St. Catharines Council Approves Call for Ontario’s Auditor General to Probe NPCA’s Books

A Brief News Commentary by Doug Draper

Posted March 21th, 2017 on Niagara At Large

Niagara, Ontario – The council representing the larges of Niagara’s 12 local municipalities – the City of St. Catharines – has unanimously approved a motion calling on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority to accept an offer it received as early as this past January from Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysk to perform a full and independent forensic audit on its operations.

Niagara area citizens have been demonstrating for a full and independent audit of the NPCA’s operations for more than half a year. File photo by Doug Draper

The motion, tabled by St. Catharines Councillor Carlos Garcia at this Monday, March 20th’s city council meeting, 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,” continues Garcia’s motion, “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.”

Fellow St. Catharines councillor Bruce Williamson, who last December tabled and saw passed the first motion by a municipality in all of Niagara calling on the province to conduct a full audit and investigation of growing questions and concerns citizens and MPPs have raised about the NPCA’s operations, was among those speaking in favour of Garcia’s motion.

The provincial Auditor General not only offers an audit that would cost fewer, if any, municipal tax dollars to perform, but would offer an independence from NPCA control

Williamson noted that another motion for an independent, third-party audit of the NPCA – a motion that was actually tabled by Town of Lincoln regional councillor and NPCA board member Bill Hodgson and passed by the board last January while more than 80 citizens from across the region watched, was more recently “watered down” (as Hodgson noted earlier this March himself) to a point where many fear the NPCA will have too much control over how the audit is done.

The provincial Auditor General not only offers an audit that would cost fewer, if any, municipal tax dollars to perform, but would offer an independence from NPCA control and “this is precisely what we need” to ensure public confidence, Williamson said.

St. Catharines city councilor Joe Kushner tabled a first of a kind amendment in Niagara, calling for withholding municipal funding from the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority unitl agrees to submit to a full audit of its operations by the Ontario Auditor General’s Office. The amendment was approved by a majority of city councilors this March 20th.

Further to the Garcia motion, veteran St. Catharines councillor Joe Kushner introduced an amendment that was finally voted on and approved separately by a majority of councils that took the city council’s stand in favour of a full audit and investigation of the NPCA a significant step further.

That amendment asks Niagara’s regional government, which is responsible for awarding about $7 million in tax dollars from local municipalities each year to the NPCA to cover most of the costs of its operations, to withhold St. Catharines’ portion of the money until the NPCA’s board agrees to let the Ontario Auditor General do the audit.

St. Catharines’ portion of the money the NPCA gets annually adds up to about $1.7 million and voting to withhold it would “send a message” to the NPCA’s board that the city is serious in its demand that the Ontario Auditor General do the audit.

The city’s mayor, Walter Sendzik, advised Kushner that it is likely Niagara’s regional council will not support St. Catharines request to withhold its money because the regional government is required, by provincial law, to use municipal tax dollars to fund the NPCA.

However much that may be the case, Kushner was successful in persuading enough councillors to pass the amendment, stressing that approving a motion to refuse funding to the NPCA, whether the regional supports it or not, “does indicate intent (on the part of city councillors) and it does indicate the intensity of our feelings.”

Further to Kushner’s amendment, Niagara At Large will soon be posting commentary on what more can and should be done to defund the Niagara Peninsula Conservation and to dissolve its current board of directors and upper management.

Stay tuned.

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For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater binational Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .

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

 

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2 responses to “St. Catharines Council Approves Call for Ontario’s Auditor General to Probe NPCA’s Books

  1. In my opinion the whole Region of Niagara has NOW a very dark cloud swirling over head and I cannot understand why this Provincial Liberal Premier and her Government has NOT stepped forward “EARLIER” and instigated the Independent Third Party Forensic AUDIT as request by all the Municipalities Funding the NPCA.?
    There usually is a reason why the stake holders request a INDEPENDENT Forensic AUDIT and that reason is “ACCOUNTABILITY” which they feel is warranted.
    The NPCA at a meeting attended by almost a hundred Taxpayers approved a motion by a NPCA Board Member from Lincoln to initiate a Independent Forensic Audit and it was felt maybe this would happen ….BUT….It seems in my opinion that the NPCA wanted to participate in the Audit which negates the purpose.
    Apparently an official FROM the Auditor General’s Office approached the NPCA(?) and volunteered(?) to conduct the AUDIT but it seemed according to the local media the NPCA Administration or the New Board Chair basically deferred the request to “MAYBE” later date?
    Last Night as stated above the St Catharines City Council went further when they passed a motion Requesting (if NOT demanding) that this Ontario Provincial Government intervene immediately and direct the Auditor Generals Office to proceed with the AUDIT.

    In my opinion what is needed HERE “NOW” is a total and complete OPP or RCMP investigation into deals and dealings as prescribed in a motion approved by the Welland City Council. Including the Mayor

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  2. By refusing a free audit by the auditor general of Ontario they have shown their competency of conducting a cost efficient system and the entire board needs to be replaced forthwith – – the province says the region needs to fund but doesn’t say how much so tell them there budget for 2018 has been reduced by 60% of 2017 budget and that will get attention real quick – if whole Npca was shut for 2 years there would be no impact on the environment except a lot of lawyers and buroctates would be out of work –
    Don Johnson

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