It’s Disgusting Enough That We Are Forced To See Millions Of Dollars Of Our Tax Money Go To The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority
A Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted September 21st, 2018 on Niagara At Large
Shortly after Niagara At Large posted a news commentary this September 20th on a $275-per-ticket gala the NPCA’s fund-raising wing, the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Foundation (NPCF) was hosting that night, and an email the Foundation’s board chair, Pelham regional councillor Brian Baty, sent to fellow regional councillors that if they buy a ticket, it “is an eligible expense,” – Peter Gill, a first-time regional council candidate running in St. Catharines in the coming municipal elections, posted the following message on Facebook –
There is another good idea that comes out of Peter Gill’s Facebook message, by the way. If you are going to donate that kind of money, contribute it to a Food Bank in the area or to a charity that sends food baskets to families in need at Thanksgiving or Christmas.
I have no idea how many members of Niagara’s regional council, which includes almost 20 directly elected councillors and the mayors of the region’s 12 local municipalities, forked the $275 out to go to this “fund-raising” gala at the Queen’s Landing Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake because I certainly did not go as a reporter or in any other capacity.
But I hope at least some, if not most of those who went, are not claiming the price of the ticket as a council expense because we, the taxpayers of Niagara, are the ones who end up paying the tab.
And for what?
Following recent stories in The St. Catharines Standard, citing black and white dollar figures on a breakdown of Niagara Peninsula Conservation Foundation expenses from the Canada Revenue Agency, there is certainly reason to be concerned about how much of the money individuals and organizations donate to this Foundation actually goes to “conservation projects” in the Niagara area watershed.
And however much of the money makes it to conservation projects, what kind of conservation projects are we talking about?
Recently, it has been reported on CBC and in other media in the Niagara-Hamilton area that one project the Foundation’s mother agency – Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority – is proposing involves erecting an amusement park-like “zip line” ride at its Binbrook Conservation Area – one of more than two dozen conservation areas the NPCA is supposed to be a good steward of in the Niagara, Haldimand and Hamilton areas.
Brett Harrington, chair of volunteer conservation group that lends time to looking after natural heritage in places like the Binbrook Conservation Area, is quoted in the media expressing his group’s disappointment that the NPCA is ‘putting commercialization ahead of conservation.”
“Conservation Authorities are entrusted to protect our environment and that is what it should be doing,” Harrington said.
Amen to that, Mr. Harrington.
Problem is that growing numbers of people across Niagara and neighbouring regions have become convinced, through what they have learned and witnessed of this NPCA’s operations, that the conservation mandate has been reduced to a passenger in the trunk of what has become this clown bus for at least three or four years now.
Only blessing here is that at least we have a choice in whether or not we want to make a donation to the NPCA’s Foundation.
That is not the case when it comes to the more than $7 million in tax money the NPCA now receives each year from Niagara’s regional government and form Niagara’s 12 local municipalities – money that ultimately comes out of our pockets.
Why should we be forced to pay taxes to an organization with financial practices now so far under a dark cloud that a team of investigators from Ontario’s Auditor General’s Office has been reviewing its records and interviewing internal staff and others about its operations for months now?
It makes this Niagara taxpayer sick every time I am reminded that I am forced to see some of my money go to a Conservation Authority that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in an unsuccessful lawsuit against one Niagara citizen – retired Canadian Armed Forces officer Ed Smith – for openly questioning its business practices, and is continuing to pursue a lawsuit against a highly respected, former NPCA conservation field worker, Jocelyn Baker, for speaking out about allegations of harassment in the NPCA workplace.
I don’t think one plug nickel of our tax money should go to an agency like that and let’s hope that following the upcoming October municipal elections, our new councils in Niagara either clean out the entire board and senior staff at the NPCA and its Foundation, and bring new people in that put the conservation mandate first,, or completely cut this operation off from any further public funding.
To read the recent commentary Niagara At Large ran on the $275-a-ticket NPCF gala, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2018/09/20/fundraising-wing-of-niagara-peninsula-conservation-authority-hosts-environmental-award-gala/ .
To read about NPCA’s plans for the zip line amusement ride at the Binbrook Conservation area, click on –https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/zipline-park-1.4828128
And you can click on this link too – https://globalnews.ca/news/4462658/zip-line-conservation-commercialization-debate/ .
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