Niagara’s Conservation Authority Has Yet to Disclose Cost to Public of Staff Buyouts

Motion to Be Tabled at July 5th Regional Council Meeting, Calling On Province to Appoint Supervisor to Take Over NCPA Operations

A News Commentary by Doug Draper

Posted July 4th, 2018 on Niagara At Large

“The NPCA is committed to maintaining its position as the most transparent Conservation Authority in the Province.”

That line was taken right off the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s website.

And it’s the same line that we, the people, who pay millions of dollars in taxes to fund this Conservation Authority’s operations, have been hearing over and over again from the NPCA’s current board chair, Fort Erie regional councillor Sandy Annunziata, and past chair, St. Catharines regional councillor Bruce Timms.

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) board of directors, dominated by Niagara regional council members, in session.

Okay then, if the NPCA is such an “Ontario leader” when it comes to transparency, when are the taxpaying residents of Niagara going to find out how much of their money has been spent on buyouts for however many employees have been ushered out the doors in recent years.

It has now been four months since Niagara’s regional council passed a motion, tabled by St. Catharines regional councillor Brian Heit, and supported by a vote of 16 to seven, for the NPCA to disclose how many municipal tax dollars have been spent to part ways with as many as two dozen employees over the past four years.

That information has still was still not disclosed to Niagara’s regional government as recently as a few days ago, said Heit, which now has the St. Catharines regional councillor planning to present yet another motion at this Thursday’s July 5th regional council meeting.

Heit’s latest motion reads as follows –

St. Catharines regional councillor Brian Heit will table another call for a provincially appointed supervisor to take over NPCA operations,

Whereas the Region thru resolution on March 1st, 2018, requested the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority submit the 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 costs associated with severance including but not limited to severances, wages paid, wages paid in lieu of notice, retirement packages, arbitration, personnel court cases, bonuses, and or damages, to the Regional Council by June 6th, 2018;

Whereas the Niagara Region contributes over 82% of the Municipal Levy to the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority;

Whereas the majority of the NPCA Board members are also members of Regional Council;

Whereas the NPCA chair has stated his commitment to openness, accountability and transparency;

Whereas to date the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority have ignored Regional Council’s March 1st, 2018 request;

Whereas the City of St. Catharines as well as others in the region have lost confidence in the management and board of the NPCA to conduct its operation in an open, accountable and transparent manner;

Now Therefore Be It Resolved:

 The Region of Niagara requests that legislation governing the conservation authorities be amended to allow the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry to appoint a supervisor over the operations of the NPCA; and

Be it further resolved that this motion be distributed to all Municipalities which fund the NPCA, our four Niagara MPPs, the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, and the Premier of Ontario.

It is probably anyone’s guess how much support this council will receive at the regional council level with as many as 10 of the NPCA’s current board of directors also sitting on the Region’s council, and virtually none of them ever declaring a conflict of interest when motions related to NPCA matters have been put before the council in the past.

Niagara area residents holding picket signs have been an off and on presence outside NPCA board meetings in recent years.

Indeed, of the seven regional councillors who voted against Heit’s last motion for disclosing the buyout costs, four of them currently sit on the NPCA’s board of directors, including the board’s chair Sandy Annuziata, and board members Grimsby regional councillor Tony Quirk, West Lincoln Mayor Doug Joyner and Niagara-on-the-Lake Lord Mayor Patrick Darte,

The other three no votes were cast by Niagara Falls regional councillors Selina Volpatti, Bob Gale and Bart Maves, also a  former NPCA board chair.

Abstaining from the vote on the motion four months ago, due to a conflict, was Port Colborne regional councillor David Barrick, who works as a senior administrator at the NPCA.

Even if Heit’s latest motion passes at the regional government level, how much consideration will it be given by an Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Jeff Yurek, who sits on the cabinet of the new Conservative Premier Doug Ford?

A number of Niagara municipalities passed motions last year, calling on the then Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne to appoint a supervisor to clear out the current board and executive managers of the NPCA, and take control of the Conservation Authority’s operations, and those motions went nowhere.

The Wynne government did not even bother amending the Ontario Conservation Act, which was then under review, to give it the powers to appoint supervisors to take over any of the more than three dozen Conservation Authorities in the province if one of them appeared to be out of control.

Niagara At Large will be covering this July 5th’s regional council meeting and we will report on what happens with Heit’s motion.

Stay Tuned.

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 “A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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One response to “Niagara’s Conservation Authority Has Yet to Disclose Cost to Public of Staff Buyouts

  1. I’ve just heard from a Regional Councillor that tonight’s meeting is overloaded. Bruce Timms has a motion to put 2 new reps on the NPCA, Thundering Waters under a NEW name is being discussed, the ongoing Caslin-Petrowski-Carmen stuff, and more.

    Like

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