A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted November 13th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – A month after St. Catharines’ city council got the jitters over passing a motion to clean house at Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority that has lost the confidence of many citizens and politicians across the region, a Wainfleet councillor is hoping to get a majority of her fellow councillors to support a similar motion at this Tuesday’s, November 14th, township council meeting.
Wainfleet Township Councillor Betty Konc is planning to table a motion calling on the Ontario government to appoint a special supervisor supervisor “to take over the operations of the NPCA.”
“If a supervisor is not appointed within two months,” continues the wording of Konc’s motion, “this council requests a meeting for the purpose of dissolution of the (NPCA’s) board (of directors).”
The motion also calls for the Township of Wainfleet – one of 12 local municipalities in Niagara that is funding the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s operations with local tax dollars – to appoint its own member to the NPCA’s board of directors, following next year’s municipal elections.
As it is now, the NPCA’s 15-member board is dominated by a mix of Niagara area mayors and regional councillors appointed by Niagara’s regional council – an arrangement many citizens, Niagara area MPPs and local councillors believe has politicized a body that should be focused on natural heritage conservation and protection.
One of the current board members is Wainfleet Mayor April Jeffs, who is also running as the Conservative Party candidate in the Welland Riding in next spring’s Ontario elections against NDP incumbent MPP Cindy Forster, who has been an outspoken critic of the way the NPCA has been conducting over the past three years.
Ed Smith, a St. Catharines community activist and retired Canadian Armed Forces officer who is facing an NPCA defamation lawsuit after raising questions and concerns about its operations, is scheduled to speak at the Wainfleet council meeting.
Other speakers include NPCA CAO Mark Brickell and Fort Erie regional chair and NPCA board of directors chair Sandy Annunziata.
When a similar motion, calling on the Ontario government to appoint a special supervisor to take over the operations of the NPCA was tabled at the St. Catharines council this October by one of the city’s councillors, Bruce Williamson, it did not get enough support to pass.
The council instead decided to shelve it until the city’s staff gathered information on outstanding questions and concerns over the way the NPCA does business.
Some St. Cathaarines councillors said they did not feel there was enough “evidence” yet to appoint a special councillor, which made many watching that meeting wonder what more information they need to take action.
At this point, you almost have to be on another planet, on the NPCA’s payroll or be wearing a tin foil hat not to know or openly acknowledge that there is a significant crisis of public confidence around the current operations of the NPCA – a Conservation Authority that, for most of its more than 50-year existence and relative to many other government bodies – hardly ever became a target of the storm of public controversy it is drawing now.
So let’s see what happens at this Tuesday’s November 14th Wainfleet Township council meeting.
Here is Wainfleet Councillor Betty Konc’s motion –
WHEREAS the NPCA has reduced staff which may have a negative impact on their ability to protect and preserve the lands which it is mandated to manage.
WHEREAS the NPCA has taken other controversial actions that display poor decision making at the taxpayers’ expense, and demonstrates an inability to operate in a transparent and accountable fashion, within the standards set by the Provincial government
THEREFORE be it resolved that Wainfleet requests the Premier of the Province of Ontario, and or the Minister of Natural Resources immediately appoint a supervisor to take over the operations of the NPCA. If a supervisor is not appointed within 2 months, this council requests a meeting for the purpose of dissolution of the board as per Sec 13.1(1) of the Conservation Authorities Act.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the township of Wainfleet does immediately develop its own selection process for its representation on the NPCA board which will commence after the next municipal election and do notify the region of Niagara as the upper tier of our intentions.
For more information on the Township of Wainfleet’s Tuesday, November 14th council meeting, the agenda for the meeting, click on – http://www.wainfleet.ca/town-hall-archived-notices/1017-council-agenda-package-november-14-2017 .
For a recently posted, related story on the ongoing NPCA controversy, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2017/11/10/former-npca-employee-is-suing-conservation-authority-for-more-than-400000-in-damages-for-breach-of-contract-defamation-and-other-costs/ / .
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