Niagara’s 12 New NPCA Board Members Must Be Allowed To Get To Work – ASAP!
“We believe recent actions taken by the NPCA are not only interfering with a timely and orderly appointment of new Board members to the NPCA, but are undermining our democracy and are further jeopardizing Niagara’s green heritage,” – Ed Smith, a St. Catharines resident and executive director of the region-wide citizen’s group, A Better Niagara .
A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted December 20th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
A whole week has gone by since Niagara’s recently sworn-in Regional Council directed 12 regional councillors it appointed to the board of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) to hold a special meeting of the board no later than this Thursday, December 20th – all with an aim to addressing, as soon as possible, the many problems besieging and bogging down this agency in the very important role it is supposed to play in protecting and conserving what is left of our region’s natural heritage.
Now here we are. It’s December 20th at the time of this posting and as at least some of you who have been following the sad saga of the NPCA already know, what some have taken to calling an “emergency meeting” of Niagara’s 12 new board members has not taken, and possibly won’t through what remains of this holiday season.
Why no meeting when so many citizens across this region have been hoping and praying for such a thing to bring the NPCA back on track?
Apparently because at least some members of the old board and NPCA’s senior staff have been making whatever moves they think they can, for whatever reasons, to keep a first meeting of the new board from happening now or any time real soon.
In a recent interview with a daily newspaper in Niagara, Bruce Timms, who served on the old board and who lost his bid for another term on Regional Council in last October’s municipal elections, claimed that he’s played no decision-making role in any of this maneuvering since he decided that a meeting the board held this past December 3rd in a Niagara-on-the-Lake hotel would be his last.
Timms may not have direct involvement in any nonsense going on at the NPCA now, but one of the last motions he supported at that December 3rd meeting – three days after the expiry date of his term, along with the terms of others on Niagara’s Regional Council who served on the old board and supported it, including Brian Baty of Pelham, Sandy Annunziata of Fort Erie, Tony Quirk of Grimsby and Doug Joyner of West Lincoln – is one that is having continuing repercussions for an agency that is funded by taxpayers across this region and should be serving the best interests of people across this region.
It is a motion passed by members of this old board that, near as anyone can tell, is unprecedented for any board in the NPCA’s more than half-century-long history.
It is a motion that seems to allow Annunziata and a board member from Hamilton, James Kaspersetz, to truck on as the board’s chair and vice-chair, respectively, and to allow just the two of them to make future decisions on the board’s behalf, even as a new Niagara Regional Council was only a few days away from being sworn in.
Quite a legacy for Timms and those others to leave as they walked out the door.
In that same interview, pieces of which were published in The St. Catharines Standard this December 20th, Timms still comes off seeming a little confused about his status visa vi his board membership, at least until a new board meets.
“I’m stuck,” he was quoted telling the newspaper.
Stuck? Where are you stuck, Mr. Timms? In the twilight zone? In some sort of alternative reality?
No, ex-councillor, you are not stuck. You are out!
In other words, what part of the new Regional Council’s December 6th motion, appointing 12 new board members, followed by a December 13th motion by the same Council, directing the Region’s clerk to send to all those who represented Niagara on the old board a letter informing them that “their term on the board is complete,” does Timms and who knows how many others on the old board not understand?
To paraphrase a line from that old Paul Newman movie, Cool Hand Luke; “What we seem to have here is a failure to communicate.” Or in fairness to the council and staff at the Region, it appears more like a failure on the part of Timms and company to catch the drift of directions that seem quite clear to many of the rest of us.
So now we reportedly have whoever is left of the old bunch appointing David Barrick, who decided not to run term on Regional Council in his home municipality of Port Colborne and who was recently fired from his job as the NPCA’s operations director, then rehired, to serve as the Conservation Authority’s acting CAO.
Meanwhile, Hamilton board member Kaspersetz and one of the city’s councillors, Brenda Johnson, started insisting this December that Hamilton should have four members, not just two, representing the city on the NPCA board, and Niagara is entitled to only five, not the 12 that have represented the region’s 12 local municipalities over the past couple of decades.
In a recent interview with Niagara At Large, Johnson claimed that language in the Ontario Conservation Act (the primary piece of legislation governing the NPCA and more than 30 other Conservation Authorities across the province), along with a letter recently sent to Niagara Region’s CAO Carmen D’Angelo (who is now off on medical leave) by Bruce Bateman, an assistant deputy minister for Ontario’s Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, means that Niagara is entitled to only five members on the board.
A coalition of citizens from across the region, called A Better Niagara, now joined by Niagara’s regional government, is prepared to make the case for at least 12 Niagara members on the board in the Ontario courts. In fact, A Better Niagara is making a case that the Conservation Act entitles Niagara to have up to 27 representatives on the board.
Both the citizen’s coalition and the Region are scheduled to make a first appearance in a courtroom in Welland this Friday, December 21st, to address the issue of board representation and that matter and others around getting a new NPCA board down to work as soon as possible.
“We believe recent actions taken by the NPCA are not only interfering with a timely and orderly appointment of new Board members to the NPCA, but are undermining our democracy and are further jeopardizing Niagara’s green heritage,” said Ed Smith, a St. Catharines resident and Better Niagara executive director, in a statement to Niagara At Large.
“The NPCA has demonstrated that it is unable or unwilling to act in a responsible manner in this transition of power and we feel this threat warrants a very strong response,” Smith said. “This is our democracy and we cannot allow it to be taken from us by a band of miscreants.”
Indeed, this is our democracy and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, funded each year with millions of our tax dollars, is a public agency that should be there to serve the interests of the public at large, not a handful of individuals with interests and agendas of their own.
In that December 20th newspaper story, Timms added that the “normal practice” at the NPCA is for the new board to give departing board members an opportunity to say their goodbyes.
I, for one, am not very interested in hearing anything more from this old board, unless they want to finally apologize to Ed Smith for all of the stress they put him and his family through when the NPCA launched what turned out to be an unsuccessful lawsuit against him more than a years ago after he raised questions and concerns about the way it has been doing business.
While they are at it, they could encourage the incoming board to do what they should have done while they were so preoccupied over what the results of last October’s municipal elections meant for them – drop the lawsuit against former NPCA employee Jocelyn Baker, who spoke out about alleged cases of workplace harassment inside the NPCA, and compensate her and her family for all of the hell they have been through.
They could also promise that they will at long last walk out the door and let a new board of the NPCA get down to the business of serving the interests of the people of this without any further static from them.
NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.
A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.
For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater bi-national Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .
“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders