Barbara Greenwood, Jeff Jordan and Brian Heit Are Being Targeted for Working for Us
The Toxic Attacks Against Decent People – Still Metastasizing Like A Cancer In Niagara’s Politics – Have Got To Stop
A News Commentary by Niagara At Large publisher and reporter Doug Draper
Posted February 13th, 2019 on Niagara At Large
It is almost impossible now to remember how good so many people across Niagara felt when our new Regional Council was sworn before the New Year, with former St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley at the helm, replacing the ever-more-unpopular Al Caslin as the Region’s Chair.
It was December 6th, 2018 – Inaugural Day for the new term of Regional Council – and there were all of the welcome words from Bradley and others about restoring public trust, bringing back a climate of decency and civility to the Council Chambers, and welcoming members of the public across Niagara, without fear or favour, to share their questions and concerns with their elected representatives.
And now here we are, less than three months later, and we are sliding right back to where we were a year and more ago, with at least three good members of the Region’s council – Barbara Greenwood, a directly elected Regional Councillor from Niagara Falls; Jeff Jordan, a new Mayor who sits on the Region’s Council for Grimsby; and Brian Heit, a directly elected Regional Councillor from St. Catharines – in the process of being smeared and slimed by at least some characters who refuse to put away the kind of divisive, mean-spirited, guttural depravity that infested politics in this region over the past four years.
The continuation of this garbage is already resurfacing the most at – surprise, surprise – the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA), one of the Niagara Region’s partner agencies, where not enough of our Regional Councillors appointed to the NPCA’s new board are showing the will or courage to do the complete house cleaning job that was, at the time of their appointment more than two months ago, and that still is so desperately needed at the administrative level.
So the cancer has continued to metastasize at this once a proud and respected agency that has turned into a hell hole for its rank and file employees and many of the rest of us over the past five or more years.
And now we have a situation where three decent members of the Region’s Council – Greenwood, Jordan and Heit – are becoming targets of slime jobs because they have the audacity to speak out, and to say and try to do things that many people across Niagara have been wanting to hear and see done at the NPCA for going on years now.
Brian Heit went into his job on the new NPCA determine to get to the bottom of some of the financial and other matters that many, including Ontario’s Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk, have viewed as a concern at this agency, and before you know it one or more people are circulating around messages, using ‘Gmail’ address and what appear to be phony names, containing information that questions his integrity.
Heit brings this ‘Gmail’ hit job up at one of the NPCA board meetings this January and hardly anyone else around the table look like they care, even though this garbage is aimed at an elected representative of council trying to do their job.
And now there is the possibility that the two other board members, Grimsby Mayor Jeff Jordan and Niagara Falls Regional Councillor Barbara Greenwood, could be treated to the same kind of humiliation that former Lincoln regional councillor and NPCA board member Bill Hodgson went through two years ago.
The humiliation they may be facing as early as this coming Friday, February 15th at a so-called “special meeting” of the NPCA board is censorship and possibly complaints filed to an integrity commissioner.
Hodgson was censured by the now former board, chaired by then Fort Erie regional councillor Sandy Annunziata for reasons that never were made clear after he called for an independent audit of the NPCA’s operations.
Hodgson responded to being censured by quitting the board in disgust and about the only poetic justice he received came more than a year later when the audit was done by Ontario’s Bonnie Lysyk who found, among many other things, that there was no real justification for the way Hodgson was treated.
Now Jordan and Greenwood face the same fate following comments they made in a newspaper interview about wanting to replace the controversial David Barrick, a former Port Colborne regional councillor who has worked as a full-time NPCA administrator through recent years when so many serious questions were raised about the body’s business practices, as the NPCA’s now acting CAO.
“It would be nice to have someone in that role we could actually have confidence in,” Jordan was quoted saying in a February 7th St. Catharines Standard report. “It is hard to investigate things and get to the bottom of some issues when you have to deal with people who are too close to those issues.”
In the same Standard report, Greenwood was quoted saying that Barrick should have “been gone a long time ago.”
Neither Jordan nor Greenwood said anything here that I have not heard repeatedly almost every time I go to a grocery store or walk through a shopping mall and someone who recognizes me and knows that I am a journalist says what the mayor and councillor were reported saying in language that is often a whole lot spicier.
Yet for her troubles – for telling a member of the media what she honestly thinks – Greenwood turned on her phone to a recorded message from West Lincoln Mayor and the NPCA board’s Chair Dave Bylsma, parts of which were reported in another Standard story and that I also heard directly, that included some of the following –
“Can you give me a call,” said Bylsma in his phone message to Greenwood, “and tell me what you think. … whether you want to dig in, which would be very bad, or you could solve the problem by retracting what you said in the paper and printing and apology.”
Retract what she said? Print an apology? Whose bidding is Bylsma doing here? Perhaps he is no longer fit to serve on a board that should already be making some very serious decisions about human resources at the NPCA.
There are things about all of this that remind one of a recent call a representative of a citizens group, A Better Niagara, received from the Niagara Regional Police after, according to a police statement, the NRP received a call from someone at the NPCA, complaining that some criticism the group posted on social media about Barrick’s performance at one of the Region’s recent budget meeting, was somehow threatening to Barrick.
Police officers quickly came to the conclusion that nothing the group had posted warranted any further attention from them, but between this incident and the garbage that Heit, Jordan and Greenwood are now facing, one also can’t help but wonder where we have gone in Niagara as a community here.
As someone recently said to me; “What is going on in this region? I feel like we are living on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.”
No one – not members of a citizens group and not members of our duly elected municipal councils – should be made to feel that just for speaking out, for saying what they believe in what is supposed to be a free and open democracy, that they are being intimidated or having their character or right to free speech attacked in any way.
Let me go back and repeat something that Ontario Superior Court Justice James Ramsey said slightly over a year ago, after he dismissed a lawsuit that the NPCA filed against St. Catharines citizen Ed Smith after he raised questions and concerns about the way the Conservation Authority has been doing business with millions of our tax dollars.
“I share the defendant’s (Ed Smith’s) disappointment at this treatment by the authority,” wrote the Judge in his decision. “A private citizen, he 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’… 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.”
There should be no place for what some of our elected representatives and citizens are continuing to put up with from certain parties in our beloved Niagara region either.
Like many of my fellow Niagara citizens, I had hoped that this new term of municipal government in our region would finally see us leaving that sort of bully boy conduct behind.
I had hoped, like so many others, that it would finally offer all of us who in Niagara who care about our communities and want to make them better, the opportunity to work together with our elected representatives and with our public agencies – on issues like affordable housing, transit and other needed services – toward that common goal.
But that hopeful moment is in danger of dissolving away thanks to toxic conduct that still won’t go away.
These assaults on our elected representatives and on citizens for speaking out are an assault on the rights and freedoms of all of us.
They need to be condemned and those responsible for them should be removed from the offices they hold if they are found to have abused the powers those offices afford them.
Our Niagara Regional Councillors should want to get to the bottom of whoever is circulating defamatory notes about Heit and should immediately put the brakes those who would put Jordan and Greenwood through the same humiliation Hodgson was forced to suffer through.
Shame on anyone on Niagara Regional Council or in an administrative position in this region who does not stand up and speak out against this kind of disgusting conduct. Silence in the face of this toxic garbage is complicity.
The ugly, divisive, mean-spirited vitriol that has poisoned too much of our politics in Niagara over the past four or five years has got to stop – now.
If you feel the same as we do, contact your representatives on the Niagara Regional Council and let them know that enough is enough!
For the names and contact information for your Regional Council representatives, click on the following link – https://www.niagararegion.ca/government/council/profiles/default.aspx .
For a related post on the NPCA, click on –
Niagara At Large will be posting more on this and related matters involving the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and what our Niagara Regional Council and other parties are or are not doing to address the ongoing chaos here in the days ahead.
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