Cindy Forster Was A Leader in Fighting to Get to the Bottom of What Cabal Members were up to at the old NPCA
“It’s unfortunate that you overlook my responsibility as an elected Member of Provincial Parliament to ensure the voices in my community are heard.” – from a January 2017 open letter from then Niagara Centre MPP Cindy Forster to then-Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority board of directors chair Sandy Annunziata, responding to a statement he issued that, in part, criticized Forster for raising the concerns of her constituents about the NPCA board of the day going soft on conservation and environmental protection
A Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted December 31st, 2019 on Niagara At Large
Earlier this passing December, following the release of the explosive report by Ontario’s Ombudsman Paul Dube, detailing all of the nefarious conduct around what Dube called the “inside job” that won Carmen D’Angelo Niagara Region’s chief administrative job in October, 2016, I wrote and posted a commentary of thanks to the only eight regional councillors who demonstrated the care and courage to vote against D’Angelo’s hiring.
That commentary received thousands of hits (more than I will ever know because it was cast out over other peoples’ Facebook pages) and that was heartening to me given that tracking records on the dashboard of this NAL site confirm what I have often heard from fellow journalists – that negative news and commentary about politicians usually gets more traffic than news and commentary of a more positive nature.
My December 14th commentary about the eight regional councillors who cast that brave vote against hiring D’Angelo (and just four the record, those councillors were Pelham’s Dave Augustyn, Thorold’s Henry D’Angela and Ted Luciani, St. Catharines Kelly Edgar, Brian Heit and Debbie MacGregor, Welland’s George Marshall and Lincoln’s Bill Hodgson) also received quite a bit of positive feedback from readers, including one I wish to give a little special attention to here.
That reader was Cindy Forster who wrote of the December 14th commentary – “Thanks Doug. Always good to refresh the memories of the voting public. Unfortunately we lost a few good regional councillors who voted no (but were later) caught up in the election sweep (in the fall of 2018) to clean house!”
After Cindy Forster posted her comment on NAL’s Facebook page (which, by the way, I don’t go to that often because, truth be known, I have a lot of problems with culture of Facebook), it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to refresh peoples’ memories about the principled leadership and courage she demonstrated in all of this too, before she retired as Niagara Centre’s NDP MPP in the spring of 2018.
In the years up to her retirement, and right up to the day she turned her seat over to Jeff Burch, who won it back for the NDP in the June 2018 provincial election, Cindy Forster showed herself to be fearless and relentless in her demands for accountability, transparency and fairness from members of then Niagara regional chair Al Caslin’s so-called cabal of regional councillors who went along with much, if not all of whatever his program was at the regional level.
And Foster was particularly relentless in her demands for more accountability, transparency and fairness at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) that, up to the time of the municipal elections in the fall of 2018, and even for weeks after, was dominated by members of the cabal who were then sitting on its board of directors and positioned in senior administration jobs.
Forster stood side by side with citizens and with current and former NPCA employees fighting for a better Conservation Authority and she was among those leading the charge for the Ontario Auditor General to conduct an independent investigation of the NPCA’s operations – something that was finally launched before she retired.
For her efforts, Forster weathered some heat from members of the cabal, including an orchestrated attempt at a 2017 Niagara Region council meeting to smear her with allegations of racism and, more specifically, anti-Semitism, for a position some members of her Niagara Centre riding association took on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It was bogus slam against an individual who has never shown a sign of racism or bigotry in her decades of public life, and most, if not all her constituents and supporters across Niagara saw it for what it was – an attempt to discredit her and silence her as a voice for concerned citizens.
Cindy Forster stood her ground though, even during a time when she was dealing with sickness and death in her own family that might have sidelined others, and those who were involved in the smear (a few of them, unfortunately, still in public office) ought to, although they probably won’t, feel ashamed of themselves.
On the other hand, the now retired MPP for Niagara Centre has nothing to be ashamed of.
And as the findings in Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s 2018 report and those in the more recent Ontario Ombudsman’s report on past conduct at the regional government level show, Cindy Forster, was on the right side of the issues and can be listed among those who will go down on the right side of history.
(Click on the screen below, to watch and hear Cindy Forster, in the Ontario legislature in September of 2017, raising more concerns about NPCA operations at that time)
So thumbs up to Cindy Forster too, and a reminder to all of us that there are good people serving us in elected office.
In a democracy, it is up to us to get involved and to pay close attention to what are elected representatives are doing. And it is up to us to vote the bad ones out and vote the good ones in.
Simply sitting back and complaining is not an option.
To visit the December 14th, 201 commentary posted on Niagara At Large on the eight regional councillors who voted against hiring Carmen D’Angelo in October of 2016, click on –https://niagaraatlarge.com/2019/12/14/thumbs-up-for-the-few-who-knew-enough-not-to-vote-for-carmen-dangelo/
For two other related posts, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2019/01/02/a-year-end-tribute-to-two-of-niagaras-great-people-of-action-cindy-forster-and-pamela-minns/
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