Please Do Your Part and Urge ALL St. Catharines City Councillors to Support It!
A Commentary and a Call-Out from Doug Draper, reporter/publisher, Niagara At Large
Posted March 20th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – Aside from any dim light that comes on in Ontario Minister of Natural Resources Kathryn McGarry’s office that finally sees her doing the right thing, a motion being tabled for approval at this Monday (March 20th) night’s St. Catharines council meeting by City Councillor Carlos Garcia may be the last chance of getting a thorough forensic/value-for dollars audit of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s operations without having ANY NPCA fingerprints on how that audit is scoped, performed and made available to the public.
Garcia’s motion, if it is approved this March 20th by St. Catharines council and subsequently by other councils across the Niagara and Hamilton regions, may be the very last chance to count on a truly independent audit to answer a growing book of questions and concerns about how the NPCA spends millions of dollars of our tax money, before other options are pursued – like using the powers available under Ontario legislation to dissolve the entire board and upper management of the NPCA , and start all over with a new group of people guiding the work of this important conservation and environmental protection body.
Councillor Garcia’s motion makes the following important recommendation, and one that should have been followed by NPCA’s board members and managers weeks ago when they were approached by an offer by Ontario Auditor General Bonny Sysk to perform the audit a majority of the region’s municipal councils, MPPs in the region and growing numbers of citizens have been demanding for months now.
The motion recommendation reads as follows; “Be it resolved, that Council urges the NPCA board to do everything required in order to ensure they accept the Auditor General’s offer to perform an independent, third party operational review/audit, as approved by the board on January 18, 2017, at no direct cost to property taxpayers in St. Catharines and the other NPCA-funding municipalities; and
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NPCA, all Niagara Municipalities and MPPs, the City of Hamilton and Haldimand County, the Premier, the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, the Auditor General and the Ombudsman be notified. FORTHWITH.”
I am now including, for your thoughtful consideration, the full text of the words in Councillor Garcia’s motion leading up to the recommendation above because they are helpful to understanding the seriousness at what is at stake for the public in this matter.
Here they are –
“WHEREAS with an annual contribution of approximately $1.7 million, the residents of the City of St. Catharines are the largest Niagara Region contributors of public funds to the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s funding; and
WHEREAS at its January 18, 2017 meeting, the Board of the NPCA responded to requests by this Council, the majority of Niagara municipalities, the City of Hamilton and all Niagara MPPs, and voted unanimously to “immediately initiate an independent and thorough third party operational review and performance assessment of NPCA operations from 2011 through 2016”; and
WHEREAS the Province’s Auditor General, Ms. Bonnie Lysyk has recently offered to perform the independent, third party operational review/audit at her office’s expense but the NPCA has not accepted her offer; and
WHEREAS on March 8, 2017, the NPCA Board held a special meeting and approved a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the operational review/audit that the mover of their January 18 motion strongly argued “watered down” and did not “follow closely the intent” of his motion for an independent, third party approach;
THEREFORE, be it resolved, that Council urges the NPCA board to do everything required in order to ensure they accept the Auditor General’s offer to perform an independent, third party operational review/audit, as approved by the board on January 18, 2017, at no direct cost to property taxpayers in St. Catharines and the other NPCA-funding municipalities; and
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NPCA, all Niagara Municipalities and MPPs, the City of Hamilton and Haldimand County, the Premier, the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, the Auditor General and the Ombudsman be notified. FORTHWITH”
I could go on and talk about other measures that need to be taken to address what is a growing crisis of confidence swirling around the current board and its upper managers of the NPCA, but I will save that for later.
Right now, in the few hours left before today’s – Monday, March 2oth, 2-17 – city council meeting gets underway at 6:30 p.m., a council meeting that you may want to attend with other concerned citizens, or watch live on Cogeco Cable 10 or on a Livestream feed on your computer, here is what I am urging as many of you as possible to do –
If you are a citizen of St. Catharines, and even if you are not, but are someone who pays taxes – some of which go to the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority – call or email as many St. Catharines city councillors as you can today and urge them to vote “Yes” for Carlos Garcia’s motion.
Here is a link to the names and contact information for St. Catharines’ mayor and all members of council.
Please click on it as soon as you can, and get to work urging councillors to do the right thing by taxpayers and by all those who treasure and want protected what is left of our natural heritage across this region- https://www.stcatharines.ca/en/governin/MayorCouncil.asp .
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