Pelham Council Passes Motion Calling For Changes In Make Up of NPCA Board

–         Council Wants ‘Qualified and Intendent Citizens’ with ‘Conservation Expertise’ on Board

A News Commentary by Doug Draper

Posted February 8th, 2017 on Niagara At Large

Niagara, Ontario – Well hallelujah! Some of our municipal politicians are listening.

Pelham Mayor David Augustyn and his council want non-politicians with expertise in environmental and conservation fields sitting on the NPCA board.

Pelham Mayor David Augustyn and his council want non-politicians with expertise in environmental and conservation fields sitting on the NPCA board.

Growing numbers of residents across the Niagara region have been arguing for at least a year now that all or most of the 15 individuals sitting on the board of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority should not be elected politicians appointed by other elected politicians but citizens from across the region who have some expertise in the environmental and conservation field.

Now, for the first time in as far back as this long-time environmental reporter can remember, the council of a local municipality in Niagara is taking the idea that the board should be made up of citizens with expertise in conservation matters seriously enough to do something about it.

This past Monday, February 6th, Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn and his town council passed a motion unanimously that Niagara’s 12 local municipalities be permitted to publically advertise for qualified citizens to come forward and submit their names for appointment to the board – a system that, if approved by Niagara’s regional council which does the appointing now, would come into effect following the 2018 municipal elections or whenever a vacancy on the board occurs.

The Pelham motion follows in the wake of the council from that municipality and several other municipal councils across the watershed area the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority has jurisdiction, including St. Catharines, Welland, Port Colborne, Niagara-n-the-Lake, Thorold and the City of Hamilton, calling on parties up to and including Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Kathryn McGarry, to launch a full investigation and forensic or value-for-money audit of the NPCA’s operations.

It also follows in the wake of Welland Riding MPP Cindy Forster also calling on the province to commence a full investigation and audit due to growing public questions and concerns over the NPCA’s hiring and firing practices, its awarding of contracts, land dealings and other matters.

Brian Baty, a Niagara regional councillor for Pelham, is one of 11 politicians on Niagara's regional council sitting on the 15-member NPCA board.

Brian Baty, a Niagara regional councillor for Pelham, is one of 11 politicians on Niagara’s regional council sitting on the 15-member NPCA board.

The Pelham motion, passed this February 6th, reads as follows

WHEREAS the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) is a Provincial agency operating in the Region of Niagara, Haldimand County and the City of Hamilton, funded largely by the Region of Niagara; and

WHEREAS the Town of Pelham is a contributor of public funds to the Region of Niagara, and, therefore, a contributor to the NPCA’s funding; and

WHEREAS the people of the Town of Pelham, together with all municipalities represented on the NPCA deserve openness and accountability relating to how their tax dollars are being spent, how effectively our natural environment is being protected, and how representatives to the NPCA Board are appointed; and

WHEREAS currently, eleven of the thirteen Members of the NPCA Board are municipal politicians who may not have the necessary conservation and environmental expertise suited to effectively serve on this Board; and

WHEREAS for the City of Hamilton, it has been the practice of their city council to appoint citizen representatives to the NPCA Board, thus highlighting the importance of the ability to provide appropriate knowledge, experience and expertise to the Board and establishing a precedent to support citizen appointment to the NPCA; and

WHEREAS the past practice of the Niagara Regional Council has been to offer a single appointment from each of the twelve local municipalities by: firstly, offering appointment to the Regional Councillor(s) or Mayor of the local municipality; and, secondly by a process that defaults to the local municipal council; and then finally, to citizen representation; and

WHEREAS the Council for the Town of Pelham supports a formal appointment protocol that allows the local municipalities to seek applications for appointment to the NPCA and that a recommendation for appointment then be subsequently provided to the Region by the local municipalities; 

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Council for the Town of Pelham respectfully requests that the Council of the Regional Municipality of Niagara amend the process for appointments to the NPCA to permit local municipalities to publicly advertise and make recommendations for appointment of a qualified and independent citizen to represent their respective municipalities, to take effect following the 2018 municipal election, or immediately should a vacancy on the NPCA Board of Directors occur; and

THAT a copy of this Resolution be forwarded to: Premier Kathleen Wynne; Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Kathryn McGarry; the Auditor General of Ontario; the NPCA Board of Directors; Niagara MPPs for information;  and 

THAT a copy of this Resolution be also forwarded to the City of Hamilton, Haldimand County and Niagara Local Area Municipalities for endorsement and support.

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority's board holding a meeting this ;past January. Photo by Doug Draper

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s board holding a meeting this ;past January. Photo by Doug Draper

Right now ,11 of the 15 members of the NPCA board are Niagara regional councillors or mayors of municipalities in Niagara. They include Brian Baty, a regional councillor for Pelham, Bruce Timms, a regional councillor for St. Catharines, Jim Diodati, the Mayor of Niagara Falls, Sandy Annunziati, a regional councillor for Fort Erie, John Maloney, the Mayor of Port Colborne, April Jeffs, the Mayor of Wainfleet, Douglas Joyner, the Mayor of West Lincoln, Patrick Darte, the Lord Mayor of Niagara-n-the-Lake, Frank Campion, the Mayor of Welland, and Bill Hodgson, a regional councillor for Lincoln – all of them appointed at the regional government level.

Residents in Niagara, who have already found out about Pelham’s motion to significantly change how NPCA board members are appointed and who sits on the board, are applauding the motion, and for good reason, if it can truly help get some of the politics out of the NPCA and get the NPCA back to focusing, first and foremost, on an environmental and watershed protection mission.

One question though. When the Pelham motion goes to Niagara regional council for approval, will those regional councillors and mayors who are on the council and who also now sit on the NPCA board, declare a conflict of interest and not participate in a discussion of or vote on the motion?

It is a question Niagara residents whose tax dollars fund the NPCA should be concerned about, because we certainly did not see those same members of regional council/board members declare a conflict of interest when, a year ago this coming spring, they participated in a vote on whether or not the NPCA should be subjected to a forensic audit.

And with so many on regional council sitting on the NPCA board, it is no big surprise that a call for an audit at the regional government level was voted down.

If you would like the names and contact information for those sitting on the NPCA board, click onhttps://npca.ca/npca-board .

To watch Pelham Council vote on the NPCA motion, click on the following and slide the minute bar at the bottom of the screen to 156 minutes into the meeting where the discussion on the motion begins –

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

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3 responses to “Pelham Council Passes Motion Calling For Changes In Make Up of NPCA Board

  1. Bravo Pelham council. To misquote Bernie Sanders. “Leaders think of the next generation” You lead the way for Niagara, Pelham.

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  2. Wow! An actual progressive Politician in Niagara? Who would have thought? Dave is one of the few that seems to get it. He seems genuinely interested in, and in tune with rising public opinion, and an incontrovertible consensus of concern for what a Conservation Authority’s primary responsibilities should be, as opposed to what it has become.

    So I’d like to propose a friendly amendment.

    WHEREAS the NPCA is a Conservation Authority, whose board is comprised mostly of Politicians with seriously conflicting agendas, and with limited, to no Environmental experience, background, or qualifications, and with no other legitimate mandate beyond acting exclusively in the best interests of Conservation, and preservation of our Environmental resources, that the NPCA therefore publicly commit to respecting the rules of the Conservation Act, respecting and embracing their own mandate, and renewing their commitment to the promotion of Conservation, and the preservation of our threatened natural Environment in Niagara. Further, to ensure that the new Chair, and members of the NPCA clearly understand, respect, and act in strict accordance with, their primary mandate, while doing everything in their power to preserve, restore, and promote protection of our natural heritage, for future generations.

    This would go a long way to helping the NPCA restore public confidence, and mitigating the negative impact of a tarnished, distorted, and rapidly deteriorating reputation. Right now, there is no confidence. Hence, Audit.

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  3. When I read this piece of crap written by the Chair person of the Regional Council I wonder how many Representatives of the people Authorized his Letter to the Premier of Ontario and her Minister of Natural Resources. ……AND …..,….. if they did …………why are their names NOT on the script…….AND ……if they DID NOT ……. Does this Chair person have the right to take it upon himself the sole authority to speak for the Total Regional Council and Region Stake holders, the Tax Paying Citizens?????? If so why bother having any Elected Mayors and Councilors sit on Regional Council?????….I am a taxpayer and the CHAIR PERSON’S views are NOT MINE and never will be……..
    I CAN’T WAIT FOR THE NEXT REGIONAL ELECTION WHERE THE REGIONAL CHAIR WILL BE “ELECTED” BY THE TAXPAYERS…….. NOT SOON ENOUGH.

    I UNDERSTAND from THIS CHAIRS RECENT DIALOGUE IN THE LOCAL MEDIA HE IS AGAINST THE TAXPAYERS RIGHT TO ELECT THE “REGIONAL CHAIR”???????

    Like

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