– 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.
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.
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.
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 on – https://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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