“I have received several calls over the past few months from Cindy’s constituents who are growing tired of her obsession with the NPCA.” – from a recent email from St. Catharines regional councillor Andy Petrowski to Mike Haines, an executive assistant in Welland Riding MPP Cindy Forster’s constituency office.
A News Commentary by Niagara At Large publisher Doug Draper
Posted April 25th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
We seem to have a growing trend of regional councillors in Niagara taking a keener and keener interest in the business of our local municipalities and members of provincial parliament in this Niagara region.
And isn’t that a good thing?
After all, what better person could we have scrutinizing the conduct of our local municipal councils and those we elect to represent us in the Ontario legislature than a member of Niagara regional council? Right?
Now here are just two of the more recent examples of what I am talking about here.
Late this past March, those of us who still dare to peak in on meetings of Niagara Region’s council were offered the spectacle of Port Colborne regional councillor David Barrick, who also serves as chair of the regional government’s budget and corporate services committees aside from his full-time administrative job at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, tabled a motion calling for a closer examination of the Town of Pelham’s financial well-being given that it might (according to wording in his motion) deal a serious blow to the credit rating for the entire region.
This reporter attended a town hall meeting arranged by Pelham’s municipal council this April 24th to address the concerns raised in Barrick’s motion, but so far – based on the questions and concerns addressed at that meeting, at least –Pelham’s finances don’t appear to have the makings of a budget bomb that could send shrapnel flying all over the peninsula. Not even close.
But maybe something got missed at the town hall meeting. The town’s numbers are expected to get a laser eyes examination at the next meeting of the regional government’s audit committee this June and maybe the hair triggers for a fiscal time bomb will be uncovered there.
After all (and yes I know I am saying ‘after all’ again), this wasn’t just any Niagara regional councillor who tabled that motion, raising red flags about Pelham’s finances this past March. This is a councillor who chairs two key committees that make decisions over the spending of hundreds of millions of our municipal tax dollars each year.
Al Caslin, who is the chair of and for the whole works at Niagara Region, certainly wouldn’t have someone that could be so wrong about the books of a smaller municipality like Pelham in a role responsible for steering the spending of such huge amounts of our tax money at the regional level, would he?
We may have to wait until this June to get a final answer to that- STAY TUNED to future posts on Niagara At Large on that one – and we don’t have any more time to consider an answer here because right now we have to get back to some of the business that St. Catharines regional councillor Andy Petrowski has been up to lately.
This past April 20th, Petrowksi sent Mike Haines, a senior assistant for Welland Riding MPP Cindy Forster in her local constituency office, an email suggesting that at least a few of Forster’s constituents have informed him of their concerned that Forster is too obsessed with getting to the bottom of what is going on at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, and is not spending enough time attending to other issues in her riding – a riding he apparently doesn’t live in, by the way.
But whether Petrowski lives in or has any other personal interests in the Welland Riding or not, there can certainly be no doubt that Forster has been playing a lead role in the call by growing numbers of MPPs in the Niagara and Hamilton areas, along with councillors for cities and towns across the region, and growing numbers of everyday citizens in calling for a thorough probe of the NPCA’s books and the way it goes about hiring and firing staff, awarding contracts to private sector parties and conducting other practices that involve spending millions of our tax dollars.
In that context, Petrowski sent the following email to Forster’s assistant, Mike Haines, this April 20th –
“Mike, I have received several calls over the past few months from Cindy’s constituents who are growing tired of her obsession with the NPCA. They are asking me if this Provincial agency is just a convenient diversion tactic for her. One went as far as calling it out as the ‘Politics of Distraction’. More importantly, another asked me to forward the following message to her urging me to encourage their MPP to focus on real problems, you know like jobs, the new hospital, affordable housing, etc., not political nonsense. So here is that message on her behalf, please pass along my regards also.”
In response to this email, Forster sent the following one back to Petrowski –
“Andy, I will continue to represent my constituents and those across the region that do not feel represented on the issues of the NPCA, the Region and Municipal issues they are concerned about, the proposed closures of our hospitals and schools, their Hydro rates and anything else they want me to voice at any and every level of government. That is why we are elected, to be the voice for those who are the most vulnerable and feel they are not being heard. so while you have had a few calls or emails. I have had hundreds over the past couple of years on this and many other issues. Best regards, Cindy.”
I think that was a pretty tame email Forster sent to Petrowski considering, but then maybe she thought that Andy, in his own way, had her best interests at heart and was only trying to help her.
But then, maybe not.
Whatever the case, I tried to ask Petrowski about the emails and the response he received from Forster at the end of the town hall meeting in Pelham this April 24th – you see, he cared enough to attend to that issue too, even when Barrick, who was invited by the town to attend the meeting, did not show up – and he turned away.
I put my hand on his shoulder in an effort to get his attention as he was rushing away, at which point he said two things – “don’t touch me” and “no comment.”
Perhaps it was inconsiderate of me to try to get a few minutes with someone who has been busy passing along the concerns of an MPP’s constituents.
Between that and all of the extra effort Barrick put in to raising red flags about the Town of Pelham’s finances, we could build a pretty good case for the day when we make being a regional concillor a full-time job, couldn’t we?
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