Come Celebrate Ed Smith’s Court Victory Over the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority on Sunday, December 17th, 2-4 p.m., at Cats Caboose, 224 Glenridge Avenue, in St. Catharines/Niagara
A Call-Out to All of You and a Commentary from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted December 14th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
When an Ontario Court Judge recently dismissed the lawsuits that a Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority dominated by board members sitting on Niagara’s regional council and that the NPCA’s former CAO and current Niagara Region CAO Carmen D’Angelo filed against Ed Smith, it was not only a victory for Smith.
It was a victory for each and every one of us who cherish freedom of speech and the right of citizens in a democracy to ask questions and keep government bodies accountable to the people they are supposed to serve.
This coming Sunday, December 17th, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Cats Caboose, a restaurant and tavern in a plaza at 223 Glenridge Avenue in south St. Catharines in Niagara, Ontario, a citizens coalition called A Better Niagara will be hosting a celebration of Ed Smith’s November 23rd Ontario Court victory over what, in the eyes of many members of the public and Smith’s lawyer, were SLAPPS – “strategic lawsuit against public participation.”
Ed Smith, a St. Catharines resident and community activist who is also a retired 25-year career officer in Canada’s Armed Forces, was slapped with the lawsuits a year ago, following a long list of questions and concerns he raised about the way the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority has been hiring and firing people, awarding contracts to private parties and pursuing other matters with millions of our tax dollars – most of those dollars coming from municipal taxes collected across the Niagara region and parts of Hamilton and Haldimand that encompass a watershed under the NPCA’s jurisdiction.
The questions and concerns Ed Smith was raising (and continues to raise) about this NPCA, with a board dominated by local mayors and regional councillors, and with another Niagara regional councillor, David Barrick, serving full-time as its director of corporate services, are the same or similar to ones being raised by thousands of other residents across the region, and by area MPPs and members of local municipal councils.
Little wonder then that so many Niagara residents and local and provincial politicians across the region saw these lawsuits as a totalitarian-like attempt by a government body to bully a citizen into silence, using lawyers paid for with our tax money. Little wonder, so many residents applauded St. Catharines city councillor Joe Kushner earlier this December, when he stood up at a council meeting and called the lawsuits “reprehensible.”
They were most certainly reprehensible, just as they – along with the disgusting, unlawful seizure of a St. Catharines Standard reporter’s computer and notebook at Niagara regional government headquarters this past December 7th – are among the more blatant expressions of a totalitarian-like strain of incivility coursing through the veins of the current regional government chaired by Al Caslin.
So there is good reason to celebrate Ed Smith’s court case – and each and every one of you is invited to the Sunday afternoon party at Cats Caboose in St. Catharines to do that – but there is a great deal of work left to do in the next year coming up to the October 2018 municipal elections to campaign for “A Better Niagara” and make sure that we elect people to municipal government that serve we, the people, in a spirit of openness, fairness and democracy.
Here is an opportunity to meet people we can all work on that campaign for a better Niagara with.
Before I sign off here, let me leave you with two more things.
First, here are words – always worth repeating – from Ontario Court Judge James Ramsay’s November 23rd ruling on the lawsuits the NPCA and its former CAO filed against Ed Smith, who is identified as the defendant here –
“I share the defendant’s disappointment at his treatment by the Authority. A private citizen,” wrote the Judge, “he (Smith) raised questions about the governance of the authority. He was met with a public accusation of forgery and the threat of litigation from “his own government,” as he put it, together with a demand that he issue a written apology, undertake never again to publish “the document” which contained many things that are not said to be actionable, and reveal his sources. There are many places in the world where I might expect such a thing to happen, but not in our beloved Dominion.”
Finally, and once again, I am including a poster of currently elected mayors and regional councillors sitting on the NPCA’s board of directors and in one case – that of Port Colborne regional councillor – serves as a full-time administrator at the NPCA, who deserve to get the boot in next year’s municipal elections.
Make a note of their names and let’s work to find good people in our communities – and there are many good people in our communities – who can replace them on our regional and local councils.
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“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders