Ontario Minister McGarry must act on workplace harassment allegations at NPCA

Just last year,  Kathryn McGarry stood  in the Ontario legislature and expressed zero tolerance for harassment in any workplace in the province

A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted September 8th, 2017 on Niagara At Large

When are Ontario Natural Resources Minister Kathryn McGarry ad the Kathleen Wynne government finally going to act on mounting concerns raised about the way the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority does business with millions of dollars of our money?

The release this past September 5th of a report about alleged cases of workplace harassment, including alleged “witnessed (cases) of offensive behaviours such as undesired sexual attention, threats of violence, bullying and discrimination, against employees at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority has more than a few citizens across this region, along with this one, asking the same question.

The question is this

When in God’s name is the Ontario government and the province’s Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry finally going to use whatever powers they have under the Ontario Conservation Act they seem to be so proud of updating to address these disturbing allegations and all of the other concerns and questions that have been raised over the past two years by everyday citizens, by local municipalities, by area MPPs and more recently, through this September 5th report by the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union about the way the NPCA does business with millions of dollars of our tax money?

The release of this OPSEU report on alleged cases of workplace harassment and the mental health toll it is taking on NPCA staff also has more than a few citizens across this Niagara region, including this one, recalling something that Kathryn McGarry said in the Ontario legislature on April 21st, 2016 while she was still serving the Liberal government of Premier Kathleen Wynne as a parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Transportation.
On that date, tabled a private member’s bill that had to do with matters of workplace harassment and then said this –

“There is no place, anytime, anywhere, for sexual harassment or misogyny. It’s sad that, in 2016, issues of sexual harassment in the workplace are still prevalent. It’s incumbent upon all of us to stand up and simply say it’s never okay.”

Picket signs like this have become routine outside meetings of Niagara Peninsula Conservation’s board. This one protests lawsuit NPCA has launched against one of its Niagara citizen critics.

Well, Minister McGarry, here we are, less than a year and a half after you stood in the Ontario legislature and made that statement, and you and your government are faced with a report from one of the province’s largest public sector unions on this very same matter.

Madame Minister, it is a report that  cites specific percentages of cases of workplace harassment – cases of harassment and mental health impacts compiled with the assistance of  the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW), a multidisciplinary health clinic funded by Ontario’s Ministry of Labour – that are allegedly occurring in one of the  36 Conservation Authorities across this province that fall under your Ministry’s jurisdiction and that of the Conservation Act you have recently expressed so much pride in updating.

So what are you going to do now Minister McGarry?

The ball, Madame Minister, is now in your court and countless thousands of us across this region of the province are waiting. And we are watching!

Are you going to take NPCA CAO Mark Brickell’s word for it that OPSEU’s report is not reflective of the “positive and high-performing workplace” he works at everyday – suggesting that employees participating in the health clinic’s survey (and according to the union report, more than 85 per cent of the employees did) were not telling the truth?

Are you going to continue dishing out the same response you have to any individual or group, including municipal councils across Niagara that you have in the past that the changes your government is making to the Ontario Conservation Act, should address their concerns – because few of us buy that line any more.

One of many public demonstrations fueled by concerns and questions over the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority does business with millions of our municipal tax dollars – this one last year in front of the NPCA offices in Welland.

Or in the case of this latest disturbing report about multiple alleged instances of workplace harassment and mental health impacts suffered by employees in a public body operating under the umbrella of your ministry and government, are you going to stay true to the words you spoke in the Ontario legislature on April 21st, 2016 and “stand up” to those who have anything to do with this kind of conduct.

Any one of you out there – and let’s hope there are many of you out there – who wish to contact Ontario Minister of Natural Resources Kathryn McGarry and her staff directly and ask what she is going to do in response to the allegations of workplace harassment in this OPSEU report can do so by addressing her through the following email address – kmcgarry.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org .

You may want to send a copy of your message to Minister McGarry to St. Catharines Liberal MPP Jim Bradley by emailing him atjbradley.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org >  

Also consider looking up the email addresses and shooting off a copy of your message to McGarry to other MPPs in the region. Certainly include any municipal councilors you wish.

To read the Ontario Public Sector Employee Union’s September 5th report on conditions in the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority workplace, click onhttps://opseu.org/news/opseu-speaks-out-about-npcas-unhealthy-workplace .

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For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater bi-national 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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