Niagara Centre Conservative Candidate’s Record on former NPCA Board, Regional Council Should Be Enough To Count Her Out
A Commentary by Ed Smith
Posted October 18th, 2019 on Niagara At Large
If I lived in Niagara Centre (and I don’t), I would not vote for Aril Jeffs, who is now running in that riding as the federal Conservative candidate.
There are many reasons why I wouldn’t, and Jeff’s promotional ads in which she talks about the need for “trust” has made me feel compelled to write this.
April Jeffs was on the Board of Directors of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) and was a councillor at the Niagara Region during what can only be described as some of the darkest days of politics in Niagara’s history.
In the interest of transparency, I need to tell you that I am the Niagara citizen that April and the rest of the NPCA board at the time and a now former CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) of the Conservation Authority tried unsuccessfully (in 2016 and 2017) to sue.
They were disturbed by me being critical of their actions at the NPCA and by my demands for answers.
They took me to court, seeking $200,000 after I refused to back down as they were demanding. The lawsuit was dismissed in Ontario Superior Court and cost the taxpayer $280,000.
In his decision the Judge compared the action of the NPCA to something that he has heard of taking place in some other places in the world, but he refused to allow that to take place in “our beloved Dominion”.
That is the April Jeffs I know. So when I hear her talk about trust it bothers me.
This is not a partisan issue for me, although admittedly I am not voting Conservative. For me this is a governance and public trust issue, and therefore it’s about the person, not the party.
Ms. Jeffs’ track record in positions of authority in Niagara clearly demonstrates to me that she is comfortable existing on the wrong side of the public trust.
I base that statement not on one or two instances of poor judgment, but on a well-documented political past in which she remained silent or complicit in some of the worst behaviour of our past NPCA and Regional Council.
As Vice-Chair and Board member of the NPCA she either supported or remained publicly silent around raising her voice or standing in opposition to – ,
- an untendered contract awarding to a fellow Board member, Carmen D’Angelo, and subsequently his hiring as CAO at the NPCA and later as CAO at Niagara Region;
- hiring practices that allowed a fellow regional councillor (David Barrick) to be hired into senior management at the NPCA, while at the same time, as a member of that Board, saying nothing publicly to defend or support then fellow Board member Bill Hodgson, who was censured by the Board while he was trying to bring a degree of transparency and accountability to it;
- the use of public funds to hire a lobbyist to work in the interests of a private developer;
- efforts to lobby the province to destroy protected wetlands in order to accommodate a private developers needs
As a Niagara Regional Councillor she –
- Voted for Al Caslin for Regional Chair
- Voted against hiring an integrity commissioner at the region
- Voted to appoint Carmen D’Angelo as CAO of the region
- Voted to prematurely close the investigations into the tainted hiring of Carmen D’Angelo (one of the biggest scandals of the region)
In all of these votes she, as a regional councillor at the time, was lockstep with a block of councillors, that would come to be known to many citizens across Niagara as “the cabal,” working to control the agenda at the regional government level.
Time after time, she demonstrated that the cabal could count on her support at the Region.
As we are now witnessing, the actions of this cabal (many of whom were ousted in last year’s municipal elections) are continuing to cost the taxpayers of Niagara millions of dollars in severance payments, legal fees, settlements and lost opportunities; not to mention the professional and personal lives of good staff that were damaged to various degrees
I could write a good deal more about April Jeffs’ political past, but I hope my point has been made.
April Jeffs has had ample opportunity to demonstrate that the people of Niagara Centre should trust her, and that she will work hard for you if elected
But ask yourself this. Where was her voice for the past four years at Regional Council or at the NPCA?
She had a front row seat, she knew most, if not all of what was going on, And was silent and/or complicit in much of it.
How does that past performance merit her worthy of the public trust at one of the highest offices available?
Ed Smith is a resident of St. Catharines, a retired officer in the Canadian Armed Forces, and a community activist who also serves as a director of A Better Niagara, a region-wide citizen watchdog group.
When the lawsuit former administrators at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) and its former Board of Directors, where April Jeffs served as a member at the time, was dismissed by the Ontario courts in November of 2017, Ontario Superior Court Judge James Ramsey included the following words in his ruling –
“I share the defendant’s (Ed Smith’s) disappointment at this treatment by the authority (NPCA). …. A private citizen, he (Ed Smith) 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,” concluded Judge Ramsey, “where I might expect such a thing to happen, but not in our beloved Dominion.”
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