to the taxpayer), but this incessant tactic/strategy of casting a rather
large, intelligent and dedicated group of previously unrelated
individuals in a negative light, frankly only makes the NPCA look that
much more out of touch, and demonstrates that you do not understand how
to communicate with the public.

This is a huge deficiency for a Government agency that should be engaging the public fully, and openly. Never underestimate the voice of sound public opinion.

The “Group”, as you have been managed to refer to us as, ARE the public.
The broader diverse public, from all walks of life. The voting public,
who have only come together for the first time, to support a common
cause, born from a crisis you have created. That cause includes making
sure you understand your fundamental mandate, what it is, and what it
isn’t, and to abide by it. 

By castigating, and attempting to vilify the public, as some sort of fringe “troublesome group” means that a) we’re having an effect, and you’re listening, and b) you really have no clue, and/or have not been well advised.

npca-protest-even-closer

Note that the word “transparent” is completely and conspicuously absent
from your “statement”.

Since transparency has been widely recognized by politicians and public alike as a NPCA deficiency, worthy of fully transparent investigation and audit, the actual intent of this “statement” appears to be more a direct negative reaction to all the
positive support for the Audit. A motion which the NPCA appeared to pass with an unfounded measure of reluctance and opposition, even though every City Council in the region showed support for the same thorough independent Audit.

Are you suggesting that all these dedicated Council members should also be vilified? For they too, are part of the larger “Group” that you think you know, but apparently don’t.

This new NPCA “statement” appears to represent the opinion of the NPCA
as a whole, but I feel it may truly only represent the opinion of a few.

From the perspective of others, it shows itself to be nothing more than
an ill-advised negative reactionary response from a naive rookie chair,
to “fire a warning shot across the bow” of Environmentalists and the
many concerned stewards of our Natural resources in Niagara.

It is clear to us now, that the NPCA has strayed far beyond it’s mandate as a
Conservation Authority, and has in fact, become manipulated by conflicting political economic agendas to the point where it is unrecognizable, and we now have the opposite of a Conservation Authority. The irony does not sit well. Nor will it.npca-save-wetlands

Sadly, this offensive and irresponsible “statement” has not done the
NPCA any favours with the public, with responsible politicians, or with
the many concerned citizens who you incorrectly perceive, and refer to,
as some fringe “Group”. It has only shown your true colours, and your
ignorance.

We currently have a so-called “autonomous” Government agency that is
embracing non representative, iron-fist tactics, using “Alternative
Facts” and generating “Fake News”, in an all too obvious attempt to
promote an artificial, biased, and invalid agenda, that does not
represent the Conservation Authority, or the public interest.

How can a Conservation Authority possibly have an Economic Development Agenda? Conservation and Economic Development are mutually exclusive.

Felling a huge ancient Forest, the last of it’s kind in Niagara, is NOT
Conservation. Fast-tracking development permits is not even remotely
part of your mandate, yet it appears to be top on your priority list.
How can a Conservation Authority possibly misinterpret “Conservation”?
Simply astonishing. Is it possible that the NPCA needs a dictionary?

Here you are, from the dictionary…

Conservation: (Noun)
– An occurrence of improvement by virtue of preventing loss, injury or 
other change
– The preservation and careful management of the environment and of
natural resources
– Synonym: Preservation

Again, no mention of “Economic Development” is anywhere to be seen. Not
hard to understand, and difficult to misinterpret. If you disagree, I
invite you to a formal, friendly discussion about the basic principles
of Conservation, and positive direction you can use to improve your
perception of, and by, the public.

In case you had not noticed, public confidence in the NPCA is indeed at an all time low. You have an opportunity right now, to improve this situation, for the benefit of all. Ignoring the opportunity, and the growing concerns of the
community, leads to one inevitable conclusion.

With it’s failure to understand the basic principles and fundamental
meaning of “Conservation”, the NPCA has become a Rogue Government
Agency. Rogue Government Agencies need to be fixed, replaced, or abolished.

For everyone that agrees with this, future generations are calling you
to be active now. Remind our politicians what the role of a Conservation
Authority is.

Derek Jones

Derek Jones is a resident of Niagara, Ontario and one of growing numbers of citizens engaged in the call to municipal and provincial politicians for more accountability and democracy.

To read a recent post on Niagara At Large containing the full text of theNPCA chair statement, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2017/01/24/in-a-prepared-statement-new-npca-chair-sets-tone-for-conservation-authoritys-future/ .

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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

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2 responses to “Planet Earth to NPCA – Niagara Needs a Conservation Authority That is a Voice for Conservation!

  1. Masterful writing which covers everything. Thank you Mr Jones for a strong statement which speaks for all of us who are disgusted by the attitudes and the actions of many members of the current NPCA. Note I specifically said “many” not all because we are aware that some believe in what “conservation” means and strive to uphold that in the face of strong opposition.

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  2. Masterful is correct, Ms. Babb. It ‘appears’ clear that the new chair is the same old, same old as former chair, point-person Timms, who was completely unable to understand the Provincial actual act they are to work with. The phrase ‘in cahoots’ comes to mind. Just saying. There are decent men and women at Regional Council, but they are increasingly few and far between. NAL has noted the ones who actually read, yes read, and listen to the taxpaying public. Cindy Forster’s short clear response to Annunziata should make it out to the Standard or other local media, but who knows whether it will. .
    There was a terrific letter in today’s Standard, and probably the other Postmedia Niagara press on this topic. Look for it. Written by yet another of us who do not know each other at all, but connect through shared concerns. We are a large group, Mr. Annuziata, all around Niagara, not just environmentalists, but much more. Much more.

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