A War May Be Brewing Over How Many Members Niagara, Hamilton and Haldimand Are Entitled To Have On The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s Board

How About As Many As 27 Board Members for Niagara and the same old Two for Hamilton and One for Halidmand?

City of Hamilton Representatives Are Now Claiming It Should Have Four Members, Haldimand Should Have Two, and Niagara Should Have As Few As Five

A News Commentary by Doug Draper

Posted December 18th, 2018 on Niagara At Large

Hamilton’s city council is perched to give final approval to a motion this coming Wednesday that would double the number of members it has on the board of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) from two to four, while allowing two members for Haldimand County, and only five for Niagara.

How many board members from Niagara, Hamilton and Haldimand will now get to sit around this table.

That would give members representing the eastern, rural areas of Hamilton and Haldimand a majority on the board if they chose to vote as a block of six, even though close to 80 per cent of the watershed that falls under the NPCA’s jurisdiction is located within the urban boundaries of Niagara.

It would also make for a major change in the makeup of an NPCA board that for more than two decades now has had two members from Hamilton, one from Haldimand, and 12 from each one of the local municipalities in Niagara where – again – most of the watershed the Conservation Authority is responsible for looking after is located.

The motion to increase Hamilton’s numbers on the board from two to four was tabled at a general committee meeting this past December 12th by Hamilton City Councillor Brenda Johnson, and she told Niagara At Large at the time that she fully expects it to receive final passage when it goes before the city’s full council this Wednesday, December 19th.

The council for Haldimand has also recently approved increasing its representation on the NPCA board from one to two.

Hamilton City Councillor Brenda Johnson has tabled motion for doubling number of Hamilton reps on NPCA board from two to four. She also insists that the number of Niagara reps on the board should be five, not the 12 that has been allowed in recent decades.

In a phone interview with Niagara At Large last week, Johnson claimed that Hamilton is entitled to have four members on the board because under the Ontario Conservation Act governing Conservation Authorities across the province, a municipality with a population of resident numbering more than 100,000 in an area of a watershed a Conservation Authority is responsible for can have four members.

In this case, Johnson said, Hamilton has 112,000 in the area in question.

However, informed sources in Niagara that NAL cannot now identify insist that the number of people in east eastern rural area of the watershed within Hamilton’s boundaries total less than 50,000, leaving the city with the two positions on the board it now has.

As for the insistence of Johnson and a current Hamilton board member, James Kaspersetz, that Niagara is only entitled to five seats on the board, Johnson said that is based on the fact that the population of Niagara Region is less than 500,000 and according to the Conservation Act, municipalities with populations falling between 250,000 and 500,000 can have five members.

However, Niagara has a total of 12 local municipalities and if each one of them and their populations are taken into account, the number of members Niagara has on the board could total as high as 27.

Here is how you could arrive at a board representation as high as 27 quoting the population ranges in the Conservation Act. The local municipalities identified in brackets, along with the number of seats they could be allotted given their populations have been inserted here by Niagara At Large –

“The council of each municipality,” reads the Act, “may appoint representatives to attend the meeting in the following numbers:

  • 1. Where the population is 1,000,000 or more, seven representatives.
  • 1.1 Where the population is 500,000 or more but less than 1,000,000, six representatives.
  • 1.2 Where the population is 250,000 or more but less than 500,000, five representatives.
  • Where the population is 100,000 or more but less than 250,000, four representatives. (St. Catharines gets four members.)
  • Where the population is 50,000 or more but less than 100,000, three representatives. (Welland and Niagara Falls each get three members for a total of six.)
  • Where the population is 10,000 or more but less than 50,000, two representatives. (Fort Erie, Port Colborne, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Thorold, West Lincoln, Lincoln and Pelham, Grimsby each get two members for a total of 16.)
  • Where the population is less than 10,000, one representative. (Wainfleet gets one member.).”

That adds up to a total number of board members for Niagara of 27.

At a Niagara Regional Council meeting this past December 13th, Dr. Andrew Sancton, an expert in municipal governance who has been hired by the Region to suggest changes to the way the Region governs, told the council Niagara may be able to have as many as 24 members on the board.

St. Catharines regional councillor and recently appointed NPCA interim board member Brian Heit recently said the number of reps for Niagara on the board could be about twice as high as the 12 that have sat there in the past.

Brian Heit, a veteran regional councillor from St. Catharines who has recently been appointed, along with 11 other regional councillors, to serve on the board on an interim basis, added that the number for Niagara could be 25.

Whether the number Niagara could have is 24, 25 or as high as 27, it is certainly higher than the 12 Niagara has held on the board for many years now, and it is a far cry from the five Johnson and Kaspersetz claim Niagara is entitled to now.

Johnson told Niagara At Large last week that Niagara is entitled to five and not a number ranging in to the 20s because under the Act, if you have a two-tier municipal system like Niagara’s, the population figure for the upper tier, meaning the Region, must be used to determine how many representatives can sit on the board.

However, that claim is being questioned by Niagara area sources and so is a more recent claim Johnson made in a December 17th response to questions asked by Niagara At Large.

That claim goes like this – If an estimated 21 per cent of the watershed the NPCA has jurisdiction over falls within Hamilton’s municipal boundaries, then Hamilton is allowed to count 21 per cent of the city’s total population to determine its representation on the board.

“The 112,000 (population figure) is the amount used (as per the Conservation Authorities ACT) as it is 21% of Hamilton’s population because 21% of Hamilton is within the watershed,” said Johnson in her note.

Meanwhile, Niagara’s new Regional Council recently appointed a total of 12 regional councillors to serve on the NPCA board on an interim basis while Niagara’s local municipalities go through the process of appointing members to serve for the next four years, and those 12 members have been directed by the council to hold a special meeting of the board this coming Thursday, December 20th or earlier.

How Hamilton and Haldimand will react to a board meeting that includes 12 Niagara members remains to be seen.

Do we have the makings of a war between Niagara and Hamilton and Haldimand over how many seats each municipality is entitled to have on the board.

Hopefully, people at the Niagara regional government level are working as quickly as possible to obtain some definitive rulings on how the Conservation Act should be interpreted to resolve this matter so that the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority can finally address the many problems that have plagued it in recent years and get back to the important conservation work we need it to do.

If it turns out to be true that Niagara could have as many as 27 members on the board – a number that many may agree could make the board far more difficult to manage –  then perhaps Hamilton ought to be satisfied if this region is willing to settle for 12.

How about that for a compromise?

Niagara At Large will continue to monitor developments here closely.

Stay tuned.

To read a related story on this issue posted on Niagara At Large, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2018/12/12/there-could-be-a-major-shake-up-in-numbers-on-the-npcas-board/

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

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