“It’s a shame the NPCA Chair, Sandy Annunziata, could not be there to address the citizens of Niagara that he labels a “special interest group”.- Ed Smith, who is facing a lawsuit slapped on him by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and its former CAO and current CAO for Niagara’s regional government, Carmen D’Angelo
A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted March 17th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
While Niagara At Large was down with technical problems over the past several days, I received a good number of emails and phone calls from people who told me they could not go to the Ed Smith Legal Defence Fundraiser this past Sunday, March 12th due to other commitments, but were anxious to know how it went and if they could still make a contribution to it.
The answer to the first question is that the fundraiser was, by virtually all accounts, an overwhelming success.
The main banquet room of the Celtic Club in St. Catharines was filled to capacity with people from all walks of life, including municipal and provincial government representatives who, to their credit, have braved barbs from some of their political colleagues for backing Ed Smith and others in their pursuit of accountability from the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority for how its boss hogs are spending millions of dollars of our tax money.
The total donations for the fundraiser soared well above a $5,000 goal and “far exceeded our expectations,” said one the event’s organizers, Peter Gill.
And if the feedback Niagara At Large and others in the social media world are receiving is any indication, support for Ed Smith’s legal defence is continuing to build as more and more people learn about efforts by him, by other citizens, and by municipal and provincial politicians across Niagara and the neighbouring City of Hamilton to get answers out of the NPCA when it comes to its hiring and firing practices, its awarding of contracts to other parties, its land dealings and other matters of concern.
For his part in demanding some accountability from this body, Ed Smith was slapped with a $200,000 lawsuit for questions and concerns contained in a report circulated last fall to local politicians and others = some of the content of which the NPCA and its former CAO claim is defamatory.
It is a claim of definition made against a Niagara citizen and being litigated with Niagara citizens’ tax money that Ed Smith – a now retired, veteran officer in the Canadian Armed Forces and a respected community activist in St. Catharines where he lives – vows to defeat in court.
Smith says he won’t back down from a lawsuit he sees as an assault on his right as a citizen, and on the right of every citizen in a democracy, to question government when citizens feel it needs questioning.
“I think the NPCA is in for some surprises in the very near future and (the Sunday, March 12th Fundraiser’s) show of support reinforces those thoughts in me,” he added in a statement circulated later.
“The place was packed with people many who and I knew and many others who were strangers to me, all of whom I am honoured to call friends,”
As for donating to the defence case against the NPCA/D’Angelo defamation suit, certainly donations are still welcome and encouraged to ensure Ed Smith’s case receives all the support it needs.
For all those who still wish to make a donation, you can make a checque out for whatever amount – no donations are too small – to ‘The Ed Smith Defence Fund’ and mail it to the following address – In C/O Peter Gill, 259 Scott Street, Unit 7, St. Catharines, Ontario, L2N 1H9. Donations are not tax deductible but Peter Gill and the fundraising team will be pleased to return and written receipt to all donors.
For any further information on making a donation, you can send an email to – email@example.com .
Beyond making a donation to the Ed Smith Legal Defence Fund, this publisher of Niagara At Large believes there are other ways we citizens can send a message to the NPCA’s board and upper management that its recent record around matters of accountability and the way they go about conducting business is not acceptable.
We can continue to put pressure on the Ontario government, our MPPs and our municipal councillors across Niagara and across areas of Hamilton and Haldimand County where the NPCA has jurisdiction to conduct a truly independent, third-party audit of the NPCA’s operations to get to the bottom of questions and concerns that remain outstanding.
We can also lobby the Ontario government and our MPPs, in particular, to exercise the powers that the province has to appoint a supervisor as soon as possible to do what has been done with the Niagara Health System and Niagara Parks Commission over the past decade, and fire out the current upper management and boarder of director members at the NPCA, and restart this time-honoured Conservation Authority with new people, experienced in conservation and dedicated to being an uncompromising voice for protecting and preserving what is left of this region’s rich natural heritage.
We can also urge our local municipal councils to consider exercising an option under the Ontario Conservation Act to vote to dissolve this NPCA with an eye to creating a new Conservation Authority or turning the conservation areas in its custody over to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to manage as provincial parks.
Further to these steps, we can contact our provincial and federal members of parliament and district and regional offices of the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, and Environment Canada, and urge them to get out of a $200,000 a year contract they now have with the NPCA to let it work on an ongoing Remedial Action Plan (RAP) project for the Niagara River watershed.
This RAP project is part of an important binational responsibility Ontario and Canada perform under the umbrella of the Canada-U.S. Boundary Waters Treaty and the International Joint Commission, and it is one of the Great Lakes restoration initiatives I covered for decades as a former full-time environment reporter with a regional newspaper.
The NPCA’s recent move to dismiss a staff member – Jocelyn Baker – who was highly respected by environmentalists on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border and by officials in the ranks of Ontario’s Ministry of Environment and Environment Canada, is reason enough, in my view, for our federal and provincial government to find another partner or partners (i.e. – Brock University, Niagara College, area nature and conservation clubs) to continue the RAP project.
Niagara At Large will have more to post on the NPCA issue in the days and weeks ahead.
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