Motion – to be tabled at Monday, October 16th council meeting – calls on Premier to “immediately appoint a supervisor to take over the operations of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority”
A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted October 14th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – St. Catharines’ city council could be the first local in Niagara to call on Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and her government to use whatever powers it has to appoint a special supervisor to come in and sweep out the senior managers and board of directors at a Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority man across the region feel has gone rogue.
If the motion – to be introduced for a vote this coming Monday, October 16th by veteran St. Catharines councillor Bruce Williamson – is passed, the city’s council would join a growing number of private citizens across the region, provincial representatives like Welland Riding MPP Cindy Forster and the Ontario Public Services Employees Union (OPSEU), a union representing some of the NPCA’s front-line employees, in calling on the Ontario government for a complete change of management at the Conservation Authority.
For going on at least two years now, the NPCA has become a matter of a whole host of questions and concerns by growing numbers of people in the Niagara and Hamilton areas over its hiring and firing practices, allegations of harassment in the workplace, the awarding of contracts to private contractors, a shift in its mission statement (that compromises its role as a voice for conservation and natural heritage protection, in many critics’ view) and other matters to do with the way it spends millions of dollars it receives each year from tax payers.
Yet, attempts to get Ontario’s current Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Kathryn McGarry, to either use or revise the Ontario Conservation Act – a piece of legislation that falls under her ministry’s jurisdiction – to take action, have been met by repeated replies from her that she does not have the power to act.
Many, including Forster and OPSEU President Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas, do not buy McGarry’s cop-out line. In fact, they and others believe that she could include write provisions in to the Conservation Act (which is now undergoing reform) that would give her government the powers to appoint a special supervisor and order a third-party, independent audit of the NPCA tomorrow if she had the will and courage to do so.
The provincial government has brought in special supervisors to make management changes in the past in Niagara when, more than a decade ago, the public lost confidence in those who were then running the Niagara Parks Commission and the Niagara Health System, the body responsible for managing the region’s hospital services.
If St. Catharines city council, which was the first local council in the region last year to vote for a full, independent audit of the NPCA, passes the motion calling for a special supvervisor, it will be interesting to see if other local councils in Niagara follow suit.
Whether, the St. Catharines council says ‘yes’ to Williamson’s motion this coming Monday night and other councils follow suit may very well depend on how many area residents call up their local councillors and urge them to do so. That is the way democracy works for the public – through actual public engagement.
We will see what happens.
Now here is the text of the motion St. Catharines city councillor Bruce Williamson is introducing at the Monday, October 16th St. Catharines council meeting starting at 6:30 p.m. –
Whereas the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) continue to demonstrate an inability to operate an effective conservation authority that respects its mandate and operates in a transparent and accountable way; and
Whereas the City of St. Catharines is concerned that recent decisions to reduce staffing will have a negative impact on the NPCA’s abilities to protect and preserve the lands in which it has been mandated to manage; and
Whereas the City of St. Catharines contributes the largest amount of funds through the levy in Niagara to the NPCA; and
Whereas City Council has lost confidence in the management of the NPCA conduct its operations within the standards set by the Provincial Government.
Therefore be it Resolved, the City of St. Catharines requests that the Premier of the Province of Ontario immediately appoint a supervisor to take over the operations of the NPCA; and
Be it Further Resolved that the City of St. Catharines notify the Regional Municipality of Niagara of its intentions to develop its own selection process for its representation on the Board of the NPCA that will commence after the next municipal election in 2018.
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