A Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted February 14th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
In the children’s fairy tale ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, there is a wicked queen who looks in a mirror and asks; “Who is the fairest in the land,” expecting to hear the mirror answer back, each and every day, that the fairest one is her.
When, one day, the mirror answered that that there was a fairer one than her by the name of Snow White, the queen transformed herself into an old farm woman who knocked on Snow White’s door with a basket of apples she had treated with poison.
Snow White was at first reluctant to try one of the apples, as red and juicy as they looked. But when the nasty queen-turned-farm-woman bit into a safe half of one, Snow White tried a bite herself, then fell to the ground where she was later found by her dwarf friends who took her for dead.
I could not help but think of the tale about Snow White taking a bite of the poison apple after reading an announcement Sandy Annunziata, a regional councillor for the Niagara municipality of Fort Erie and chair of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s board of directors, had posted this February 13th on the NPCA’s website.
Annunziata’s announcement, reads the posting on the website, had to do with “the official position of the (NPCA) organization regarding the development of Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSW).”
Wetlands in Ontario” Annunciata’s announcement goes on to say, “are evaluated and ranked by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) to determine whether a ‘provincially significant’ designation is required. Under the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), interference and site alteration of a PSW is not permitted.”
“Let me be clear,” he goes on to say as if we, the public that the NPCA board usually tends to ignore, might not get what he’s driving at, “there are no less than 18 provincial instruments that facilitate wetland conservation in Ontario. …”
“The language is very clear and will be respected. The Provincial Policy Statement is unequivocal in its interpretation, ‘development and site alteration shall not be permitted in significant wetlands.’ On behalf of our mandate to further conservation, restoration, development, and management of the watershed, we will not compromise our efforts to comply with current policies and legislation.”
“We will continue to listen to our partners, manage their expectations, and do so exclusively within the language of the various provincial policies we adhere to.”
“The NPCA reviews and provides comment on planning applications based on the Region of Niagara’s Official Plan and NPCA regulations as it relates to natural features. The intent is to not only provide regulation of natural features but to protect people and their property from the effects of flooding and erosion while maintaining and improving water quality.”
“The MNRF have been very clear on this issue,” added Annunziata. “All checks and balances will be applied in every development application the NPCA receives. The legislation does not allow for exemptions concerning PSWs”.
Gee, this almost makes it sound like the NPCA – the body that just last year was so hell-bent on wanting to experiment with something called “biodiversity offsetting” (code for destroying wetlands in one place and trying to grow something like them somewhere else) on more than a dozen acres of what the Ministry of Natural Resources has designated as “provincially significant wetlands” in a green area known as Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Falls – is going to start showing these provincial wetland designations at little more respect.
But then how does Annunziata’s announcement jive with a recently statement he released after he was elected board this past January?
That statement, dated January 23rd, 2017, reads in part; , ‘We’ve (meaning the NPCA’s board of directors) gone in a new direction to balance conservation with the economy.’
” I believe it is irresponsible for a member of the provincial legislature (a reference to Welland Riding MPP Cindy Forster who, along with several local municipalities, has called for a forensic audit and thorough investigation of the NPCA’s operations due to public concerns and questions over how it spends our tax dollars) 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.”
Actually, Cindy Forster is doing her job as a duly elected constituency representative – something we could stand to see a lot more of around here.
Cindy Forster is actually listening to large numbers of citizens across Niagara who believe that the NPCA’s singular agenda should be conservation and protecting what is left of this region’s natural resources.
Once upon a time, the NPCA played its role as the only official voice we had at the regional government level for environmental protection, and it did so fairly well before it was hijacked by a gang of regional politicians who believe it should do what Chambers of Commerce and other bodies more rightfully have as their agenda to do and speak for the development industry too.
Now here we have an announcement this February 1th from NPCA chair Sandy Annunziata, talking about the with the announcement this February 13th, talking about the NPCA respecting provincial legislation that “does not allow for exemptions concerning PSWs (provincially significant wetlands.”
Some citizens in the region may be tempted to view this announcement as a possible shift back to the days when the NPCA more often took its historic environmental protection mission to heart.
But you’ll have to excuse me Mr. Annunziata if I do not bite in to that apple.
By the way, how does what Annunziata announced here become “the official position” of the NPCA?
Did members of the public miss the meeting where that position was openly discussed and voted on by the board, or doesn’t that kind of open, democratic way of doing things count for much anymore?
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