A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted December 11th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – How much of our municipal tax money did the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority spend in its unsuccessful attempt to sue St. Catharines community activist and retired Canadian Armed Forces officer Ed Smith?
St. Catharines’ city councilors passed a motion at their December 11th council meeting demanding to know.
It is a question that Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) administrators and board members have so far refused to answer since this past November 23rd when Ontario Court Judge James Ramsay dismissed defamation suits filed against Smith by the NPCA and its former CAO and now CAO for Niagara’s regional government, Carmen D’Angelo.
The motion, tabled by veteran St. Catharines city councillor Joe Kushner, calls on the NPCA’s board – a majority of who are made up of Niagara area mayors and directly elected regional councillors appointed to it by the regional government’s Al Caslin administration – to “disclose the total amounts spent on the lawsuits.”
Before his motion was passed this December 11th, Kushner argued that current operations at the NPCA continue “to be problematic” and he called the whole idea of a public body like the Conservation Authority suing a Niagara citizen “reprehensible.”
Kushner went on to question why the NPCA went beyond using public money to pay for its lawsuit against Smith to also pay for the suit filed against him by its former CAO Carmen D’Angelo.
“I don’t understand why the Authority funded the lawuist of the CAO,” he said. Why didn’t the CAO fund his own lawsuit?”
Another St. Catharines councillor, Jeannie Stevens, said she would like to see the city follow the recent decision the city council for Port Colborne made to support a motion that calls on the Ontario government to appoint a special supervisor to take over the management of the NPCA.
Similar motions calling on the province to appoint a supervisor to replace the current managers at the Conservation Authority may soon be tabled at councils for other local municipalities in Niagara.
St. Catharines city councillor Bruce Williamson tabled a motion this past September, calling on the Ontario government to appoint a supervisor, but a majority of his fellow councilors voted to defer it until the city’s staff did a separate review of the NPCA’s operations – a review staff say will probably not be finished until the end of this coming January.
St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik told members of his council this December 11th that Ontario’s Auditor General’s office will finally begin an independent audit of the NPCA’s operations this second week of December – something that many citizens, municipal councilors and Niagara area MPPs have been calling for now for at least a year.
The NPCA receives millions of dollars each year from local municipalities across Niagara, Hamilton and Haldimand to fund its operations. The largest portion – now around $1.7 million annually – comes from tax payers in St. Catharines, even though not one of the body’s Conservation Areas is located within the city’s boundaries.
Stay Tune to Niagara At Large in the days ahead for more on the NPCA issue
Meanwhile, we will continue running the poster produced by the recently organized Niagara citizens group, A Better Niagara, as a reminder of elected politicians in our region now serving on the NPCA board of directors and its administration, who deserved to be voted out of office in next year’s municipal elections. Here they are –
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