I Won’t Be Buying A Ticket To It – Not This Year. I’m Not Giving This Bunch a Penny More of My Money!
A Commentary by Doug Draper, journalist/publisher, Niagara At Large
Posted October 6th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
It is bad enough that the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority – or the ‘Niagara Peninsula Development Authority’, or whatever others have taken to calling this rogue body now – is getting some of the money I pay in property taxes each year .
It fills me with even more anger to note that we have laws on the book in Ontario that forces some of my municipal and provincial tax dollars to go to this rancid excuse for a Conservation Authority, yet our provincial government won’t do one damn thing – it won’t do an audit or take any other action – to address concerns expressed by every day citizens, by area MPPs and by local municipalities representing some one million people across Niagara and Hamilton about how these dollars are being spent.
So to that extent, and thanks to an Ontario government that claims they have no say over how Conservation Authorities across the province are run, except to make damn sure some of my municipal and provincial tax dollars go to them, there is not much I can do to keep the NPCA in our region away from the money trough – except for one thing.
I can stop going to any NPCA event with a ticket charge attached to it – starting this Thanksgiving weekend, with the Conservation Authority annual festival featuring arts and crafts, etc. at Ball’s Falls.
For many years gone by, when we had a Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority I felt proud of, it was never a matter of whether other members of my family and I would go to the annual Ball’s Falls Thanksgiving Festival that year. It was just a matter of what day of the weekend we would go,
But not this year!
A ticket to get in to this event may only be $6 per adult, but I refuse to pay it or any other fee at Ball’s Falls or any other conservation area this NPCA has its clutches on if there is any chance that a penny of that money will go to the lawsuits it is slapping against private citizens or former employees who speak out about the concerns they have over the way it operates.
I don’t want a penny of my money going to contracts being tendered to private individuals or groups I know little or nothing about, or to legal fees to block against freedom of information request or to defend against wrongful dismissal suits filed by former employees, or to wages or stipends going to the NPCA’s senior managers and politically appointed board members, or to anything else that keeps these creeps in business.
I watched a press conference the NPCA’s current CAO, board chair and others held this past October 4th, on the same day Ontario Public Service Employees Union’s (OPSEU’s) president Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas and Niagara area MPPs Cindy Forster and Wayne Gates held a press conference in protest of eight more front-line environment protection staff at the body being shown the door, and it was a bloody disgusting affair.
CAO Mark Brickell and the board’s chair, Fort Erie regional councillor Sandy Annunziata, yammered on about what a great job they are all doing and about how the bad local media is only publishing bad or fake news and making a “straw man” out of them because it sells more papers or gets more hits or “clicks,” as Annunziata put it, on their online news sites.
It as if these clowns think those journalists at The Standard or the journalist here decided to wake up one morning and start writing bad stories about a Conservation Authority, of all bodies to pick on! We’ve got nothing better to report on than that.
In my case, and going back through more than 35 years – back to my earliest years as a full-time environment reporter at The St. Catharines Standard – I wrote enough positive stories about the NPCA – and justifiably so – on their watershed restoration work and other projects and events they were involved in to fill a wheel barrel.
If you were to ask me even four years ago if I ever dreamed I would be writing the kind of news and commentary I am posting about the NPCA now or if I would be reading all of the negative headlines I am seeing almost weekly, if not daily now, in local newspapers, I would say absolutely not – this public body? … a Conservation Authority? … – no way!
But it sure is happening now and the senior managers and board of directors of the NPCA have no one to blame for that but themselves?
For them to be suing others or threatening to sue others, or to be doing smear jobs on good people like Bill Hodgson, a veteran municipal representative in the Niagara and former NPCA board member who struggled to get an independent, third-party audit of the body, or Welland Riding MPP Cindy Forster, who has been relentless in her efforts to get some fairness and transparency out of this body, is nothing more than public confirmation that this bunch has a lot to hide.
They know they do and so do members of the media, local government, area MPPs and citizens across this a Niagara/Hamilton region, and when Toto gets around to opening the curtain on what has been going on inside this Conservation Authority – and that day is coming soon – they are toast!
They can do all the threatening and suing they want. More than ever before, those they are aiming that stick at are saying; ‘Go ahead! Bring it on!” because if these suits ever actually lead to a day when people who have the information are subpoenaed to tell all they know in a public court, they are toast!
And when that curtain is pulled back and the public gets to see what many already know, I hope that good people like Bill Hodgson and former employees of this outfit sue back for all of the damages they can get. I’ll be happy to see some of my tax money go to that.
I’m not an expert on assigning a dollar figure to a person’s reputation, but I would think that the stellar one Bill Hodgson earned over the past three or four years of public service – first as a school trustee, and later as a Town of Lincoln mayor and regional councillor – is worth at least the seven million or so dollars the NPCA gets in municipal tax money each year.
The same might also be true for the former employees and others, including former Canadian Armed Forces career officer and now St. Catharines citizen Ed Smith, now facing an NPCA launched lawsuit, and – I’ll repeat it again – I would be happy to pay for that, and I’m sure many other citizens across this region would be happy to pay it too, if it means getting this stone of an NPCA, as it’s constituted now, out of our shoes!
In the meantime, I would not by a ticket to any event or pay any parking or other fee that puts one more penny into their pockets while they continue to do a number on a Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, that we fund with our tax money and that should be serving us – not whatever agenda the bunch running this thing now are pursuing.
Have a peaceful Thanksgiving and remember that there are a lot of other nice events organized by Ontario’s Niagara Parks Commission, and by St. Catharines and other local municipalities and by groups across our region scheduled this long weekend too.
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